The row over Susan Calman not being paired with a female dancer on Strictly Come Dancing descended into childless people bashing on the Jeremy Vine show

By Nina Steele 

Last week, I received a twitter message from writer and mother of 2 Chris Longden, a supporter of this website. She wanted to draw my attention to a discussion that took place on the Jeremy Vine show. This particular segment of the show was about the criticism that has been levelled at Susan Calman, as a result of her being a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing. At some point during the discussion, a female guest who also happened to be a parent, verbally attacked the other guest, a childless man, for having an opinion on raising children. As far as she was concerned, he was not qualified to do so, since he had no children of his own. Chris Longden was understandably outraged by the crassness of the remark and made her feelings clear in a series of tweets.

If like me, you weren’t aware of the row over Susan Calman’s appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, it came about when, as is customary on the show for female contestants, she was paired with a male dancer. As an openly gay woman, some within the LGBT community thought she should have insisted on being paired with another woman. Susan disagreed and pointed out that she is being singled out because she is a woman. She reminded her critics that no one criticised all the past male gay celebrities, including the Reverend Richard Coles, also taking part in this year’s show, for being paired with a woman.

Going back to the radio discussion, as I listened to a recording of the show, at first there seemed nothing wrong with what the parent was saying except for the fact that she was making her views robustly. Nothing wrong with that, I thought. As I listened further however, it all became clearer. The issue of children came about when the mother pointed to the fact that some traditions are best left untouched and that Strictly Come Dancing, as a long standing and successful show under its current format, fits that bill. The childless guest took exception to what he saw as people playing the tradition card in order to keep things as they are. To further his case, he mentioned the fact that in the past, boys wore dresses until the age of 5. The point he was trying to make was that tradition changes with the times. Below is a snippet of some of what was said during their angry exchange.

Mother: “Have you got sons?”
Childless guest: “What has that got to do with it?”
Mother: “Have you got sons?”
Childless guest: “What has that got to do with it?”
Mother: “Answer the question. Have you got sons?”
Childless guest: “I would love to have sons one day”
Mother: “So you haven’t. So please don’t tell me how children are”. And then she went on to say: “I do get irritated by people telling me about my parenting when they are not parents themselves”. Ouch!

As you would expect, she completely lost my support after that. How utterly ignorant and narrow minded to suggest that only parents should be allowed a view on anything to do with children. As if childless people fell from the sky. Anyone who has been a child once, and that’s all of us, understands many of the issues children go through along with that of parents. In the subsequent private discussion that I had with Chris, I mentioned that I could spot a spoilt brat from afar because I was one myself as a child. By the time I came along, my mother had given birth to 4 boys and was longing for a girl. 2 more boys would come after me and so I am her only daughter. I was spoilt rotten as a child and I inevitably turned into a complete brat.

That another mother felt outraged enough to contact me, shows that fortunately, there are some parents who get it. The expression ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is exactly that. Regardless of our personal circumstances, we can all play a part in a child’s life. To not understand that is narrow mindedness at its most shameful.

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