Another Non-Controversy – Controversy (Update)

Ann Romney

Republicans are masters at faux outrage. They will take something that is usually relatively minor and obscure and blow it into something that represents God, country and the American way. The latest fake outrage surrounded Hillary Rosen. Hillary Rosen is supposedly a Democratic strategist. I’ve never heard of her. That doesn’t mean that she is not a strategist, just that she’s not a major player in the Democratic Party in my eyes. (Well, she turns out to be a big power player in the DNC. I need to pay more attention. More on her background.) The other night she was on CNN, like millions of talking heads, when she said, “guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never dealt with the kinds of economic issues that the majority of women in this country are facing.” Hillary Rosen was talking about Ann Romney. Now, let the fireworks begin.

Let’s be clear, in our society, the vast majority of women have to work extremely hard in order to do the things that they do. It is that simple. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom or simply a working woman, it is tough in our society to make ends meet. This is a given. Yet, somehow Hillary Rosen’s comments were turned into some sort of attack on stay-at-home moms. In fact, it was no attack on stay-at-home moms at all. Instead, what she was trying to say, and said pretty well, was that Ann Romney had it a little bit easier than other stay-at-home moms. The fact that her husband, Mitt Romney, was making ends meet in a big way meant that she did not have to face the same challenges that other stay-at-home moms do. They had maids and butlers, That’s a little bit different than if the only person you have to turn to is you, yourself, and that’s it. Now, that’s an assumption. I’m assuming that the Romneys had extra help around the house. I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t care. What I do know is that Mitt was bringing home some really good cash, so the economic decisions became extremely easy. Ann Romney never had to decide between medicine and food for her kids. She never had to buy a car that she thought was substandard because that was all she could afford. She never had to decide whether she put her kids in some sort of substandard day care versus trying to find a neighbor or even a relative to take care of her kids while she worked for eight hours trying to make ends meet.

This whole fake argument and fake outrage again diverts our attention from the important pressing problems that are facing our nation. We continue to be distracted by craziness. We must remember that the reason that we are all struggling right now is because of the foolishness and chicanery of Wall Street. Fancy derivatives and mortgage securitization led us into this economic collapse. Millions of people have been displaced and still have not been able to find work and yet no major player on Wall Street has paid the price for perpetuating nationwide fraud. Those of us who have a job have enjoyed stagnant wages for more than a decade. The defunding of our public schools continues to undermine our ability to be prepared for the future. Yet, we fret over whether Hillary Rosen is attacking stay-at-home moms. The whole idea is simply crazy. We need to focus on the real problems which face our nation.

Update: Let me just add

There’s nothing there about stay-at-home moms, or the idea that that raising children isn’t work. Rosen was referring to the fact that Ann Romney—an incredibly rich and elite woman—likely does not understand the economic concerns of most American women. Again, it was unfortunate choice of words—but she wasn’t wrong.

The Romney campaign, predictably, has grabbed onto this “controversy” in an attempt to divert attention from their missteps around equal pay and the war on women yesterday. Ann Romney joined Twitter, and her first two messages were about the flap, writing that “all moms are entitled to choose their path” and that she “made a choice to stay home and raise five boys.”

Since all moms are “entitled” to “choose” their path, I’m very much looking forward to the Romney’s plan for national mandated paid parental leave. I’m also wondering, since they believe that women’s domestic labor is valuable and real work, when they will come out in support of wages for said work. (Or perhaps women are only entitled to make their “choice” when they have the financial means to do so.)

Focusing on this slip-up just brings more attention to the way in which a Romney presidency wouldn’t support mothers. Because empty platitudes about motherhood “being the hardest job in the world” doesn’t change the reality of most moms’ lives, or make their job any easier.

But it’s not just that Romney is bad for women (whether they work outside the home or not). What’s being lost in this conversation is the incredibly facile and insulting notion that just because a woman made the decision to marry Romney and occasionally talk to him about other women, that he is somehow well-informed on women’s issues. Ann Romney is not an expert on women’s issues just because she happens to be one. And she’s not an expert in what mothers need just because she has children. Believing otherwise is infantilizing and reduces women’s very important and complex concerns to beauty parlor chitchat.