Is the Democratic National Convention Discriminating Against Women?

It's kind of like when your friends tell you not to bring your kids to their wedding.

One thing every parent should probably have is a reliable sitter to call up for date nights or whatever. Seth and I did have a sitter, a 60-year-old tattooed hippie who watched Oliver a lot, since we have no family anywhere remotely close (my family is in Iowa; the ex’s is in Oregon). Unfortunately, we had to fire her a couple of years ago (long story), and then we just never looked around for a new one. But now that I’m a part-time parent, I haven’t had a situation where a babysitter was necessary. If I have something planned during the time I have Oliver, Seth can usually just take him for a night or a couple of hours or whatever. But mostly, I make my plans for the off-weeks when Oliver is at his dad’s anyway.

This system works great for us. But then Seth and I (and our respective significant others) were invited to the same wedding. So, about that childcare situation. At first, Seth was just going to not go, since the wedding is for friends that he met through me and Jeff (and Jeff is actually in the wedding). But then the bride and groom decided that they would hire a sitter for all the parents to use during the event, which was a really nice thing to do. They are nice people who want all their friends to attend the wedding.

It’s pretty common these days to get an invitation to an event that explicitly states, “no children, please.” While the weddings of many of my friends in the Midwest involved a church ceremony, followed by a buffet reception at the local VFW hall and loads of screaming children and dancing to "The Chicken Dance," here in Los Angeles nearly every wedding is a capital-E-Event. Weddings here are curated and planned, usually involving carefully orchestrated and elegant mood lighting. Also: theme weddings. It’s all very adult, and not very child-friendly.

Which is totally fine. I get it, and if I was the kind of person who had the patience and desire to plan an elaborate event like a beautiful themed wedding, I might ask that my friends and family leave the kids at home, too. But then again, I am the kind of person who gets married in a 30-second ceremony officiated by a woman in zombie make-up.* So.

My understanding of wedding etiquette is if you know that many of your friends and family have children, but you don’t want the kids at the wedding, the polite thing to do is to provide some sort of group childcare option, either at the wedding site or nearby. I could be way off base here, but I assume if you invite a bunch of parents to a big event and you actually want them to attend, it’s in your best interest to ensure that it’s possible for them to attend without the kiddos. That being said, I certainly don’t think it’s required to provide childcare; it’s just a nice gesture.

So. With that in mind, Gloria Steinem and the National Organization for Women are pretty pissed off at the Democratic National Convention organizers. They claim that the Dems are discriminating against mothers because not only are children not allowed on the DNC floor, but there will be no childcare provided at the convention.

I can see how some of the delegates might feel like they were invited to the wedding, but aren’t really welcome there. It’s certainly possible that some of the delegates who are parents will have to take the kids with them to Charlotte, for whatever reason. Or, maybe they’re bringing them along to have a little family vacation at the same time. Whatever the reason, the delegates will have to arrange for some sort of childcare during the convention.

But here’s the thing: I don’t know if we can say that the DNC is discriminating against women, any more than we can say that an employer who does not provide company-sponsored childcare is discriminating against women (pretty much all employers would fall into this category). Also, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that the kids stay away from the convention itself. It’s a place of business, essentially, and the delegates are there to do a job. Some places of business, like those involving politics or porn, are just not kid-friendly. I mean, I wouldn’t want my kid at a political function (but then I also don’t let Oliver watch the news because it’s too fear-based, scary and divisive, and I don’t want to corrupt his innocent, optimistic mind).

There are lots of situations where parents might be asked to not bring the kids. Most recent example in my life: the other night we had a thing at Oliver’s school, where the parents get to meet the teachers and learn about the curriculum for the year. School administrators urged parents to leave the kids at home, and also said that no childcare would be provided. Fair enough.

What’s interesting to me is the framing of this as specifically a women’s issue. Certainly, some of the male delegates have children, and maybe some of them are bringing their kids. So is the DNC discriminating against them, too? If anything, I think it’s an issue concerning both mothers and fathers (and talking about why mothers are still considered to be the primary caregivers is a topic for another post), but I don’t know if the DNC’s decision is necessarily discriminatory. To the convention organizers’ credit, they did give delegates a list of private childcare providers, and they are providing private areas for nursing mothers.

At most, I think it’s kind of a dick move. Because the delegates must travel out of town, it’s reasonable to expect that some of them will be bringing their kids. The *nice* thing to do would be to provide childcare at the convention for parents who must bring their children with them. BUT I don’t necessarily think that failing to do so constitutes discrimination. What do you all think?

*someday I will tell you guys about my first wedding, which involved an undead Elvis.

Somer does "The Chicken Dance" in her mind as she tweets @somersherwood