The White House criticized former Vice President Mike Pence for a joke it called ‘homophobic’ regarding Pete Buttigieg’s parental leave.
When is a political joke really homophobic? In the case of former Vice President Mike Pence, who criticized U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for recently taking parental leave during a recent speech, it might have been when he used one wrong word.
The Washington Post reported that the former vice president spoke Saturday at the Gridiron dinner. That’s “an annual black-tie gathering of Washington politicians, journalists and public figures.” During his comments, Pence made what the Biden Administration called “offensive and inappropriate” comments about Buttigieg’s parental leave and about postpartum depression:
“When Pete’s two children were born, he took two months’ maternity leave whereupon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, and airplanes nearly collided on our runways,” Pence said. “Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression.”
Buttigieg is gay and married. Since both Buttigiegs are men, the proper term would have been paternity leave. Maternity refers to the mother. Paternity refers to the father.
He could have just said parental leave, which would have covered all of the bases.
If Pence had used either paternity or parental, would there have been the same level of anger? I seriously doubt it.
The quip about the rest of the country getting “postpartum depression” could certainly be viewed as offensive, particularly to families who have been affected by it. But that by itself wouldn’t have called what Pence’s camp calls “faux outrage.”
I don’t think there’s anything ‘faux’ about it
There’s outrage because of the changing of the gender implied through his use of “maternal.” I suppose you have to decide whether the term was intentional or a quip. Those attacking Pence obviously believe it was an intentional “misgendering.” It’s the kind of thing high school bullies do.
It’s the kind of thing our previous president did. One might hope Pence would be above stooping to that kind of low.
At the very least, I would expect a man like Pence to know the difference between maternity and paternity.
But, I would also expect him to value the importance of all parental leave — by mothers or fathers — when a child is born. I would particularly expect those in a party that claims to lead the way in appreciating family values and a party that prides itself in being so “pro-life” to recognize the benefits of parental leave.
Like it or not, the Buttigiegs are a family. They may not meet your definition of what what a family “should” be. But frankly, that’s your problem, not theirs.
I think Chasten Buttigieg said it best in response to Pence’s jab when he took to Twitter:
“If your grandchild was born prematurely and placed on a ventilator at two months old – their tiny fingers wrapped around yours as the monitors beep in the background – where would you be?” he wrote.
I’m sure if it were Pence’s child and parental leave were available to him, he’d take it. If it were his grandchild and both parents had that option, I’m sure he’d expect them to take it.
And I’m sure Pence wouldn’t tolerate that kind of “humor” at his family’s expense.
No one should.