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Friday, April 20, 2012

The Mommy Wars

Politics often provides us with the Theater of the Absurd, but, recently, it has surpassed the boundaries of 'absurd' and fallen into the Deep Well of The Ridiculous.

Some members of the Republican Party, aided and abetted by Fox News, have a penchant for creating a raging controversy out of absolutely nothing.

They've done it before with ACORN and the President's birth certificate.

The latest example is The Hillary Rosen - Ann Romney "Mommy Wars".

If you haven't been paying attention - and really, why would you except it's so hard to avoid bumping into this story every where you turn? - it all started when Hillary Rosen, a CNN commentator,  made a comment about Ann Romney.

She said, and I quote, "Ann Romney hasn't worked a day in her life".

WELL! You might have thought Ms. Rosen accused Ms. Romney of being a welfare queen!

To be truthful, Ms. Rosen ought to have added two words "for pay" - but she was, in fact, responding to a ludicrous comment by Mitt Romney that, despite being a multimillionaire, he can identify with average Americans because his wife keeps him informed of what working-class women are thinking.

Ah, context. Pesky thing, that.

Makes a bit more sense now, right? You know. Like reading scripture in context.

The truth is, as Rosen was trying to point out, Ann Romney, in her life of luxury as a mother of five -- with multiple homes, dressage horses and Cadillacs -- has no more idea what it's like to struggle as a single-mom waitressing in Las Vegas or Kansas City than Mitt does. But, with Ann Romney's help and the forces of Fox News, some Republicans quickly turned Rosen's comment into an attack on all stay-at-home mothers.

Gloria Steinem, one of the mothers of the Feminist Movement, called the whole thing "stupid", saying:
“The women’s movement has spent 40 years saying there are women who work at home and women who work outside the home, in order to make clear that homemakers work harder than any class of worker," Steinem said. "But what is distinguishing about the Romney situation is that they’re rich. [Ann Romney] doesn’t have to worry about money. And that’s what [Rosen] meant. So don’t make any more of it. It’s stupid.”
Except, of course, it was a little political ploy to divert attention from the "War on Women".

Nice try, guys, but no cigar.

I have to say that my personal favorite comment came from the Catholic League:

Isn't that just the BEST?

"Lesbian Dem" who adopted vs. the Mormon mom who "raised five of her own".

I don't think you can fall deeper into the "Deep Well of The Ridiculous" than that.

The debate seems centered on the premise that all two-parent families have a choice as to whether one or both work. That's still true for upper middle class families but this choice is denied to most American families who have had to sent two people into the workforce whether they wanted to or not.

Perhaps the generals on the front line of the War on Women also want to divert our attention from a study released this week by the Center for American Progress, which notes:
"In 2010, among families with children, nearly half (44.8%) were headed by two working parents and another one in four (26.1%) were headed by a single parent. As a result, fewer than one in three (28.7%) children now have a stay-at-home parent, compared to more than half (52.6% in 1975, only a generation ago."
These changes have more to do with economics and the continued inequities of the tax code system than anything to do with the "mommy-wars" - getting the "little women" to argue among themselves over the sacred American cultural icon of "motherhood" - which some Republicans are now trying to wage in order to divert attention from the War on Women.

Breadwinning wives are even more common in families with lower incomes, according the the CAP report:
"Seven in 10 (67%) working wives earn as much or more than their husbands in the bottom 20% of income distribution for all families. And about half (45.3%) of working wives are breadwinners in families in the middle of the income distribution, up from four in ten (39.1% in 2007 and only 15.2% in 1967."
So, as Joe Biden often says, "here's the deal": If you want more households in which one parent can stay home with the kids, you need to boost the incomes of average American families - and especially of poorer families.

Gloria Steinem is right: The "Mommy Wars" are "stupid". For millions of American moms (and dads), debates about "feminism" or "social conservatism" are irrelevant.

It's about money.

The irony is that when conservatives are trying to win votes from religious and social traditionalists, they clearly want to restore what they think are the "glory days" of the 1950s family - immortalized by television shows like "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" - but they refuse to acknowledge that it was the high wages of (often unionized) workers that underwrote these arrangements.

The thing of it is that Ann Romney had - and, continues to have - choices. God Bless her. She seems to have done a good job with her brood of five. Mazel Tov!

Choice, however, is the byproduct of justice. Which is why, in the Reproductive Rights Movement, we have begun to shift our language from "Reproductive Choice" to "Reproductive Justice".

In some states in America, if a woman who lives in poverty has to scrape together bus money to visit an abortion clinic that is a few hundred miles away, she's not going to also have the money for a hotel room where she must wait out the 24 hour period, now required in many states, before she can have the abortion. She has the "right" to an abortion, but the injustice of poverty prevents her from access to making a good "choice" for herself and her family.

And, if she has that child anyway? Well, she knows she's not going to be able to count on getting help from the same people who limited her reproductive rights to now raise that child. Indeed, she's going to get judgement heaped upon judgement for getting pregnant in the first place (as if she could do that all on her own) in the form of social stigma and very limited, albeit fragile, assistance to help her feed, clothe and shelter her family - not to mention no assistance in helping her out of her poverty.

When there is justice in our economic system, more families will have more choices to determine the number of children they will have and raise their families in the way that is best for them.

Perhaps Ms. Romney can "report" that to her husband.

If he'll listen.

Then again, maybe probably not. It won't get him votes in November.

Gloria Steinem says this about the choices we face at the polls: “We’ve rarely had a more clear choice," she said, "between 100 percent hostility on the Romney side and 80 percent support on the Obama side.”

I don't know about you, but I'm not getting into the "Mommy Wars". I'm not stupid. I can do the math. I know which lever to pull in the voting booth to get better odds at actually winning the War on Women.

I think lots of Mommies (and Daddies) - and millions of other women (and men) - know that, too.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

Elizabeth, don't you get it? All those kids you and Ms. Conroy raised? It doesn't really count b/c neither of you birthed all of them. Silly girl.

(OW. I think I got my tongue stuck in the gap between my molars, sticking it in my cheek so hard!)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Wait - so the kids we had "on our own" are "real" and the others are "fake"? Sure, makes perfect sense.

Matthew said...

Silly me I thought mitt wanted to mandate that poor women work outside the home? Didn't he say that some time ago? Something about how they need that kind of dignity but his wife doesn't.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Poor old Flip-flopper. If you don't like what he said last week, just wait till next week.

LVTfan said...

On about the 7th time I heard Ann Romney's comment, the 2nd sentence -- the one about respecting women's choices -- jumped out at me.

Was it supposed to be a coded statement that her husband's administration would/might respect women's other choices?? Or just the one about whether or not to work for wages while raising children?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think it was the later. She's Mrs. Romney. She knows her place. She expects every woman to do so.