I REGRET to inform you that Tom Gallagher has been tweeting again. For those who don’t know, Tom Gallagher is an outspoken pro-Union author and academic who specialises in outlandish statements and ill-placed righteous fury.

In a bizarre and strident Twitter rant on Saturday, he claimed that Scotland was dominated politically by “childless” women and that these women made bad policy decisions. He specified Mhairi Black, Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale in his initial tweet, but went on to suggest that all women in politics without children weren’t of the necessary “quality” to be effective parliamentarians. This is because, according to Tom, “marriage and child-raising often deepens a woman’s perspective on the world”.

He said he wanted to “improve the quality of women in political life” – quelle surprise that the quality he seeks doesn’t mention intelligence or ability, but focuses on whether a woman has had children.

Whenever the tired trope about women in politics not being well-rounded enough to make good policy rears its head, it is reliant on sexist stereotypes and illustrates the divide in expectations we see between male and female politicians.

There is a perfection-gap at work. Male politicians are expected to be reasonably competent – though that isn’t always essential – and are deemed automatically able to represent everybody, regardless of their life experience, reproductive decisions or expertise.

Women, on the other hand, must reach an almost impossible standard of competing attributes. When it comes to whether they have children, the divide is plain to see.

If they have children, questions are inevitably posed about their commitment to the job. If they don’t, then people like Tom Gallagher routinely pop up to claim they are lacking the mythical mother “empathy gene” by virtue of the fact that whether by choice or circumstance, they don’t have children.

Those same people don’t see any irony or sexism in the notion that a woman without children can’t make good policy decisions, but Holyrood being 65 per cent male is a-OK. Because men are viewed as the universal, one-size-fits-all standard of politician. If a woman wants to take a seat at Holyrood or Westminster and break that mould, she must demonstrate that she simultaneously has children but has commitment to the job. She must have sufficient life-experience – not too much, though – but can’t be a “career politician” either. She can’t be “hysterical” or “shrill” but she mustn’t be an ice queen. She must be perfect; or will face the charge of “setting women back”. She is a representative of all – her mistakes are held up as a reflection on all women, not just herself. But if she cares about women’s rights and is a vocal feminist, then to some that is too niche and potentially off-putting.

That’s what Tom Gallagher’s offensive and insensitive rant is about. He doesn’t want to encourage more women into politics, or really think that parents make better parliamentarians. If he did, his comments would also be directed at men, instead of exclusively and transparently at women. This is about tearing women down, not building them up. Because no matter how capable, experienced or dedicated a women politician is, to men like Tom, they will never be enough. That isn’t a reflection on them, but an insight into the way male and female politicians are treated differently. It’s not that the bar is higher, it’s that the bar is an illusion.

Tom Gallagher is correct in saying that Holyrood is unrepresentative, but wrong in his insistence that women who haven’t had children are the ones who should be replaced. Long-standing gender imbalance is a problem; men are over-represented. The Scottish Parliament is also overwhelmingly white, and there has never been a BME woman MSP. Politics needs people of all demographics and from all walks of life for it to be as effective as it can be.

So yes, let’s work to make it more representative, but we shouldn’t waste any time on idiotic arguments about whether some of our most successful and influential women MSP’s are “missing” something.

Tom Gallagher was angry at the “tribal fury” that his comments provoked. Well hold on a wee second while I dust off my tiny violin. Sexist straw-man arguments may not have the acceptable veneer of decades gone by, and nor should they. They go largely unspoken, but they are still held. Maybe not as openly and loudly as the unashamed Tom Gallagher, but they still permeate every unrealistic expectation of what a woman MSP should do, say, wear or think.

The good news – for all of us – is that while men like Tom are screaming into the void, women politicians are getting on with their jobs. And I doubt Nicola Sturgeon will have taken much notice of an angry dinosaur inexpertly and angrily thumping his keyboard; she’s got a country to run, after all.