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David Koch, Feminist?

Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty

Almost any discussion of the barriers women still face at work ends with feminists pleading for better child care options in the United States. At MIT, women will have this, thanks to … David Koch. 

The libertarian billionaire, better known for his anti-Obama efforts, has pledged $20 million dollars towards the creation of the David H. Koch Childcare Center. Per the Boston Globe, this will double the amount of day care available on campus.

Two and a half years ago, biology researchers at MIT were discussing their work with an outside advisory committee. What could help you in your job, they were asked. One simple answer came from the women in the room: child care.

David H. Koch, a billionaire philanthropist and MIT graduate known as much for his conservative activism as for his generosity, had attended dozens of these meetings, but had never been so moved. “I got a tear in my eye,” he said. …

“I’ve never seen a group of people speak with such passion and such disappointment that a problem existed and it wasn’t being fixed,” Koch said, recalling the meeting with biologists. “We would miss out on some outstanding researchers if they didn’t have proper facilities for their children.”

Koch has a pattern of trying to greenwash his reputation via donations to his alma mater (he’s also funded a cancer research institute there). Still, it’s heartening to see a conservative man paying attention to a problem that all too often is relegated to internecine discussion among liberal feminists. Even if this is a donation that only helps the most elite women, at a single institution. 

Someday, maybe, stubborn right-wing congressional Republicans will get on board with making this kind of care more readily available to women of all classes, instead of blocking “entitlements.” After all, that’s the only way this will actually ever change in a meaningful way, when Congress stops doing things like cutting Head Start for 57,000 children during sequestration, making it clear that the needs of poor women and children are at the very bottom of their priority list.  Now if only there were someone with deep pockets who could massively influence the composition of Congress  ….