…and Other Stay-at-Home Mothers.
Yesterday, political pundit, Hilary Rosen, chose her words poorly. She was responding to Mitt Romney’s statement made while campaigning to represent the Republican party in the upcoming Presidential election. Mr. Romney said he thinks his wife is more qualified to answer questions regarding women than he is. Rosen was quick to retort. “Guess what? She (Ann Romney) has never actually worked a day in her life.” Those words brought that familiar issue, the battle between stay-at-home mom’s and working moms, to the forefront once again.
A storm of controversy yesterday caused Rosen to attempt an apology and clarification yesterday afternoon. Rosen admitted her words were chosen poorly but then went on to say more. “Most women don’t have that choice.” Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women added in her two cents, as well. “I think Rosen’s point was that Ann Romney’s experience was limited,” O’Neill said. It’s lucky for O’Neill and Rosen to be in positions to state their opinions on what kind of woman–what kind of mother–has the right kind of experience to be able to have opinions on women’s issues. Me? I’m just a stay-at-home mother from Idaho. I’m not famous and I’m not powerful, but, I do have some things to say about this issue.
Which Kind of Woman Knows Best?
If Ann Romney can’t speak for women’s issues, then who can? Romney doesn’t work outside her home. Over the years, however, she has raised five sons, served many charitable organizations and also, by the way, fought her own personal battle with Multiple Schlerosis and breast cancer. (To see a list of Romneys volunteer work, Google Susan Fox and Ann Romney. The list is impressive.)
Anyone who has actually done the job of a full-time mother and also volunteered their time for different organizations or schools can tell you that the job is a lot of work. Sitting around and sipping tea while watching soap operas is not in the cards for very many who take on this job. One may argue, however, that a stay-at-home mother has no clue about the needs of the working mother. I have to say that I could agree on this point. Well, I could agree, but only if the stay-at-home mother was forced to live in a bubble and never communicate with other women.
Women Talk to Each Other.
Here’s the deal. Women, in general, are social. They talk, they communicate, and they listen to other women. Women who work inside their homes often have friends who work outside of their homes. They share their worries with one another. They share their joys with one another. They share sadness, happiness, triumphs, and failures. Women talk to other women. So, I find it hard to believe that Ann Romney doesn’t have a firm grasp of women’t issues.
So, what Hilary Rosen is essentially saying is Ann Romney couldn’t possibly know about what women need because she doesn’t work outside of the home and therefore is unable to understand the issues of the working mother. Following that logic, the reverse is true. Working mothers couldn’t possibly understand the issues of the stay-at-home mother. After all, they haven’t done the job. It’s ridiculous, though. Because women love to talk to each other so much, they understand one another. Only those who are completely self-centered and lack empathy are unable to see things from another’s point of view. Maybe that’s the real issue at hand. Do I think a woman on either side of the “mommy line” can speak about women’s issues? Of course, but there isn’t only one issue. There are all kinds of women and all kinds of issues. The problem is, politicians and political pundits like to lump us all into one group.
National Organization for All Women?
The fact that all women are different is problematic for groups like the National Organization for Women. This organization is, really, just a political group. They should most likely be renamed the National Organization for Liberal Women because they don’t really seem to be concerned about the needs of conservatives. On their website, now.org, they state that their goal is to “take action to bring about equality for all women”. It all looks wonderful. They are going to stop discrimination and harassment and all kinds of other bad things that women have endured in the past. They support feminism. The problem is, their definition of feminism is very narrow.
They had an opportunity. The opportunity presented itself when Rosen belittled the job of stay-at-home mothers. NOW could have stepped in and said, “Hey. Women have the right to choose their own paths. Let’s support each other instead of bashing each other.” But, instead, they towed their political line and supported their pundit. I’d like to see a group form that is truly for women: working women, stay-at-home mothers, gay women, straight women, conservative women and liberal women. But where would the political power be gained in such a group?
Criticizing Parenthood: A Women-only Issue
Why do women criticize the parenting choices of other women? You never see men do it. Rosen belittled Romney as a stay-at-home mother to illustrate a political point. She was saying that because Ann Romney’s husband looks to her for advice on women’s issues, and because Mrs. Romney is not qualified to give opinions since she doesn’t work outside the home, then Mr. Romney, by reason, must not have a grasp of women’s issues. I’ve never seen a man use parenting choices to bash a man for political gain. When is the last time you heard one candidate say that his opponent is not qualified to have opinions on male issues because the man doesn’t have children? Criticizing parenting choices is a low-blow and women need to stop falling back on the tactic to make their point.
Maybe Hilary Rosen has learned a lesson after facing the backlash from her poor word choices. Maybe she’s learned to respect all mothers, even if they have chosen a different path than her. At least some positive has come out of all of the madness: people are now talking and listening to each other about motherhood and it’s choices and many have now gotten to learn what a hardworking woman Ann Romney is.
©Denise Mai, April 13, 2012
Follow me on Twitter! @denise_mai