If you’ve been following our reporting on Gays With Kids anytime recently — which you obviously have been, right? — you could be forgiven for thinking we’ve been transformed into something of a Pete and Chasten Buttigieg stan account. We’ve seriously covered every step of this couple’s path to parenthood since the day they uttered their first word about fatherhood. They’ve made news on our site just by mentioning the idea that they might be parents one day.
In our defense, it’s not often that the most prominent LGBTQ politician in the country joins the ranks of queer parents. We're thrilled for them both, and for the incredible visibility they have already brought to the LGBTQ parenting community.
But you may have noticed Pete gracing the digital pages of GWK in recent months for a less inspired reason — the couple has proven an easy target for conservative commentators since their twins were born in September of this year.
“Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child. Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed,” said Fox news host and cartoon villain Tucker Carlson. “No word on how that went.”
Carlson’s cheap shot against the new dads would be more offensive if the sentiment didn’t feel more at home in a 1960s laundry detergent commercial — the homophobia and misogyny in the comment almost feels quaint.
But buried in this throwback, and in much of the conservative attacks against the Transportation Secretary, is a question central to today’s debate surrounding the American family: Are we going to be a country that recognizes the worth of men as parents? Or one that continues to reinforce the misogynistic trope that childrearing is the exclusive domain, and responsibility, of women?
Secretary Buttigieg provided a polite if curt response to Carlson’s attack. "I'm not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins," Buttigieg said to CNN’s Jake Tapper. "It's work that every American ought to be able to do when they welcome a new child into their family."
Unfortunately, this is not a right for most American parents, who live in just one of six countries, and in the only rich country, not to benefit from some form of a national paid leave policy. Though plenty of private companies offer leave to new parents, many only do so for those who give birth — which sends a pretty clear message that, in the world of parenting, dads and adoptive parents are less important.
So while Carlson’s attack on Secretary Buttigieg may sound like it’s from an era when we churned our own butter, his argument — that men should work and women should take care of children — is practically the law of the land. The difficulty we face as a country in ridding ourselves of this backwater idea of the American family was underscored this past month when a modest national paid parental leave initiative — which will benefit dads and adoptive parents if passed — almost faced the chopping block, before many other priorities, in a large spending bill in Congress.
This was mostly just a long, rambling way of saying that we probably won’t stop our obsessive coverage of Secretary Buttigieg anytime soon. Because it is actually news worthy to watch someone in his position — particularly as a gay, adoptive dad — unapologetically take the time he needs, and deserves, to care for his young family.
Here’s hoping we can all enjoy that right one day.