Trump’s Maternity Leave Plan Is His Biggest Insult To Women Yet

It confirms once again his antiquated, sexist worldview.

15/09/2016 3:29 AM AEST | Updated 15/09/2016 4:14 AM AEST
Jean Baptiste Lacroix via Getty Images
Donald Trump, wife Melania Trump and baby Barron Trump.

Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort to appeal to women voters turns out to be a huge and profound slap in the face to all women everywhere. Oh and also to men. And children.

On Tuesday, at the urging of his daughter Ivanka and desperate to curry favor with women turned off by his history of sexist comments, the Republican presidential nominee proposed a six-week maternity leave policy, as well as tax credits for stay-at-home mothers and other child care credits.

Men are not included in the leave plan, the campaign confirmed to The Huffington Post.

Let’s repeat that: Trump’s solution for struggling American families leaves out men. 

More than any other problem with the plan ― and there are lots ― omitting half the population is its profoundest and most revelatory flaw, confirming once again Trump’s antiquated, sexist and harmful worldview: Men work. Women do the child-raising. The end.

Instead of helping working mothers, as is apparently intended, Trump’s plan would do them harm: At home, they’d be burdened with more childcare. At work, they’d be discriminated against because employers would likely set them on the “mommy track,” ratcheting back expectations for women who are assumed to be more devoted to the home sphere.

The Trump scheme is really just a hazy fantasy in which white men drink scotch (or in Trump’s case, Diet Coke) all day at the office while a woman at home tends to all the details of life. (People of color were never quite included in the “traditional” familial construct of stay-at-home mom and working dad.) In 2016, the difference is women can have jobs ― but they still must do all the home stuff.

Trump’s plan even includes a credit for stay-at-home mothers, but not for stay-at-home fathers. That such a man exists wouldn’t even cross the Trumpian mind.

Leaving men out quite obviously hurts fathers ― who want to be involved in their own lives ―  and their families. It particularly insults gay men who become fathers.

“His announcement is so sexist it’s hard to believe [Trump] exists in this millennium,” Josh Levs, the author of All In, a book about fatherhood and work, told HuffPost.

Levs battled with his employer Time Warner several years ago for the right to paid leave. His book documents the many issues men have with employers who, like Trump, don’t even consider that men might need time off to care for, or be with, children or partners or family members.

In one particularly painful anecdote Levs recounts in his book and in the Harvard Business Review, a man named Jay Ramsey takes part of a week off after his wife had an emergency C-section and is then berated by his boss for disloyalty. Men don’t do that, the rationale goes.  

Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Hillary Clinton's paid leave proposal, by contrast, offers 12 weeks of time off and would be available to men and women.

No legitimate parental leave policy in this country is tethered to that belief. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act covers all workers at large companies who need time off to care for a child or ailing family member. The states that offer paid leave provide it to both genders. And leave is granted for a host of reasons ― to care for a newborn, adopted child, foster child; as well as to care for a family member with a disability or serious health condition. Increasingly, companies are offering men and women equal amounts of paid leave. Yes, birth mothers need leave for medical reasons alone, but that’s not where this conversation ends.

A policy that only includes maternity leave “misses a lot of reasons men would need to take time off,” Ben Gitis, the director of labor market policy at the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank, told HuffPost. These would include “medical issues or if you have to care for an ill child or ill, elderly parents.”  

Even in the best of circumstances, men need to be involved and home with their families, Working Mother Media Editorial Director Jennifer Owens told HuffPost. “It’s the moment where we’re taking and learning responsibilities.” New dads ― just like new moms ― need some time to figure our their new role, to bond with their baby. New parents need each other.

With Trump’s plan, “there’s this implication that parenting is a mother job and not a father job. That is just old-fashioned thinking,” Owens said.

That of course is how Trump, who famously was not and is not involved in the child-rearing duties in his home, thinks. “I won’t do anything to take care of them,” he told Howard Stern in 2005. “I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids. It’s not like I’m gonna be walking the kids down Central Park.”

The Trump scheme is really just a hazy fantasy in which white men drink scotch all day at the office while a woman at home tends to all the details of life.

Leaving men out damages the families that need them at crucial times. But it’s also super terrible for women in the workplace. Not just mothers but little girls dreaming of their future or young fresh-faced college graduates plotting out their careers or families.

In countries where women get more paid leave than men, employers discriminate against them. They aren’t promoted and hired at the same rates. Pay for women declines. The pay gap widens. Consciously or unconsciously the boss thinks of you as a walking uterus just waiting for implantation and the inevitable scaling-down of the workload. 

In Italy, where women are expected to take on the child-rearing and are given little support via public policy, some employers even ask women to presign a resignation letter should they become pregnant, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

A less harsh version of this kind of “mommy tracking” still happens in offices around the U.S. It would not get better if we codify discrimination, as Trump’s plan would.

The plan, while ostensibly embracing a progressive stance, rolls back decades of progress in work and in parenting in the U.S., where men have taken on more of the parenting work, and women slowly have become equals in the work world. This process is ongoing and it’s real. 

Owens, whose magazine annually ranks the best companies for working mothers, says that increasingly employers get this. The best companies are seeking parity when they craft parental leave policies ― giving equal amounts to men and women. It’s a way for your boss to say “we support you,” she said. 

Like many, Owens was glad Trump has brought parental leave into the national conversation, despite its flaws. She’s seen the issue go from a fringe concern to one on the national agenda.

It is definitely significant that Trump has broken with his party on this issue. The GOP has historically seen paid leave as harmful to business.

”Yes, I would like [Trump’s plan] to be better and include men and make sure it’s broad,” said Owens, “but on the good side I’m glad because him talking about it means people are talking about it.”

That’s kind of the best thing it has going for it.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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