As is customary for a sitting US president, Donald Trump proclaimed today Mother’s Day. As is customary for Donald Trump, the proclamation is light on substance, and also treats mothers as people who belong first and foremost in the home.
Our deep appreciation for the strength and spirit of mothers and their resolve to do what is right for their children and families cannot be overstated. They are often the first to lend a hand during hard times and the first to celebrate our proudest victories. The boundless energy of our mothers inspires us to be people of action, people who strive relentlessly toward our goals. Above all, they teach us the power and joy of unconditional love.
Compare that to the Mother’s Day proclamation Barack Obama issued in 2012, which contains a lengthy paragraph on the challenges faced daily by working moms in America, as well as his administration’s efforts to improve their lot:
Mothers raise children under an array of circumstances, and many work long hours inside and outside the home balancing myriad demands. Mothers are leaders and trailblazers in every part of our society—from classrooms to boardrooms, at home and overseas, on the beat and on the bench. We celebrate the efforts of all our Nation’s mothers, and we recognize that when more households are relying on women as primary or co-breadwinners, the success of women in our economy is essential to the success of our families, our communities, and our country. That is why I created the White House Council on Women and Girls as one of my first acts in office—to ensure we integrate the needs of women and girls into every decision we make. I was proud to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which continues to help women secure equal pay for equal work, and my Administration continues to promote workplace flexibility so no mother has to choose between her job and her child. And because of the Affordable Care Act, women finally have more power to make choices about their health care, and they have expanded access to a wide variety of preventive services such as mammograms at no additional cost.
Or even this one from George W. Bush in 2001, which nods to the many women who are heads of their household:
Many American families are now headed solely by women, and these women shoulder enormous responsibilities. For the good of their families and our Nation, we must strive to provide support and assistance to those mothers, such as, opportunities for training and employment; early childhood education for their young ones; and safe, affordable, and high-quality childcare.
(It goes on to call for fathers to fulfill their “financial and nurturing responsibilities,” but points for trying.)
That Trump fails to celebrate mothers for anything other than their role in bearing and nurturing children is hardly surprising: His comments about women include, among other things, “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.” Since ascending to the presidency, Trump has wrenched aid from organizations that provide family planning and basic women’s health care, and championed a health care bill that promises to revert the US to a time when being a woman—and especially a mother!—was essentially a pre-existing condition.
The bill passed on May 4 by the US House of Representatives would waive protections that keep insurance companies from charging higher premiums to women who have been sexually assaulted, domestically abused, pregnant, infertile, or even had a C-section. The legislation has drawn comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian-novel-turned-TV-series about a futuristic US that strips women of their rights and relegates them to reproductive slavery, all while preaching the value of child-bearing women to society.
“Blessed be the fruit,” they say in The Handmaid’s Tale. “Whether by birth, adoption, or foster care, our Nation’s mothers give selflessly of themselves for the well‑being of the lives and futures of others,” says Trump in his Mother’s Day proclamation. “We humbly thank them for this greatest gift.”