Politics: a place where, despite better judgment, people can’t help but put a foot in their mouths. Case in point: Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategist and former Huffington Post staff contributor, recently went on air and said this:
Let’s backtrack a little. Mitt Romney, feeling the heat for losing a large percentage of female voters, brought up his wife to touch on women’s issues. He had this to say:
“She says that she’s going across the country and talking with women, and what they’re talking about is the debt that we’re leaving the next generation and the failure of this economy to put people back to work. She says that she talks to women and they’re concerned about the jobs that their kids are going to get.”
And on Fox News, he had this to say:
“I’ve had the fun of being out with my wife the last several days on the campaign trail. And she points out that as she talks to women, they tell her that their number one concern is the economy.”
Both of these comments are the genesis of Ms. Rosen’s accusation that Ann Romney can’t identify with working women.
The Double Edged Sword of Feminism
Hilary Rosen, by claiming that a stay at home mom “had never worked a day in her life” reinforces the notion that many far Left feminists see “motherhood” as a dirty word, and further, mock the very idea that women should or would want to stay at home to raise their children.
The dust up is similar to Hillary Clinton’s disparaging remark about stay at home women. She said: “I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
These callous words bought Ms. Clinton few points with women, and it’s a statement the Left is wont to forget. But Hilary Rosen produced a very similar sentiment when lambasting the concept of motherhood as not being real “work.”
The fact that two prominent women in the Democratic party have cast a judgmental eye on stay at home moms is enough to lend credence to the charge that many feminists have devalued the role of motherhood. It is an accusation that feminists continually have to refute. Those on the Left may have initially thought of this as a Right wing straw man against feminism, but as is evident by statements like those made by Rosen, there is a strong undercurrent that seems ready to devalue the role of motherhood.
Hypocrisy of Devaluing Motherhood
While it is a stretch to claim that feminism in general devalues motherhood, it is not a stretch to call Hilary Rosen to task for her hypocrisy. At the very core of feminist ideology is that women have the freedom to choose their own paths in life, be it lawyer, doctor, or stay at home mom. When feminists like Rosen devalue the work of stay at home mothers, they are guilty of the same kind of sexism that they accuse their opponents of exhibiting. To make light of the choice is to say that women who choose to stay at home are somehow less than female, or are not living up to their full potential.
But engaging in this kind of hypocrisy is by no means irrelevant. While there is only a hypothetical causal relationship, liberals are less likely than conservatives to have children. And more women than ever are choosing not to have children.
Let’s be clear and fair: there is no clear way to determine why women, and particularly liberals, are having fewer children. To claim so would be against fair reporting and facts. However, it is reasonable to make an assumption that attitudes such as Hilary Rosen’s discourage motherhood by claiming that it is “not real work”. The Left is the most sensitive to word choices, claiming that fewer women are studying subjects like math and engineering but just need the right words of encouragement. If this is the case, then it is blatant hypocrisy to ignore that statements like Rosen’s discourage women from motherhood in general, and stay at home motherhood specifically. And further, Rosen relegates stay at home moms to the domestic sphere is she believes that mothers can’t engage in politics. Simply having a job should not be a prerequisite for understanding economic issues. To say such is to be against every principle feminism stands for.
Hypocrisy: The Left Calls The Dust Up “A Waste of Time”
The Left spent no time in trying to downplay the fallout. Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post titled his article, “QUIZ: Hilary Rosen Kerfuffle Means: A) Nothing; B) Less Than Nothing; C) Doodlysquat To Election. Liz Marlantes of the Christian Science Monitor titled her article Hilary Rosen vs. Ann Romney: why the dust-up is fake.
It appears that the Left, now losing the PR battle, is ready to call the “war on women” a fake war. This comes after a few weeks of claiming that the GOP’s war on women is a real. In fact, the most shocking claim made about the dust up is that Hilary Rosen now believes that Democrats never coined the term “war on women”. This blog post, however, proves otherwise. It would seem that what the Left started, it doesn’t want to continue. Regardless of the veracity of the claim that the GOP are waging a “war on women”, it is the duty of the Left to own it rather than pass on it once it looks like they don’t approve of their PR disaster.
Could Ann Romney Speak on Behalf of Women?
But let’s, for the remainder of the article, focus on what Hilary Rosen meant to say: that Ann Romney can’t connect with women because she has not lived in their run-down shoes, so to speak. Despite the obvious class war inherent in the claim, is it a fair criticism? The history of the Democratic party would say otherwise.
In fact, two of the more beloved presidents of the 20th century, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F Kennedy, each came from a privileged upbringing. It is fair to argue that FDR didn’t know many working poor when he instituted his alphabet soup programs, which led to the social security packages that millions of Americans rely on today. FDR is largely seen as the president of the working class – despite his background. Using Hilary Rosen’s logic – that Ann Romney can’t help women because she’s not a “working mom”, then its reasonable to assume, using this logic, that Rosen would not have voted for FDR.
It’s a fallacy to tie one’s background to the kind of programs one would institute. Careful, considerate policy has more to do with passion, understanding, sympathy and respect than it does socioeconomic background. And yet Ms. Rosen’s apology is nothing short of a character attack on Ann Romney when she writes that “nothing in Ann Romney’s history as we have heard it — hardworking mom she may have been — leads me to believe that Mitt has chosen the right expert to get feedback on this problem he professes to be so concerned about.”
The Left, in bringing to light women’s issues in the election, may have inadvertently turned the tables back to square one. But it will be important, going forward, for the Left to make clear that women have the right to be whatever it is that they choose to be. And further, the Left should address its own hypocrisy when it comes to electing the wealthy to speak on behalf of the poor. If anything’s certain in this economy and political cycle, it’s that women and mothers work hard. We will be better off as a nation with less politicizing and more attention focused on how we can help these women succeed.