Vox and Sheryl Sandberg have both stepped forward to praise Paul Ryan for demanding his “family time” as a condition of running for Speaker of the House. His voting record alone should be enough to dispel the notion that he’s anything remotely like a friend to feminism. It seems frankly unfathomable that this even requires saying.
But it’s also worth noting that he isn’t asking simply for the flexibility to attend parent-teacher conferences. Over at the New Yorker, Amy Davidson argues that when he says family time, Ryan isn’t taking a bold, straightforward stance for men who want to participate equally in childrearing, so much as he’s making clear that he wants time at home instead of out begging for money while Tea Party throws rotten tomatoes at his head. Specifically, here’s what Ryan said: “I cannot, and will not, give up my family time. I may not be on the road as often as previous Speakers, but I pledge to make up for it with more time communicating our vision, our message.” Davidson translates:
The part of the job that apparently worries Ryan is the incessant, punishing, and no doubt somewhat humiliating fund-raising. According to the Times, John Boehner spent two hundred days a year on the road, attending fund-raising events or visiting donors. And that doesn’t count the coddling he did in the greater D.C. area. In that light, the modern Speaker’s job is less one of a chief operating officer than of a chief revenue officer—or, rather, the guy in charge of investor relations.... This isn’t about Ryan working reasonable hours when Congress is in session. (Let alone supporting policies that would help working parents.) It’s about not spending all the rest of his time being a traveling salesman of Republican influence.
She continues: “The most distinctive questions raised by Ryan’s “personal” request, then, do not have to do with whether a father can have an important job and still see his children—as important as that quandary is—but with money and politics.”
No doubt Ryan does want to spend time with his kids, instead of pleading for cash from the megarich. Who wouldn’t? That sounds horrible. But in an era when organizations like Planned Parenthood are under full-on assault, when the dizzying cost of childcare forces some women out of the workforce, when a study finds one in four new moms has to return to work within two weeks, there’s pretty much no way to run the numbers where this jackass deserves our pat on the back.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo via Getty.