Why I didn’t announce that I was pregnant before the end of the regional selection process

In August, my husband James, and I had the wonderful surprise of discovering that we were expecting a baby. We were over the moon as we were waiting for this little bundle of joy for a certain time.

After the emotion and the joy came quickly in my mind the question of “When should I announce it to everybody?” Obviously, the close family will know soon enough but a bigger shadow came to hover over my head.

At that time, I was in the middle of my regional selection process for next year’s Scottish election. It took me a lot of confidence and preparation to get where I was and I was scared that the announcement of my pregnancy would deter some of our own members to vote for me.

Being a “young” woman in politics (I would thank some members of the Scottish Young Liberals to have labelled me as such – they will recognise themselves) is not an easy task and full of hurdles even within your own party. When you get passed the idea of being young equals not having enough experience (which qualifies as “ageism” – yes, it goes two ways). When you overcome stereotypes such as “being a woman doesn’t give you enough gravitas/charisma” (I am not going into what I heard the last couple of leadership elections) or “you are over ambitious” (yes, for real). And let’s not talk of the casual sexism of “you should smile more”, “dress less/more lurid” (do you remember the press scandal over the talk between Theresa May and Nicola Surgeon more about their dress code than the content?) you can hear in the media but even by some members of your own party.

With all those comments, my thoughts were how a certain part of our membership is going to react when I announce that I am pregnant?  How will it influence their votes? Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is still rooted in our society and in politics. I remember one of our candidates being told by a member of the public in October last year that she was a bad mother to go campaigning with a baby. That remark shocked me and made me wonder how society is still judgemental and discriminatory towards women and mothers. The worst feeling was: it was a woman who made this comment!

One thing is certain in my mind is: YES, I am going to run to be a constituency MSP in Dunfermline and as a regional MSP (if the votes are on my favour) in Mid Scotland and Fife. And, NO, it won’t hinder my passion and my motivation to be the voice for my future constituents and one of the torchbearers of our Liberal Democrat values in the Scottish Parliament.

After all, I have good role models to look to.

As a lot of women in politics (actually a lot of politicians of all persuasions), we have role models that we aspire to. Mine has been for a while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the US congress since I saw “Bringing Down the House” on Netflix.  I recommend it to all women going into politics. Her passion, determination and thirst for fighting injustices at all levels and areas gave me the rage to fight for what I believe in (see the article on the Press & Journal). A woman can be strong and break down even the most powerful barriers.

However, recently, two other female figures popped into my pantheon of political heroes due to the recent event in my life. Two women who show that you can be a mother AND a successful politician.

I will start – but the order is not the grade of how high they are in my esteem (they are all at the same level) – with Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand (for the second term! Congrats!). Without going into her extraordinary journey in politics, her fabulous and empathetic way to lead her country through difficult times, her way building bridges between communities that I admire and look upon; it is the way she combined her political career at a high position and her pregnancy/motherhood with an extraordinary balance.

Everybody can expect who would be my second figure. It is nobody else than our own Jo Swinson. The fight of Jo for gender equality, to reduce the gender discrimination and bring shared parental leave amongst other successful campaigns are truly inspiring in our British politics. Seeing her with second child at the March for Europe resonated as a powerful message to mums around the country: “You are not defined by your child”. As a future mum, I look upon her on how she fought in our country’s politics, the right to raise a baby and be an active politician in an “old boys club” Westminster. Her victory to have maternity leave proxy voting in 2018 shows that politics needs to shake the dust out on their views on gender and maternity equalities.

Currently, the Scottish Party is leading politics towards electing a more diversified selection of candidates for national elections. In 2016, we agreed as Conference to put in place “All Women Shortlists” in some winnable seats. This year, 2020, the Conference established Diversity short lists to allow people of ethnic minorities and disabilities to be have the opportunity in some seats. It is a great step forward to make politics more representative of Scotland.

Although, those big constitutional steps mean nothing if we still have some parts of our membership who do not change their mindset. Not only towards women but also towards ethnic minorities, trans people and the broader LGBTQI+ community. Some people are still not feeling safe to stand because of those mindsets still set in the past. Discrimination, micro-aggressions (see this absolutely amazing paper which should be in your favourites as a reminder.) Our parliamentarian team, our party is looking towards a brighter and inclusive political sphere. It is time for the activists to walk down that path as well!

