By Meredith Conroy
The latest twist in the tale of the House Speaker vacancy has seen Paul Ryan, the resentful favorite, use his general appeal to ask for four concessions, one of which is that he would take on fewer fundraising duties than past Speakers, in order to maintain the time he now spends with his young children.
When I heard this I was struck by how unapologetic he was in his demands, and for this one demand in particular. Furthermore, I was struck by the praise he was receiving for this particular demand—“how refreshing for a man to put his family before work” etc. Via her Facebook profile, which boasts 1.7 million followers, Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, gave Ryan the “Lean In Award of the day” writing, “We need work to work for parents – and having leaders who weigh responsibilities as fathers as much as their responsibilities to their jobs shows all of us what is possible.” Although, not everyone agreed that he should be recognized; plenty of Sandberg’s followers were quick to point out Ryan’s hypocrisy—as a member of congress, Ryan has not supported paid family leave, or other measures that would give similar courtesy to working parents. [Sidenote: there was of course the sarcastic twitter response #PaulRyanConditions, which mocked the general premise of demands, but not the demands in particular.]
While the rationale for his demands is varied—certainly he wants to ensure that taking on the Speaker role will not preclude a future presidential run—the familial rationale is one that a similarly situated woman would never make, and is a not-so-friendly reminder that for a woman in politics, her family can be a liability, while for men, it is an asset.