Boy jobs and girl jobs
When Theresa May and her husband, Philip, joined the BBC’s One Show, many were sceptical of the attempt to give an inside view of the PM and her husband. The opposition branded it as superficial spin, in so many words, while a public, weary with political performances to win their vote, responded in a variety of ways.
Theresa and the affable Phillip proceeded to give a well-managed insight into their life, carefully revealing a few secrets to satisfy the audience. Most agreed that the PM looked a bit awkward in the setting, but then most would agree that she isn’t the most polished of our current crop of politicians.
But perhaps most surprisingly, for the very measured, no-risks Prime Minister, one of her most controversial remarks came only minutes into the sofa chat.
“There’s boy jobs and girl jobs, you see”, said Mrs May, in response to a joke by Mr May that he only got the choice as to when he put the bins out, not if.
This sparked off a volley of indignant responses from those that felt it played right into the realm of gender stereotypes. In a world sensitive to the issue of limiting people according to their sex, it was a surprisingly candid remark, and potentially not helpful to the cause of gender equality. Others argued that as this was said by a woman that had clearly defied traditional stereotypes, there was no cause for offence.
It’s interesting to consider whether this was a calculated remark on the part of the PM, or an off-the-cuff contribution to a humorous conversation. If calculated, it could be regarded as Theresa dipping her toes into Trump water, deliberately defying political correctness to say what a fair proportion of the population actually think. Maybe time for Theresa to try the blonde hair dye?
Setting aside those political calculations, was the remark consistent with what we know of Mrs May and what she demonstrated throughout the rest of the interview? Was it what we would expect the daughter of a vicar and long-time wife of a conservative (deliberate lower-case C) white-collar investment manager to say? The answer is unquestionably, yes.
So was the statement honest and authentic or ignorant and offensive?
Well, it could be said to be both: honest and ignorant, authentic and offensive. But if it was a sincere expression of inner belief, isn’t that what we want from politicians? Do we want politicians to say what they really believe? If so, is it reasonable then to be offended by anything that they say that we happen to disagree with?
Politicians are like brands: they cannot attract or please all the people all the time. But if they want to earn any respect and command any degree of a following, they must possess an inner purpose and maintain a ‘Tone of Voice’ that is consistent with it. What Theresa May said at the beginning of her interview was consistent with her ‘brand’ and was said in the recognised tone of voice of her personality.
Over time, whether people like or dislike a brand or person, they will come to respect them if they are consistent. They will regard them as strong and stable (heard that phrase before?) and be prepared to trust them. This is the principal trump-card (deliberate lower-case T this time) that Theresa possesses.
Love or hate the remark, it provides a useful lesson in brand authenticity.