It is important to be clear why something said may be objectionable. National MP Maggie Barry's comment "How many kids do you have?" to Labour's Jacinda Ardern has brought a response from Ms Ardern that "I haven't been to Antarctica either, but I know it's cold".

Others offended by Ms Barry's remark observed that she has spoken on numerous issues outside her personal experience, and Twitter has had a field day with suggestions of what one can and cannot talk about if confined to personal experience.

They have all missed the point.

To take the Antarctica example, if Ms Ardern were to expound on that subject in the House, an MP who disagreed with her on the basis of personal experience might well interject, "Have you been there?" And the point is, Ms Ardern would not take the slightest offence at that.


In all the examples cited and tweeted, a challenge of that sort would not bring the outcry that Ms Barry's question did. So, what is different about motherhood, or the absence of it?

Certainly, it was a personal jibe but Parliament hears those from both sides too often, and it might be sexist, though a male MP could be asked the same question. It was objectionable because women are more sensitive than men on this subject. While a woman's parental status should not matter, the reaction shows it does.