Disclosure: Not married, not a mom, no kids... but I'm about to talk about all of those things.
The Romney campaign has been using Mrs. Ann Romney as a surrogate for
the candidate when talking about women's economic issues. Yesterday, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen questioned the wisdom behind that tactic, saying that Ann Romney, a stay at home mom who raised five children, "never worked a day in her life."
Oh muh gawd. The shit's still hitting the fan. Congressmen, pundits, and politicos on both sides have rushed to Mrs. Mittens' defense, saying that of course raising those kids was hard work. Anti-feminists see this as a vindication of what the left thinks of them, that we don't value women who decide to stay home with their families. Suddenly the right is talking about "choice" -- the choice that some parents make to not work outside the home. Stop stealing our language, damnit!
Then there's the second part of Hilary's comment that no one is talking about. This part: "[Ann Romney]'s never
really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the
women in this country are facing."
While Hilary's first point should have been phrased better, her overall message was clear: Mrs. Romney has never worked in the sense of a salary, benefits,
bosses, meetings, "Office Space," get up and go to work kind of job -- the kind of job for which 8.3% of the American population is desperately searching, the kind of job that pays for a mortgage, for a car, for college. Through her husband Mr. Bain Capital, she has been shielded from the devastating
realities of the economic recession. It's a legitimate question, then,
that she might not be the right person to relate to American
women about their economic woes.
No one is saying that Ann Romney didn't work hard while raising her children; of course she worked hard and probably did an amazing job (setting aside the fact that she raised five Republicans -- no one's perfect). But she has never been financially responsible
for herself or her family. She was able to choose to stay home with her children. Her family didn't need any additional income she might have contributed had she chosen to work. Regardless of what she chose to do, she had options.
Let's talk about me for a second. If I had a baby tomorrow, I wouldn't
have many options. I don't have a husband who makes a bajillion dollars a
year to support baby and me. I would continue to go to my job (that pays
about this much) and hire someone to watch the
kid. Whatever money didn't go to the babysitter would go toward food,
rent, clothing, electricity, etc., and definitely not toward a couple of Cadillacs. Staying at home to raise this kid, as much as I might like to, would not be an economic option for me.
That's my what-if scenario. That's the reality of a lot of single parents out there who don't have the luxury of a partner to provide complete financial support. Hell, that's the reality for a lot of two-parent homes who need both incomes to support their families. Having a parent who is able to stay at home and not contribute to the family's income is a luxury. No one is saying that there's anything wrong with a parent staying home. It's just simply not a financial reality for many, many American families.
Hilary Rosen has since apologized to Mrs. Romney. Tomorrow we will all be outraged over something else.
But Mitt Romney will still be using his wife to try to connect with American women. And what his campaign doesn't realize is that women are not going to relate to Ann Romney (and decide we like her husband) simply because
she's a woman. The fact that she can give birth does not in any way give
her insight into the difficulties facing middle class women these days. She hasn't
had to count the days until the next paycheck, face unemployment, or put off buying groceries because rent is due. I bet she's never
walked out of a doctor's office because the bill was going to be too
So I'm sure Mrs. Romney is a nice person and a great mom, but the Romney campaign needs a new surrogate if they want to appeal to working women.
For more back and forth between the parties, read:
- Hilary Rosen's blog post regarding the whole thing (she says a lot of what I just wrote, but hers is better)
- Ann Romney's response to Rosen's comments