Today, I feel sad I had to hide this wonderful news as long for political reasons. I wish those people could see beyond the tiny little human who is growing inside me. However, on another hand, it gives me the strength to fight against those pre-established ideas in addition to what I already wanted to fight for.

Today, it is my turn to show what I am capable as an activist and politician. My motivation to fight for our values, for mental health, tackling the climate change and work for a sustainable recovery from Covid is not anymore only driven by my wish to get a better, fairer world for all and future generations but also ensuring my future child has a better future.

And that… it is the work of all of us without exception. And I know we can do it together.

 

* Aude Boubaker-Calder is the Liberal Democrat Scottish Parliamentary Candidate for Dunfermline

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10 Comments

  • They wouldn’t check if a man was due to have a baby soon, so I don’t really see the issue. Good luck with the election!

  • Jane Ann Liston 25th Oct '20 - 12:02pm

    Well said, Aude.

    I expect that Baby Calder will be the youngest election leafleter ever.

  • Cass Macdonald 25th Oct '20 - 5:11pm

    Such a great article, Aude: You aren’t wrong about much of this (attitudes being a key reason why I’m put off going for approved candidacy) and many congrats to you and James about the baby!

  • David Garlick 26th Oct '20 - 9:14am

    I agree that is such a great article.
    Congratulations and best wishes for a successful campaign.

  • Ronald Murray 26th Oct '20 - 11:06am

    Congratulations to you both. Good news.

  • Aude Boubaker-Calder 26th Oct '20 - 11:54am

    Hi all,

    Thank you for the nice comments on this article and I hope it will spark some debate and change within society. Even it has been sad to hide it from people, I see here an opportunity as members, activists, politicians and citizen to change the talk in inequalities in general. I want to act as a voice not as a victim.

    I am glad to see the positive comments from 2 gentlemen (sorry if I assumed your gender). Thank you for your support Andrew and David!

    * Zoe: You are one of the many examples that we can do it. Thank you for being an example to other women.

    *Jane Ann: We have already a laughing matter with James that Baby Calder birthday treat will be leafleting (not really ;))

    *Cass: I am so sorry it put you off of being an approved candidate. In my case, it gave me even more fire to fight for equalities in all areas. As much it can be hurtful, I feel more as a warrior than a victim. This has to cease and it is by denouncing it and fighting against those mindset that we will not have to endure it. Take care of you xx

    *Ruth: The comment “Walking Caesarean” shocked me at the biggest level. It might have been 14 years ago, it is still not acceptable. I am sure than some people, women and men, are still thinking like that. Sorry you had to endure that. Time to walk the talk. Mindsets have to be changed and being a candidate will give me a good opportunity to spark the conversation in our society.

    Thanks again all xx

  • Very well put, and congratulations to both you and James. People in every stage of life – this is exactly the diversity we need in our representation. Good luck in Dunfermline and with the Mid Scotland & Fife list.

  • Thanks for an interesting article, Aude.

    I am not sure that you have given any evidence from within the party as supposed to from a member of the public going public on your pregnancy would have harmed your candidacy Although I appreciate that you feel that it would and that’s dissappointing. For many, candidates those with young children may be a very positive selling point. I’d suggest that birth of candidates child is a good “human interest” story for local newspapers when local publicity can be difficult for people to get. Although people should vote on the whole person.

    The Gender Balance Taskforce has done good work – to the point where more than half the parliamentary party are women as were the MEPs elected last year.

    It may be that people are more willing to actually voice comments about appearance etc. to women. It does not mean that they are not making it about men!

    I think that all of us have not felt some prejudice, patronising when we haven’t shared a characteristic with the majority in a room. Although I take the point that as white and male I have had it easy than those that aren’t.

    But it’s down to all of us to go out and recruit people with the characteristics you mention – women, LGBTQIA, BAME as members and be encouraging and supportive of all members of the roles they play. Obviously to do otherwise is pretty stupid.

    Good luck for the birth. And I hope you prove in turn to be a good role model for people of all genders.

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