Anne Hathaway: ‘The mommy wars distract from the problem of parental leave’

Anne Hathaway speaks at the United Nations Headquarters

Anne Hathaway spent International Women’s Day speaking to the United Nations, which is a pretty good way to honor IWD if you ask me. Anne became an UN Ambassador last June and her cause is paid parental leave, something she focused on after she had her son. Once she realized the conditions under which parents were forced back to work (i.e. unpaid leave, no paternity leave), Anne decided to fight for those who don’t have the means to take parental leave. Eliana Dockterman from Motto interviewed Anne about her new role for the UN as well as her feminism and the all-female cast of Ocean’s 8.

Hathaway on her experiences with resources available to moms in Hollywood: “I only have one experience so far, and it’s a movie that stars eight women, four of whom are mothers — which is definitely not the norm. On Ocean’s Eight, kids were welcome on the set. [Before we started] I got an email from Sandra Bullock saying, “Hey, listen, we’re going to make this a really welcoming place for kids. I know you’re a brand-new mom, so don’t be afraid to bring your son. We love kids here.” Change is going to come, but it’s going to take people like her with the power to make change to demand it.”

On how she became a UN ambassador: “The United Nations reached out to me, and I was very interested. But it took us a while to figure out what my issue was going to be. Then life provided the answer: I got pregnant. A week after I had my son — I was still fired up on adrenaline — I had an epiphany: the mommy wars are bullsh-t. They distract from the larger, institutional problem of parental leave. It was an issue that had always been abstract to me. Now it was real.”

On if Ocean’s 8 will become political or attract harassment: “In this movie there are eight women starring, so it may well attract that sort of attention. But good luck to any person who tries to take on Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett because you’re not going to win.”

[From Motto]

I am not an Anne apologist, I just plain like her. I don’t understand why “mommy wars” exist in the first place so I am happy to give Anne a big ol’ fist bump here. One of the things I really appreciate about Anne’s message, which you can read more of here, is that it’s inclusive. She wants proper parental leave for both sexes and points out all the ways that current US policy is unfair, such as families with two fathers who aren’t allowed maternity leave. And her first target is the UN itself who does not have equal leave for men and women.

As for Ocean’s 8, I guess I never realized that Hollywood sets were so unfriendly to kids. But reading Anne’s comments, it seems I don’t know very much about Hollywood sets. As to her point about O8 attracting political attention, the comparison made in the interview is the Ghostbusters remake. I understand Anne is trying to be supportive of Cate and Sandra’s directness but I hardly think any of those GB ladies are shrinking violets and they certainly came for them. In addition to answering the questions about attracting attention, Anne made a larger point to say that when she is number three on a call sheet after two men, her character is not political but, “when I’m No. 1 on the call sheet, it suddenly becomes a ‘woman’s story’ and it’s a statement.” It’s not that I didn’t know this, but Anne explains better than I’ve heard.

Anne Hathaway speaks at the United Nations Headquarters


Photos are from the UN on 3-8 and from the Oceans set late last year. credit: Instagram, WENN and Fame/Flynet Photos

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15 Responses to “Anne Hathaway: ‘The mommy wars distract from the problem of parental leave’”

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  1. Runcmc says:

    I bet it’s annoying for her that the official UN “ad”/announcement image specifically speaks to women when her larger point is gender inclusive.

    Besides that – kudos to her. This really is an important issue! I’m not a parent myself but many of my friends have had kids recently and I’ve been pretty appalled and surprised by how crappy their parental leave is.

  2. Megan says:

    How do “mommy wars” distract from the issue of paid maternity leave? Anne is viewing the world through her lens of privilege. Hourly workers with no paid leave probably don’t think women judging other women is why we, as a society, have not moved on this issue.

    • Angel says:

      Completely unrelated issues

      • phatypopo says:

        I took her comment to mean that the media’s/people’s focus on mommy wars as one powerful aspect of motherhood/parenting is ridiculous given the fact that most mothers don’t even have the privilege or resources to find affordable caretakers. I think she was saying exactly what you’re saying.

    • Izzy says:

      I read “mommy wars” as the whole “my parenting style is better than yours” nonsense that has reached a crescendo in recent years, with women being berated in stores for buying formula instead of breastfeeding, etc. I don’t see how that is a “lens of privilege.” Mothers from all walks of life experience that kind of B.S., and it DOES take away from the more important conversations, such as “what resources do new parents need to thrive and to have their children thrive?” and “how can we make sure those parents have those resources?” And because everyone is talking about , blogging about, those perceived things that make one parent “better” than another, the real issues and challenges parents face get lost in the social dialogue, and we are left with twatwaffles like Susan Sarandon’s daughter and and Goopy, and their stupid blogs that do nothing to help solve real issues.

    • K2 says:

      The problem is that the media would rather examine the mommy wars than engage with the issue of parental leave.

      Interestingly, unless you have symmetrical and generous leave, you can’t get workplace equality. If 90% of men are taking their full leave and thereafter assuming joint responsibility for their kids, then employers stop feeling that women are a bigger risk to employ. It’s a situation where support for one sex means supporting the other.

  3. Prairiegirl says:

    “..the mommy wars are bullsh-t. They distract from the larger, institutional problem of parental leave.”

    Correct. Appropriate levels of parental leave, available for use by either moms or dads or a combination of both, combined with affordable child care for those who wish to access it, would both honour families choices and support women in the workforce by enabling the continuation of paid employment (should they want to) presumably in their fields of study in which they invested time and money during post-secondary education. Paid parental leave and affordable child care are the gateway to national economic growth. Forcing women out of the labour force because there is no parental leave and limited child care options is a serious underuse of women’s human capital and potential to contribute to society not simply as wage earners but as leaders generally.

    But what do I know, I’m just someone’s mom. LOL.

  4. Ninks says:

    As an Irish person, the lack of paid maternity leave in the US is something that continually shocks me. I can’t believe that worn work tight up to giving birth and go back within weeks. It’s just something I can compute.

    Good for Anne on fighting for this cause.

    • Megan says:

      In the US, public benefits are limited to the very poor, the elderly, the very sick, or the disabled. A few states have laws that require employers to offer paid leave, but many do not.

      As long as employers are expected to pay for maternity leave, it will continue to be a problem in the US because businesses large and small will lobby hard to defeat paid leave bills. For public companies, it adversely affects the bottom, and for small businesses, it may be too burdensome.

      • Lightpurple says:

        And even among the elderly, sick, and disabled, there are income and asset limits for the programs that don’t require an earlier contribution from earned income. So, it is actually the very poor elderly and disabled who qualify for help. And the GOP wants to cut those programs even more.

    • QueenB says:

      It is generally hard to understand from the outside. Its not just parental leave but generally workers rights. Annual leave etc.

      • Fran says:

        It blows my mind. I live in the U.K. and just returned to work after 9 months full pay, 7 weeks paid annual leave and a 5% bonus. I pretty much had the year off at full pay and now I’m motivated to go back to work after a really important year with my baby.

  5. OhDear says:

    Good on her! And I like how (1) she’s also calling the UN out on it, (2) addressing the larger issue of gender roles in caring for kids, and (3) including the fact that there are families with no female parent.

    (On a shallow note, the orange dress is lovely – the color suits her)

  6. meh says:

    Why WOULDN’T movie sets be unwelcoming for kids? It’s a work place. Please, please, please do not bring your children to your work place. For every person who says “we love kids here”, there are three others trying to do their job and getting nauseous from the sound of your precious shrieking.

  7. Bells says:

    Yay! This is an important issue – love that Anne Hathaway is tackling it.