Skip to main content

Conservative Response To Pete Buttigieg Paternity Leave Proves the Patriarchy Is Alive & Well

Pete Buttigieg smiles holding a cup of coffee outdoors

Back in August, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that he and his husband Chasten had become parents. He shared no other details, writing in a tweet that “the process isn’t done yet.”

Then last month, he tweeted a photo sharing that the couple had actually welcomed two babies into their family.

Buttigieg has been on paternity leave since mid-August–a fact that wasn’t ever officially announced, leading some (pretty much exclusively conservative) outlets and politicians to criticize his unexplained absence during Congress’ infrastructure bill meltdown and what is shaping up to be a bit of a worldwide supply chain crisis. Being fairly prolific on Twitter and a cable news mainstay, Buttigieg’s absence was notable.

Politico first reported on Buttigieg’s paternity leave this week:

“For the first four weeks, he was mostly offline except for major agency decisions and matters that could not be delegated,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation. “He has been ramping up activities since then.” As he does that, Buttigieg will “continue to take some time over the coming weeks to support his husband and take care of his new children,” the spokesperson added.

It’s not clear why Buttigieg and his office didn’t just put out an official announcement of his leave. Although based on the response from some right-wing news outlets, it’s hard to blame him for wanting to keep things private.

Predictably, the worst take so far comes from Tucker Carlson, who criticized Buttigieg on his show Thursday night.

“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, no word on how that went,” he sneered dryly above a chron calling the secretary “Spineless Pete.”

The ignorance is staggering. Parental leave, it should be obvious, is not just about the physical or medical elements of having children and therefore not limited exclusively to those who go through the act of childbirth. Studies have shown that parents who take even just two weeks of paternity have closer relationships with their children and they are less likely to get divorced. Parental leave for people of all genders is beneficial for literally everyone involved and the effects have been shown to last for many years after the birth or arrival of the children.

Men like Buttigieg taking paternity leave should be entirely normalized but until that’s the case, it deserves to be celebrated. It most definitely is not anything to be mocked.

What makes Carlson’s response even worse is that in the past, he has done segments on how “changes to the family structure,” meaning a decline in fatherhood and increase in single-family households, are harming men.

Yet when men want to take a more active role in their children’s lives, he mocks them, complete with emasculating and vaguely homophobic jabs about “breastfeeding.”

There was also that recent segment where Carlson’s guest mocked Buttigieg as one of the Democratic Party’s “childless cat ladies,” suggesting he shouldn’t have a say in the future of America. “We should support more people who have kids,” he said. So where is the support for Buttigieg now? (Or for literally any other non-wealthy parents, for that matter.)

Once again, Tucker Carlson is a shining example of regressive, patriarchal-enforcing ideals. If he’s actually interested in finding out what’s harming men (and everyone else) in America, he can start with himself and his own nightly show.

(image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.