OPINION:
By SADIE BECKMAN
sadie.beckman@nzme.co.nz

I knew it was going to happen, and with unwavering predictability it has.

Jacinda Ardern had been the leader of the opposition for less than a day, when the thinly veneered sexism that is still inherent in today's society broke through and reared its ugly head once more.

Ardern has been forced to both answer and debate on the question of whether she may choose to have children, and whether this could affect her career, especially since she is standing for the top job.

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Bullish sport-billy builder-turned-presenter Mark Richardson, who, to be honest should stick to plastering houses or making quips over the top of footage of sportspeople getting clobbered on his inane gig The Crowd Goes Wild, pressed Ardern on the question last night, his right-wing fervour barely concealed.

Akin to National's favourite pet broadcaster Mike Hosking, Richardson felt he could back himself by both attempting to be assertive and insisting his query was based around a faux concern, in this case for the arrangements that may have to be made, should Ardern feel her biological clock ticking.

Whether or not I align myself with Ardern politically, I absolutely align myself with her as a woman, and the audacity some people have had in turning what should be debate about her credentials, suitability as a leader and her policies, into a debate about her ovaries, defies belief.

Did anyone ask Bill English, when he was in Ardern's position, what might happen should he decide to become a father? No. And Duncan Garner summed it up when he admitted on Newshub that he had never, in twenty years of political reporting, asked a male politician about his plans to have children.

Two days in and already interviews and information about Ardern's partner have been dug up and published in the media. Did he know straight away she was now the party leader? What did he think?

Did anyone ask Mary English how she felt when Bill took over from John Key? The fact I just had to Google her name speaks volumes. Did anyone else not realise they have six, yes, six, children? I doubt very much that fact has been put to English as a potential inhibitor of his performance as Prime Minister. Or maybe we just expect him to be less involved as a parent.

While the naysayers may cry that it's our right to know whether Ardern may procreate, as it might affect us all if she becomes PM, surely it's up to her to decide if she is capable of performing in the role, whatever the circumstances?

Other events in people's lives affect them all the time, yet we don't ask married people if their relationship is secure in case they get a divorce that might affect their work performance, and we don't ask prospective employees if they have aged parents who might require time to be taken off work. What about asking men in their 60s and over if their prostates are healthy, given the massive increase in prostate issues that can often occur around that age and that may affect their job performance?

These may be glib examples, but the point is that having children is a personal decision that is no one else's business, and to question the impact of it on a role, is to question the prospective candidate's ability to make choices in their own life. And yes, I do have children, so I know about the impact they have on life and career.

Ardern is a fresh face for Labour, and she may also actually be fresh-faced, given that she is "youth-adjacent" as she put it, at the age of 37. However, her desire or ability to have children should be absolutely off limits as a discussion topic, particularly at the moment.

As Ardern told Richardson, (who shut up fairly quickly,) by even asking the question at a time when a decision about employing someone is being made, you are automatically showing prejudice.

And as a woman, with the constant focus on such shallow concerns as her appearance and relationship rather than her policies, she's got quite enough of that to deal with already.