Oh boy, Rick Santorum is out of the race for five minutes and already there’s stupid and disingenuous media outrages stemming from the general election. Buzz Feed has the story. It started when Mitt Romney started saying he understands the concerns of working women because he’s married to one of those lady-things. This, of course, is part of his larger plan to appeal to female voters, which goes like this:
1) Act like the only woman he’s met in his life is his wife. She is All Women.
3) Win the female vote.
Hillary Rosen sensibly goes on TV and points out that this claim doesn’t even make sense, since Ann Romney is hardly the expert, being a lifelong housewife married to an incredibly rich man who doesn’t know the first thing about what it’s like to try to live off a paycheck:
But Romney has a secret weapon up her sleeve: Housewife Romanticization. She knows the feminine mystique still runs strong in this country, and that there’s a strong tradition of idiotic platitudes about the greatness of housewives that exist to conceal very real concerns about inequality and female dependency, concerns that were raised in the 60s and haven’t ever been completely killed off despite heavy use of meaningless platitudes. Romney trotted one of those out:
It was a three-fer, demonstrating that Ann Romney is a master at the language of meaningless bullshit: Invoking the questionable assumption that fertility equals goodness, I CHOOSE MY CHOICE, and of course, posturing about how stay-at-home mothers work so hard and YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.
The last one may be one of my least favorite of meaningless platitudes in circulation in the U.S., the whole “stay-at-home moms are the hardest working, bestest people that ever worked!” one. It’s a common feature on STFU Parents, with housewives braying about how, unlike everyone else, they work 24/7 and don’t get vacations and blah blah.
There’s a very serious and insulting problem with this platitude: It carries with it the assumption that working mothers (a term that is commonly understood to mean women who have paid employment while raising children at home) don’t raise their children.
Think about it: Romney is saying she made the “choice” to raise her five boys by staying home, as if her boys would have gone unraised if she’d had a job outside of the home. To which I say, screw you. My mom worked. In this country, most moms work. Their kids don’t run around like wild animals, naked and barefoot and killing pigeons to survive. Hell, in some families, believe it or not, dads some times pitch in and raise their kids. (That last bit was mega-sarcasm, for the utterly literal.)
Rosen’s point stands. Romney’s tweet actually confirms that she has no idea what it’s like for most women to be out there, worrying about how to make enough money to take care of themselves and their families. That she had the choice to stay home makes that very clear. And that’s even if you don’t know about Romney’s financial situation. The reality is that she could afford economic dependence, because if she ever got divorced, her alimony payments would be enough to keep a whole neighborhood of single mother-led households afloat. Hell, Romney doesn’t even have much in common with most stay-at-home moms. In the real world, many stay-at-home moms are living in poverty, unable to afford a job because of the costs of child care, and often living on a patchwork of family help, food stamps, and under-the-table employment. Even those who don’t live in poverty are often living in a much more financially precarious situation than the “choice” stay-at-home mothers the media loves so much. The reality is that most mothers work, since most middle class families rely on women holding paid employment to stay afloat. More than 3/4 of women with children under age 15 at home have paid employment outside of the home.
Unfortunately, a bunch of Obama people are falling all over themselves to shore up the narrative that stay-at-home moms are the bestest people that ever worked and they work much harder and longer than everyone else. Buzzfeed has David Axelrod, Jim Messina, and Stephanie Cutter pretending they’re too stupid to grasp Rosen’s basic—and accurate—point that a wealthy housewife is hardly the expert on the needs of women who live paycheck-to-paycheck. Cutter’s tweet was the most irritating in terms of empty platitudes:
If anything, this is more blatantly offensive than Romney’s tweet, since it more overtly implies that the solid majority of mothers who have paid employment outside of the home don’t work hard and don’t raise their children. Of course, when you ask the rare “choice” stay-at-home mother why she made her decision, many will say they tried to juggle a job and raising children and found…..wait for it….that it was too hard, that the work levels were unmanageable. I believe them! It’s plain common sense that raising children while holding down a job is going to be more work than raising children by itself. This isn’t to say that staying at home isn’t hard work. But the danger of trading in empty platitudes like this is that they’re rarely as content-free as people hope. Over-the-top poetics about the greatness of stay-at-home mothers do tend to imply that working mothers don’t care for their children. In this case, it also obscures the fact that a woman who lives in extreme wealth and has a team of servants to handle the parts of staying at home that really are hard work—you know, like all the endless cleaning—really has no idea what it’s like to either be a working mother or what it’s like to live as most stay-at-home mothers do.