Changing diapers and keeping track of your child’s football matches might come with more perks, as male politicians on the campaign trail for the 2020 US presidential race are realising. It could, for instance, also translate into a happy electorate and what can be more win-win than that? For the first time, male candidates are faced with the question that has dogged their female counterparts for years — what about the children then? The dads in the political fray seem to recognise this changing dynamic, stepping up to acknowledge that parenting is a two-person job.
When it comes to the pursuit of greater professional glory, men — and not just politicians — often seem to have an invisible opt-out clause written in their contracts. It’s only in the last decade, with the rise and rise of social media bridging the gap between the personal and the professional, that politicians have realised the efficacy of letting their electorate get a glimpse of their emotional lives. One of the first American presidents to successfully negotiate the thin line between privacy and emotional connect was Barack Obama, who spoke regularly about his daughters, Malia and Sasha. Unlike Obama, the Republican Sarah Palin, pitched as the hockey mom who also fought corruption, failed to garner empathy for her political ambitions when she ran for the vice president’s office, not least for her decision to contest when she had a baby with Down Syndrome and two other children at home.
Yet, you only need to look at New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to realise that contemporary politics has scope, even if limited, to accommodate ambitions and go beyond gendered roles. And that, as for women, it’s equally possible for men to be hands-on parents and still run for the highest office of the land.