I am woman, hear me slam stay-at-home moms.
No, that’s not the way I remember the feminist rallying cry either. But it was essentially what Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said when she criticized Ann Romney on CNN yesterday.
Said Rosen: “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.”
Now, Ann Romney is certainly not the poster child for the struggling mother working two jobs to keep food on the table for her children. But neither is Rosen.
Rosen, a Washington power player and partner in a major communications firm, is the former chairman and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. The truth is, neither Ann Romney nor Hillary Rosen have lives that would look remotely familiar to 99 percent of the world’s women.
Rosen explained in a Huffington Post piece that her point was that Ann Romney should not be a person who Mitt Romney looks to for advice about the economic conditions of women, because, “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 why do we worry about their future.”
Of course, if this is the standard, then most women who work in politics—including Rosen—should not be able to offer advice on the economic plight of the average American woman, since with few exceptions they are hypereducated upper-income yuppies. Really, according to this line of reasoning, Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards should never have been able to talk about women’s issues as the spouse of candidate since they never had to worry about how to feed their kids.
In the same piece, Rosen said she had “no judgments about women who work outside the home vs. women who work in the home raising a family.” Au contraire. When one says dismissively that Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life,” that does not suggest an abiding respect for her contribution to her family and society.
Let’s be clear: Raising children full time is work. Being the spouse who runs the household full time is work. And it’s work that society often doesn’t value or treat with respect. In addition to running their homes and supporting their husband’s endeavors, stay-at-home moms are often the people who keep the school board running, do the volunteering for community activities, and even support the women in their neighborhood who work outside the home. When I was a child, and my archaeologist mother had to work late, guess who watched me? Yep, the stay-at-home mom next door.
The idea that “women’s work” is indeed valuable to society has long been a contention of feminists, so it’s strange to see a prominent Democrat lash out a stay-at-home mother and wife in this fashion. Feminists have agitated for as long as I can remember for society to value and respect the “unpaid work” that women do in the home and society. The fact that Ann Romney doesn’t struggle financially doesn’t make what she does any less valuable. I suspect there is a lot about how she has contributed to her community that we don’t know.
Her full-time homemaker role also doesn’t make her any less able to speak about women’s economic conditions. Presumably she is just as capable as Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Edwards or Michelle Obama in boning up on policy issues and educating herself about the economic plight of women in America.
Rosen undoubtedly did not intend to devalue women with her comments. It’s a sad fact of our society that contempt for women and their incredible, unpaid, and unheralded contributions to society has been unconsciously absorbed even by liberal women who support women’s rights.