Who Won in the Hilary Rosen vs. Ann Romney Debate: Not Women
It didn't take long, did it? for the old stay-at-home vs. working-mom flap to rear its ugly political head. After Mitt Romney more or less clinched the GOP ticket when Santorum dropped out of the race, I thought we might at least get a week or two before the nonsense ensued. Maybe even a respite until August, when the GOP heads to Tampa for its convention. But no.
Someone had to play the moms-who-stay-at home-to-raise-their-kids-don't- work card. Which is odd that it's even an issue, given how few moms can actually afford to stay home. Someone had to revive the debate at a time when women should be taking to the streets in outrage over how much we're used for political gain and then ignored.
This time it was a Democrat who set off this shallow and incredibly irritating controversy, and a mom with two adopted kids.
I'm referring to top Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. On Wednesday night, Rosen was on AC 360 talking about Mitt Romney's problems with women, and how he shouldn't use his wife Ann as a bellwether for women's economic concerns. Fair enough. After all, Ann Romney has hardly had to worry about money, much less stress over how she's going to get the boys to school on time, get to work, get the laundry done, and pay the rent.
But then Rosen had to go and say a really stupid thing. She asserted that Ann Romney "had never worked a day in her life".
Cut to five seconds later. Rosen's thoughtless remark ignited a frenzy on Twitter and Facebook from Republicans, mostly defending Ann Romney's honor and her skill at raising five terrific sons but also the institution of motherhood and apple pie. It's funny how much conservatives revere motherhood in the abstract but when it comes to actually helping mothers economically it's Let Them Eat Cake.
I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work. — Ann Romney (@AnnDRomney) April 12, 2012 Among BlogHers, the reaction was also fierce. From Eve Out of the Garden:
Shame on Democratic Strategist Hilary Rosen who claims that Ann Romney "actually never worked a day in her life." Talk about putting women down. And this statement from another woman, right after she claimed that the phrase, "war on women" is not put out there by the Democratic party. Then she goes to war. This is not about getting birth control or abortions. This is about not respecting a woman's work in raising five sons. Isn't it all about choice?
I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.
— Ann Romney (@AnnDRomney) April 12, 2012
Among BlogHers, the reaction was also fierce.
From Eve Out of the Garden:
Added The Famous Stacie:
What really miffs me is when people tell me how "lucky" I am to stay home with my children. For me, staying home, while my children are young, is not luck by any stretch of the imagination. It is a sacrifice. I am sacrificing much needed income, adult conversation and individuality, among many other aspects of working. However, for me, this sacrifice is worth making because I am doing it for the greater good of society and for the good of my 4 children.
On BlogHer.com, casehanks takes issue with any implication that stay at home moms are politically "less than."
And on top of all of that, who are we to say that SAHMs can't have a grasp on the world around us? I'm sure there are some women who just don't care. But I'm sure there are just as many men. I want to stay on top of politics, the economy, our nation's security and the job market. And being the "sheltered" SAHM that I am can say that I'm pretty informed about most of it. I read a lot of books, stay on top of the news, and in my little "sheltered" side of the SAHM world can hold my own in a good debate.
Gloria Feldt described Rosen's words as "ill-chosen, unkind ," but noted that besides the word choice, she agrees with Rosen's argument:
With Equal Pay Day -- the date in April when women across America are reminded of the 23% pay gap between them and men doing the same work -- looming, Mitt Romney’s wildly inaccurate allegations about Obama causing women's job losses, and his party’s 18% gender gap in key swing states because of their War on Women's bodies and economic lives, the Republican standard bearer has a lot more to worry about than what Hilary Rosen is saying about his wife.
[Editor's note: Equal Pay Day is April 16.]
Still, not everyone jumped on Rosen. Unlike her conservative colleagues, Fox News Host Greta van Susteren did something quite unexpected, and brave. She defended Rosen on The Huffington Post:
First, Hilary Rosen is my friend. I like her... a lot. She is very passionate about her views. She will give you a strong debate and is not mean spirited. Yes, I know many of you conservatives are now gasping after reading the foregoing. Time to read on... sample this: I also like Governor Sarah Palin and Representative Michele Bachmann. Now it is the liberals' chance to gasp. Maybe everyone who is reading this can share an ambulance?
But perhaps the most revealing responses came from Democrats and some prominent women journalists, who did just the opposite. They quickly distanced themselves from Rosen.
Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected. –mo
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) April 12, 2012
@Messina2012 Families must be off limits on campaigns, and i personally believe stay at home moms work harder than most of us do.
— Stephanie Cutter (@stefcutter) April 12, 2012
On MSNBC's Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinksi said:
"That's an unfortunate statement… It's not an argument. I know Ann Romney: she has five boys. That's enough there. That would be enough there. . . But she's been campaigning for her husband for five years. She has been working. Maybe not receiving a salary. But she's been working full-time 24/7 and before that, supporting her husband's very intense, stressful career: she works."
On her CNN show Starting Point, Soledad O'Brien chastised Rosen and then commented:
"The other thing that bothers me about this: we start pitting women against women. Working women who are working outside the home and working women who are working inside the home. That really troubles me."
That's what mainly troubled me, too. But I'm also disturbed by how easily and even gleefully the media, politicians, and some women took the bait. And how quick they were to judge and condemn Rosen, who happens to be an adopted mom of two children and a lesbian. There's been a backlash against Rosen, and it's far uglier than the dumb remark that Rosen made about Romney in trying to defend middle-class moms who can't stay home with their kids.
For instance, here's the lovely tweet Catholic League President Bill Donohue tossed off about Rosen, who happens to be a lesbian:
Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.
— Catholic League (@CatholicLeague) April 12, 2012
What really saddens and infuriates me is that I remember this same conversation from two decades ago, when my own children were growing up. It was called "The Mommy Wars." Sound familiar? How's that for history? And it was just as pointless and divisive then as it is today. When are we going to put that term to bed and focus on what really matters to women in this hard economy?
As for Rosen, on Thursday she issued an apology for that stupid remark about Ann Romney:
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.
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.
And she also spoke to Twitter:
I deeply apologize again to work-in-home moms, Mrs Romney & the POTUS. Not going on #MTP this weekend. I'm going to be a mom who stays home
— Hilary Rosen (@hilaryr) April 13, 2012
You can choose to think she's sincere or not. But I couldn't have said it better.