So as the Ann Romney v Hilary Rosen “debate” continues, and as the “Mitt is cruel to dogs while Obama eats dogs” inanity occupies our attention during this silly season of politicsless politics and a campaignless campaign, I find myself struck by the language that suffuses the issue of women in the workforce. In particular, I am struck by the use of the word “choice” in describing how and why Ann Romney did not enter the paid work force, while many other women do.
Several things hit me about this–most of them wrapped up in the issues that have been addressed in numerous blogs and comments over the days since the Romney-Rosen kerfuffle broke out. But one dimension of the issue I haven’t seen addressed is this: no one ever thinks about men’s work as a “choice.”
Hang with me here: don’t flame me yet. What I mean by this is: it never, ever occurred to me at any point in my male, middle class American life that I was supposed to anything other than get a job and work for the rest of my life outside the home (at least until/if retirement). Instead, the only question was: what job would I get? Fortunately, by a process of experimentation and hard work, I ended up in a job for which I am well-fitted, fairly happy, and in which I have a remarkable degree of freedom and security. But the underlying question was “what job will I get?,” not “will I work?”.
What strikes me about this is the assumptions embedded in the notion that women “choose” to work. That notion rests on a very ancient attitude: that women live in the home in which they are raised until they get married, at which point in time they are cared for by their husbands. Work is “chosen” only in the sense that a woman might work for a while before her marriage, or before she has children, but the underlying assumption is that she works until marriage or children and then either quits or “chooses” to work.
More recently, of course, society has acknowledged that many women are raising children or otherwise living on their own–something that has always been true but not publicly admitted. Thus many women “have” to work. But again, the logic is “have” or “choose”: women wouldn’t or shouldn’t work, and only do so because some external factor “makes” them.
What is missing from this discourse is the sense that women might work because they want to: because they have skills and talents that can only be expressed and developed in exchange with colleagues and professionals. Work outside the home is, for such women, an expression of their identity. It is as much who they are as it is who I am.
It’s time to stop talking about women “choosing” to work or “needing” to work. It’s time to talk about how work outside the home is part of life, just as work inside it is. That’s what a discourse of equality looks like.
Ann Romney never had to participate in the wage market and so cannot identify with people who have, is all Hilary Rosen was saying
She wasn’t indicting her work ethic or dismissing the massive amounts of effort involved in motherhood, she was responding to a question about how effective Ann Romney’s advice to Mitt about women in the workplace would be. Her answer stands up to critical scrutiny.
President Obama weighed in on the controversy over Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney in an interview with ABC affiliate in KCRG in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “There is no tougher job than being a mom,” Obama said in response to Rosen’s assertion that Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.” The president added: “Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement.”
Obama called these comments “ill-advised” and said that as a general rule, candidates’ families should be off-limits to attacks.
“During an appearance on CNN Wednesday night, Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen questioned whether Ann Romney was qualified to be talking about women’s economic issues since she’s “never worked a day in her life.” On Twitter @AnnDRomney responded: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”
Do Rosen’s comments advance the Democratic narrative of a GOP “war on women”? Or is it a mean-spirted attack on Mitt Romney’s wife of 42 years that’s likely to backfire on the Obama campaign and fellow Democrats?“
Joining Wanda in NewNowNext Vote with Wanda Sykes this Monday at 10/9c on Logo are Congressman Barney Frank,GoProud’s Jimmy LaSalvia, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, Historian Rick Shenkman, Democratic Strategist, Hilary Rosen and Co-chair of Obama 2012 Campaign, Joe Solmonese!
For most of today, the homepage of Fox News has featured a huge picture of the Romney family with the headline: “5 Kids, 16 Grandkids, and Dem Adviser Charges Ann Romney Has ‘Never Worked a Day in Her Life.’ ” The outrage, which has spanned across mainstream media, Twitter, Facebook and beyond, is over Hilary Rosen’s comments to Anderson Cooper yesterday that Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, has “never worked a day in her life.”
There’s no doubt that Rosen, a CNN contributor and Democratic political consultant, made a gaffe in providing such a juicy sound bite. But her message—in context—was right on.
Rosen was responding to Mitt Romney’s constant trotting out of Ann when he gets a question on women’s issues:
What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.
Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we—why do we worry about their future?
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.
If Romney cares about motherhood he should show us some policies that prove it. And if cares about women, he should talk to some women other than those in his immediate vicinity. It may be a tad inconvenient, so I won’t hold my breath.
Alex Castellanos tells Rachel Maddow: "And I love how passionate you are, I just wish you were right about it as you are passionate about it.“
Rachel: "That’s really condescending.”
Jesus, that man is an asshat. And the constant ducking of the issues done by both Alex and Cathy is disgusting. Why have the GOP backed state and national congresses introduced the most anti-abortion laws since Roe v. Wade? Answer the damn question instead of saying that the issue is the economy. It’s not as if the GOP has been pumping out economy bills with the same fervor as anti-abortion ones. So then tell me where their priorities lie. So tell me, why do you say women are concerned about the economy and then deny the existence of a pay gap? Otherwise your vision of the economy means deliberately helping the white, male status quo.
And this is exchange is blood boiling:
Alex: “Men go into professions like Engineering, Science, and Math that earn more.”
Rachel: “Listen, this is not a math is hard conversation.”
Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues [Link inserted below]. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.
OK. I MEAN. I KNOW WE ALL KNOW. BUT REALLY I MEAN.
Aside from the following two moments, which were frankly more than warranted - if not adorably under reactive - Rachel Maddow displayed such an admirable mastery of restraint, of respect, of courtesy and moral strength, it is simply staggering. Though not altogether surprising, considering the person she is and continues to be.
Flawless. Attentive and courteous. Underestimated.
BUT I MEAN.
If ever there was anyone who needed a frying pan to the back of his head more than this fool…
“Well, I think the economic issues matter a lot, obviously to everybody. And we’re going to talk about whether tax cuts affect women more, and men more, and how women are faring in the facts Rachel just talked about.” -H.Rosen
Sneaky snark and confident intellect. Rational women made a good show today on Meet the Press.