Ann Romney, wife of presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is not an expert on economic issues facing women.
That’s not to say she couldn’t have been, isn’t smart enough to be, or couldn’t be in the future.
It’s not to say she’s a stay-at-home sloth who gorged herself on Bon Bons and soap operas and is therefore less of a person because she never earned a paycheck.
It’s a statement of fact. And when you put facts into context, a miraculous thing happens in America: you create scandals.
Having Rick Santorum out of the Republican primary race definitely makes the process a tad less entertaining. It’s like watching a pee-wee basketball game after seeing the Harlem Globetrotters at the Madison Square Garden. But is there really a need to scandalize the fact that Ann Romney was a stay at home mother?
So, in the spirit of participatory democracy, here are my two cents.
Two hours after Democratic National Committee consultant Hilary Rosen mentioned the fact that Ann had “never worked a day in her life,” Ann went to Twitter to affirm Rosen’s observation, writing, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys.”
She added, “Believe me, it was hard work.”
Having not been blessed with the opportunity to be a stay-at-home parent, I will take her word for it. I will however challenge and contrast her word choice.
One use of the word “work” is a generic description of difficult undertakings. This use has wide applications. It could mean running a country. It could mean taking a shit after eating three Taco Bell breakfast burritos.
The other, more common use of the word “work” is a specific reference to an income-generating profession or craft. This could mean employment at Taco Bell. It could mean firing employees of a company you acquired through your venture capitalism firm.
In Ann Romney’s case, the Rosen statement was not meant as an insult to Ann’s child-rearing abilities, qualifications, or achievements. Rather, it was meant as a criticism of Mitt Romney, who has repeatedly sent his wife out on the trail to talk as some sort of authority about how “the issue women care about most is the economy.”
Unless you’re a daycare provider, raising kids does not put food on the table. If given the choice to raise your starving children in the city slums or get a job to provide food, shelter, and clothing for said children, most mothers would choose to work. Because most women in America work and care for a family, it is out of place for a millionaire wife to be used an experienced, reputable source for the economic issues women face in America today. Raising children is, as Ann Romney stated, “hard work.” But that was not Rosen’s argument.
And here’s where context works its magic:
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 am 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 worry—and why we worry about their future. I think, yes, it’s about these positions and, yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions.
“This is not about Ann Romney,” Rosen said on CNN after the scuffle. “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.”
This isn’t about whether Ann Romney or I or other women of some means can afford to make a choice to stay home and raise kids. Most women in America, let’s face it, don’t have that choice.
See the difference?
The Romneys apparently don’t, because Ann had her own response to the scandal.
“I know what it’s like to struggle,” Ann said on Fox News.
“Maybe I haven’t struggled as much financially as some people have,” she said. “I can tell you and promise you that I’ve had struggles in my life.”
No doubt. The woman has multiple sclerosis, for Christ’s sake.
Sad as that may be, strong as she may be, her non-financial struggles have nothing to do with Rosen’s point. Ann’s experience raising children has nothing whatsoever to do with being a woman in the workplace.
So, is it fair to say that Ann Romney hasn’t worked a day in her life? Absolutely. It’s true.
In context, Rosen’s was a solid critique of Mitt Romney’s shallow campaign strategy to attract women voters. Rather than earning women’s respect with his actions and his policy positions, Mitt has instead decided to flaunt the one pair of tits in the Romney family in an attempt to forge a connection with female voters turned off by his party’s “war on women.”
That ought to be the real scandal, but I’d bet $10,000 that the New York Times’ banner headline tomorrow won’t read, “Mitt Pimps His Own Wife for Political Gain.”