Your Womb at Work

“Father-of-three poised to lead the BBC.”

“Is he or isn’t he? Clooney coy on pitter patter.”

“Superdad reveals how he juggles work and family.”

These are the headlines you won’t see in the newspapers.

But if you switch the gender, they’re the main agenda.

Why, oh why, is everyone so interested in women’s wombs? What’s wrong with our other organs, such as the brain..?

Last week’s appointment of Rona Fairhead as chair of the BBC trust was reported by the Telegraph with this headline: “Mother-of-three poised to lead the BBC.”

Not former Financial Times chief executive; nor non-executive director at HSBC; or even MBA at Harvard.

“Rona Fairhead is an exceptional individual with a highly impressive career history. Her experience of working with huge multinational corporations will undoubtedly be a real asset at the BBC Trust,” the culture secretary, Sajid Javid, said.

But, apparently, squeezing three kids out of her uterus is a stronger news angle.

Yes, I know, work-family balance is a bigger issue for women because we bear the burden of child rearing and caring.

And, yes, we need to keep talking about it, until we see structural change in the workplace and at home.

But is it that unusual for a mother-of-three to be elevated to a senior role? Unusual enough to be worthy of inclusion in a headline? Unusual enough to be more newsworthy than her career?

And why would a father’s family be deemed irrelevant? Don’t male leaders also struggle to achieve work/life balance? Shouldn’t he be helping out at home, too?

The not-so-hidden message is this: Lady, parenting is YOUR responsibility.

If you’ve managed to knock a bunch of blokes out of the way to be boss, well, you’d better make time to care for your kids or we’ll call the cops. Because what you’re doing is UNNATURAL. Frankly, you belong in a freak show.

It’s the same treatment for women with an ‘empty fruit bowl’.

Frankly, Jennifer Aniston’s uterus deserves a starring role in her next blockbuster.

Magazines pore over Jen’s “sad” and “lonely life”because she’s a) not married and b) childless.

“I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done. (It’s like) if they’re not checked, then I’ve failed some part of my feminism or my being a woman or my worth and my value as a woman because I haven’t birthed a child,” she’s told the Today Show in the US.

“I’ve birthed a lot of things, and I feel like I’ve mothered many things. And I don’t feel like it’s fair to put that pressure on people.”

Earlier this year, she said to Gloria Steinem, “Being a woman, your value and worth is associated with your marital status or whether or not you’ve procreated”.

Yes, I know actors talk about their private lives to promote their films. And, yes, as consumers of mass media, we’re naturally curious.

But why does it devour more column inches than her professional success, which includes awards from the Emmys, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild?

And why are these questions never asked of her male co-stars?

“George, do you feel like less of a man because you’re not a father?”

Or, at the other extreme, “Brad, I don’t know how you do it, juggling all of those children”.

Here’s another headline that doesn’t help: “Childcare costs keep NSW mums out of the workforce.”

Of course. Because a woman chooses to work, the cost of childcare comes from her wage. The father remains the rightful breadwinner. What on earth is she doing out of the kitchen, anyway?

Interestingly, in an interview back in 1998, Rona Fairhead said women could, “still be successful in the City. That’s an important message for people to receive, since there has been a feeling recently you can’t have both”.

It seems that feeling remains, in much of the mainstream media.

Just because a uterus can carry children, doesn’t mean its contents, or lack thereof, are public property.

How about we start talking your rights at work, rather than your womb at work….?