Republicans' Daddy Issues
Conservatives hate ‘fatherlessness’, but not enough to take care of their own kids
Last night, Tucker Carlson mocked Pete Buttigieg for taking paternity leave—making a homophobic jab about the Secretary of Transportation “trying to figure out how to breastfeed.” Bigoted nastiness isn’t exactly shocking from the white supremacist pundit, I know. But what’s fascinating about Carlson’s horror over a man taking parental leave is that he also claims ‘fatherlessness’ is ruining America.
In a 2018 segment, Carlson told his audience that when fathers are absent from the home, children are more likely to be poor, uneducated and have disciplinary problems.
So which is it? Are fathers necessary for stable families and children, or is spending time with your kid a sign of weakness and something to be laughed at? And if conservative men are so concerned with ‘fatherlessness’, why do so few of them take care of their own kids?
Research shows, for example, that Republican men spend less time with their children than Democrats, and are more likely to expect their wives to do the bulk of parenting. The men so fond of making racially-coded criticisms of single-mother led families are the same dads who think it’s beneath them to change a diaper.
They want fathers to be present, but not so present as to demean themselves with womanly tasks like putting a child to sleep or cutting their toenails.
Right-wing weirdo Matt Walsh, for example, tweets that men don’t need paternity leave because “there isn’t much for a dad to do when the baby is a newborn.” Because when you believe that men shouldn’t care for babies, it makes no sense that they’d need any time with them. (Walsh, naturally, has also written frequently about the scourge of ‘fatherlessness’.)
The truth is that conservatives don’t actually value dads or parenting—they value traditional gender roles. They want a world where men are needed in families, but don’t have to do any actual work in them. A world where women take care of children happily, and are grateful for their husband’s mere presence.
And that’s the rub: They believe that men are so vital for families that simply existing in the home is enough to set children on the right path. That belief has nothing to do with fatherhood and everything to do with sexist self-importance.
None of this is to say that progressive or liberal dads are perfect—far from it. Dads being clueless about their own kids is still played for laughs, as if it’s charming and funny for fathers to not know their kids’ birthdays or the name of their primary care physician. It’s a widespread cultural problem.
But when a foundational part of your ideology says that families work best when moms do the bulk of childcare, you lose the right to talk about ‘fatherlessness.’ Because if you’ve never given your kid a bath, picked them up for school, or taken them to the dentist—it sure sounds like you’re as absent as the next guy.