Currently, the US is one of only four countries in the world that do not guarantee paid maternity leave. Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative DeLauro (D-CT) are trying to change that by reforming the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act to include paid leave. The two women differ, however, on how the issue should be framed:
In our conversation, Gillibrand spoke in terms of mothers as “primary” caregivers and fathers as “secondary” ones. (Her male chief of staff is currently taking his six allowed weeks of “secondary” leave; new mothers in the office get three months. Gillibrand pays for both primary and secondary leave.) But as much as the bill could be a great service to all families (after all, it’s equally available to all workers of both genders and parental status), framing it as women’s aid, as Gillibrand does, not only limits its potential but also impedes its very progress through Congress.
The bill’s co-sponsor, DeLauro, argues that to succeed, the fight for paid leave needs a broader constituency. When it comes to family leave, she insists, “We don’t talk about it in terms of women! Why would we? We’re not tying our hands like that.” Relegating working parents to the pink ghetto of women’s issues, rather than treating them in economic terms, has allowed the restaurant association and other groups—what some wonks call “organized business”—to simply ignore the need for change.
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