Saturday, April 14, 2012

Romney Wars

I am a bit late on this, but wanted to jump in. When Hilary Rosen said that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life, she misspoke. She meant, clearly, that Romney never had a paid position outside the home. Her point, that Romney would not understand family economics because of that, was not really fair or accurate. Homemakers, of course, understand what feeding a family and running a house costs and they are often responsible for dealing with family budgets and finances.

There are two points here. One, that Ann Romney would not understand the problems of ORDINARY women, because of her privilege and wealth. Has she ever had a dilemma about whether she can take a day off to take care of a sick kid because she can't afford child care and can't afford to lose a day of work? Doubtful. Does she worry about how to feed her kids nutritious food when there are no good grocery stores nearby and she does not have money for fresh whole foods? Unlikely. Put simply, her budget is not my budget, or yours. But then, neither is Michelle Obama's.

The second point, and this, to me is what is really disturbing, is that Ann Romney should not be called upon to be the voice of women at all, neither by Hilary Rosen nor by Mitt Romney. Rosen's longer comment about the Romneys began with her saying that whenever Mitt is asked about women's issues, he says "My wife tells me women are really concerned about the economy" (more than whatever women's issue you want me to talk about). So, Mitt Romney's entire policy on women and his understanding of women's issues, boils down to what his wife tells him? Really? Of course, Ann Romney is just as insular. She says that she knows how valuable her work as a homemaker is because Mitt tells her everyday that she has the hardest job in the world. Uh huh. I am sure he will continue to tell her that when, god forbid, he is in the White House. "I may be killing Planned Parenthood, decimating health care, bombing Iran, and pardoning George Zimmerman today, honey, but you have the hardest job in the world."

Anyway, my point is that no president's knowledge of women should be only what his wife tells him. If Romney had a black friend and used him to explain race relations ("Well, Bob at the gym tells me that black people are really worried that millionaires might have to pay higher taxes") we could accuse him of egregious tokenism. Talking to your wife, who is white, rich, married, and a Mormon, and assuming that means you know anything about what American women want, is worse.

Women care about lots and lots of things in this election. The economy? Hell yes, especially as women are increasingly bearing the brunt of cutbacks. Equal pay? Yup, we want it. Health care? Yes, because the war on health care is a war on women's wellness as much as anything else. Abortion? Yes, because the Republicans have put it on the table front and center and tell us daily that job #1 is to kill Planned Parenthood. Immigration? Yes, there are lots of female immigrants with American born children fearing their status and the sundering of their families? Gay Marriage? Yes, for themselves, their gay sons, and all their allies. Schools? Absolutely. Most women can't afford to send their kids to private schools.

But Romney denies any of these "social" issues as having any bearing on women's lives. He claims we only care about the economy. But I doubt that he or his wife knows what unemployment, high gas prices, low wages, and other economic issues mean to most American women.

I know I do not speak for all women. And I know that I am privileged in many ways. No one woman is the American woman. But if the Romneys want us to imagine that they care about the American woman, they'd better start listening to the multitude of voices and viewpoints out there, instead of claiming that pillow talk is sufficient politics.

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