Just in case you were wondering, Rush Limbaugh is decidedly pro-Ann Romney in the "never worked a day in her life" controversy. The radio host said on his program today, "If I had a daughter, she'd look like Ann Romney." Reminder to everyone: The killing of an unarmed black teen is an actual controversy, whereas the semantic argument of whether stay-at-home moms work is not.
Ann Romney appeared at Mitt's side at the National Rifle Association meeting today. The presidential candidate said, "I happen to believe that all moms are working moms, and if you have five sons your work is never over," and then Ann Romney said, "Let me give a shout out to all moms that are working and by the way to all dads that are working. We love all of you. You know, I often think that you’re only as a parent as happy as your saddest child. And you never stop being a parent. Our boys are grown now, and they have children, but it is such an opportunity for me to think about the heritage that we’re leaving those children."
The stay-at-home vs. working mom debate was courtesy of Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen. Rosen said on CNN, "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?" But critics—including President Obama's team—denounced the soundbite portion—"[Romney's] wife has actually never worked a day in her life"—and giving Ann Romney the opportunity to Tweet, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."
Rosen apologized and tried to clarify: "This is not about Ann Romney. This is about the waitress at a diner someplace in Nevada who has two kids whose day-care funding is being cut off because of the Romney-Ryan budget and she doesn’t know what to do."
The Wall Street Journal notes today, "In 1994, when Mitt Romney, then a successful private-equity executive, ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Mrs. Romney gave a lengthy interview to the Boston Globe, which published a 4,000-word article that portrayed her as wealthy and spoiled. Boston's rival newspaper, the Herald, quoted excerpts in a column titled, "Daughter of Privilege Knows Little of Real World."
The Daily Beast's Leslie Bennetts writes, "The point Rosen was trying to make—however awkwardly she made it—was about money: that Mrs. Romney, who has always been extremely privileged, has never shared the financial stresses of a single mother who’s a waitress in Nevada. This is hardly a new observation; Mrs. Romney, the daughter of one rich man and the wife of another, has long been perceived as out of touch with the everyday demands of most people’s lives.. We all have our wide-awake-at-3-in-the-morning nights, and no doubt Mrs. Romney has endured her share. But her worries, however grave, have never included the ability to feed her kids or keep a roof over their heads—and those are problems that regularly torture countless American women."
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.
Rosen has decided not to appear on Meet the Press, "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."