Because women give birth (and breastfeed), there's a natural difference between men and women, and if you are interested in women's equality, you might want to provide a benefit that covers that difference. But many people worry that giving benefits only to mothers would exacerbate inequality over the long term, because it would reinforce the culture of presuming that childcare is mainly the mother's responsibility.
Gupta attempts to raise this concern:
I wrote a law review article on the subject.) Requiring employers to give 12 weeks of leave to parents of both sexes — unpaid leave — was supposed to erode the stereotype that mothers are the primary caregivers. There was always a problem with that prediction: No one was forced to take the leave, and if new mothers took all that leave and new fathers did not, it would reinforce the stereotype and worsen the perception that female employees take too much time off. The employer has to cover for them during the guaranteed leave and accept them back at work even after 12 weeks of absence, year after year. But the idea was that fathers would take the leave too, and that would tend, over time, to balance childcare responsibilities, which would improve the image of women in the workplace.
I assume Gupta is familiar with this old debate, though she doesn't lay it out for Cosmo readers (or for Ivanka). She just says:
So I’m wondering, why does this policy not include any paternity leave?Ivanka avoids the equality question and says maternity leave is better than nothing. Those who push the equality theory might say that it's worse than nothing, because it encourages the parent who gave birth to the child to become its primary caregiver. As the woman's body is recovering from the physical effects of pregnancy and childbirth, she's bonding with the baby and learning how to take care of it, and she may be establishing the ongoing physical process of breastfeeding. Meanwhile, the father is encouraged to keep working. The traditional division of labor is supported by the government.
Ivanka — in what looks like a bid to win over Democrats — brings up gay people:
Both sides of the aisle have been unable to agree on this issue, so I think this takes huge advancement and obviously, for same-sex couples as well, there's tremendous benefit here to enabling the mother to recover after childbirth. It's critical for the health of the mother. It's critical for bonding with the child, and that was a top focus of this plan.Gupta tries to break in:
OK, so when it comes to same-sex—But Ivanka continues:
So it's meant to benefit, whether it's in same-sex marriages as well, to benefit the mother who has given birth to the child if they have legal married status under the tax code.You can see that she's only talking about recovery from childbirth. (And, indeed, it would probably violate the Equal Protection Clause for the government to give this benefit to women and not men if it is not tied to the physical differences between men and women.) The only gay person who gets this proposed benefit is the woman who gives birth.
Gupta either doesn't see this point or wants to talk about a much more expensive government benefit — paid leave for all new parents. She asks:
Well, what about gay couples, where both partners are men?Ivanka repeats that the policy relates only to the physical recovery from childbirth. Gupta seems to understand but still wants to drive it home:
So I just want to be clear that, for same-sex adoption, where the two parents are both men, they would not be receiving special leave for that because they don't need to recover or anything?The policy quite obviously doesn't cover any adoption. The sex of the parents is irrelevant. In adoption, no one has given birth. Ivanka laughs and says:
Well, those are your words, not mine. Those are your words. The plan, right now, is focusing on mothers, whether they be in same-sex marriages or not.You're not going to get anything with the slightest tinge of homophobia out of Ivanka, I don't think. Gupta's effort to drum up the Cosmo reader's empathy for gay man should fail. The bigger problem is that paid leave for mothers puts government money into skewing the decision of heterosexual couples toward the traditional division of labor.
Gupta's next question does have something to do with that problem, the stereotype that women are less valuable employees:
OK, I just wanted to make sure I understood. In 2004, Donald Trump said that pregnancy is an inconvenient thing for a business. It's surprising to see this policy from him today. Can you talk a little bit about those comments, and perhaps what has changed?Ivanka doesn't seem to know what her father said 12 years ago, and she goes meta:
So I think that you have a lot of negativity in these questions, and I think my father has put forth a very comprehensive and really revolutionary plan to deal with a lot of issues. So I don't know how useful it is to spend too much time with you on this if you're going to make a comment like that....She goes on about how good her father has been as an employer of women, and Gupta nonapologizes — she's sorry Ivanka finds the questions negative — and assures her that Trump really did say that pregnancy is "certainly an inconvenience for a business." He did. Ivanka says she doesn't know that he said that, and she's right to refuse to accept Gupta's presentation of what he said, which might be wrong (though it isn't) and might be out of context.
But Ivanka could have said: Her father was being admirably straightforward. Of course, it's an inconvenience when anything physical takes away from the employee's time and attention at work. But that has nothing to do with the woman's need to deal with recovery from childbirth. She must take some time to recover, and Trump's plan is to ensure that she has some paid leave.
And, if Ivanka had said that, Gupta should have said: But by making it even easier for the woman to take time off — 6 weeks off — aren't you going to intensify the inconvenience that employers see in women? Even your father — who, you say, has been so good with hiring and promoting women in his business — thought of their childbearing function as a problem. Aren't you proposing to spend government money to make that problem even worse, as it becomes more likely that female employees will take even more time away from work?
One more question, and it's not one I'd advise Gupta to ask: Won't this government spending draw women away from the workplace and the leaning-in style of careerism that feminism has promoted? As they have weeks of time alone with the baby, isn't government easing women into the comfort and happiness of the noncommercial life of the home and perhaps even a spiritual awareness that the best life is grounded in love and family and not a career at all?