At the first US presidential debate of 2016, Hillary Clinton pointed out:
this is a man who … has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers
Donald Trump responded by saying:
I never said that.
Actually, he did.
I quickly posted a link to that article on Facebook last night, primarily to show that he just lied during the debate.
However, that post sparked a pretty long Facebook discussion, with my friends and family weighing in about how pregnancy, vacation, and other things may or may not be considered “inconveniences” to a business.
Most people agree that expressing this sentiment is a dumb thing for a Presidential candidate to say, because it’s a fairly controversial thing to say. But some people who think that still agree with the sentiment that pregnancy is an inconvenience.
I kind of did, too, but I don’t anymore. Here’s why.
Words Have Consequences
When someone speaks, those words can have repercussions. The words and language we use shape our opinions and transform how we experience the world. Whether we speak or think those words, they matter.
If you disagree with those statements, maybe Tony Robbins can change your mind. Or The Linguistic Society, The Guardian, or this peer-reviewed journal article I found on Google.
Political Correctness and Words
Like John Cleese, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and other comedians, I don’t think we should stop ourselves from saying words if there is even the slightest chance that they may anger or otherwise disturb someone else.
I think at the heart of the backlash against the idea of “political correctness” is that people don’t want to be told what words they can use.
And hey, we live in the USA, so thanks to the first amendment, your words are whatever you want them to be, free from governmental reproach! Just avoid libel and slander.
But words still have consequence.
Using the word “inconvenience” to describe a business’s view of pregnancy immediately implies something negative about that pregnancy.
Here’s two definitions of inconvenience:
- trouble or difficulty caused to one’s personal requirements or comfort.
- a cause or instance of trouble or difficulty.
Both of these are negative. No person or business wants trouble or difficulty.
Do we – as a country – want the words used to describe pregnancy with regards to a business to be negative?
Furthermore, is it accurate? Is a pregnancy a cause of trouble or difficulty for the business?
Because using the word “inconvenient” to describe pregnancy for a business is certainly a cause of trouble or difficulty for a pretty large number of people: women.
If Pregnancy is a Business Negative, What About the People Getting Pregnant?
Last I checked, only women can have babies. (science, get on that)
If a business only considers pregnancy a negative thing – and hence, uses words like “inconvenience” to describe pregnancy – women will always be at a disadvantage, because they are the only ones who may have this negative thing happen to them.
Maybe women can vocally let their hiring manager know they plan to never have a child to avoid any perceived negatives. But I’m pretty sure the USA does not want to become the nation producing no new children.
If many people are concluding that pregnancy is an inconvenience to business, should we perhaps consider changing incentives so that pregnancies can be at worst neutral, and hopefully beneficial, to a business?
Business priorities are generally all about money. Family priorities are not.
Family priorities are a whole mix of pursuits of happiness. But families still need some money to live and pursue that happiness, and when having a child, yet more money is needed.
The US government has something for families which it doesn’t have for businesses: a child tax credit.
That’s because we the people understand a child is a financial responsibility, and we want to help with raising that child, because it’s a valuable contribution to society.
If businesses got a similar benefit to help with that financial responsibility, maybe we could banish the word “inconvenience” when talking about a business’s attitude towards pregnancy, which could help reduce gender discrimination in hiring. Remember, discrimination over pregnancy is illegal.
I’d love to see us spend tax dollars on something that:
- eliminates one avenue of gender discrimination
- helps our economy
- incentivizes raising happy, healthy children
I’d sure prefer that over a new football stadium, increased military spending, or more welfare.
If that’s what it takes to eliminate the idea or language that pregnancy is “inconvenient” to business, perhaps we should consider it.
The alternative is for our economy to always view people who can bear children as having the opportunity to introduce a negative – an inconvenience – into its plans. And I sure don’t like conflating a pregnancy with an inconvenience.
P.S. – Imagine if…
After writing this up and running it by a few friends, one friend suggested this scenario:
Imagine a boss saying to an employee, “Your pregnancy is really an inconvenience to this company.”
How quickly do you think that lawsuit would be over?