This last Mother’s Day, John Oliver delivered another incisive critique of the fact that large businesses all over the U.S. encouraged the entire country to celebrate their mothers and motherhood in general. But while they might celebrate motherhood when it means consumers buying something from them, the country and its businesses are generally horrible to mothers when it comes to giving them the paid leave they need in order to actually be better and more caring mothers.
Oliver begins his segment by showing many of the businesses advertising their Mother’s Day pitches… including Hooters. “Mom, thanks for making me the man I am today. The kind of man who takes his mom to a Hooters,” Oliver cracks.
Oliver notes that even American’s favorite past time, baseball, wants to honor mothers. He shows a clip of various baseball teams around America offering free merchandise to mothers coming to games or to stadiums during Mother’s Day. “It’s perfect for the mother who like’s the three Bs. Baseball, botany, and being disappointed in her mother’s day gift.”
It looks like America will do anything for mothers. Well, except allow new mothers paid time off. A UN report shows that only the U.S. and Papua New Guinea share this among all the other countries in the world.
The U.S. does have some allowances for new mothers. But only if they work for a company that has just the right set of features. Mothers have to be full time employees of companies with 50 or more employees, which means that 40% of workers are not covered by paid leave requirements. The clip that Oliver uses points out that American women often have to use a combination of vacation hours that are saved up, sick days, combined with unpaid leave. One woman, a commentator notes, even used a credit card to pay for the unpaid time off work.
That’s not so bad, Oliver quips. “Think of all the points she’ll earn towards a vacation she can’t now take.”
This isn’t how it’s supposed to work, Oliver points out, comparing the ridiculousness of patching together family leave this way to it being similar to planning a weekend gambling in Atlantic City.
After looking at the devastating stories of two moms who are forced to go back to work well before they should have to, Oliver also looks at the importance of family leave for fathers in America. Though here, he points a ‘cultural adjustment’ will have to be made. For this he highlights the furor directed at a major league baseball player who took time off to see his child born.
“You can’t have it both ways,” John Oliver says towards the end of the segment, highlighting politicians who claim to support mothers and motherhood but vote against bills to fix the problem of paid family leave. “You can’t go on and on about how much you love mothers and then fail to support legislation that makes life easier for them.”
It’s an incisive skewering of a huge inequity in U.S. working culture.