I'm talking about the dustup over political consultant Hilary Rosen's comment that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life." As you undoubtedly heard, Rosen made the comment on CNN, reacting to Mitt Romney's statement that his wife keeps in touch with the concerns of working women.
Almost immediately, Republicans seized on the issue as an indication of Democrats' contempt for stay-at-home moms. And almost as immediately, Democrats (including President Obama) jumped in, condemning Rosen's comment. All of this was fueled by Ann Romney's first-ever tweet: "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work."
Do I think raising five kids is a lot of work? Of course. But do I think Rosen's comment is dead wrong? No. Rosen's mistake is that she didn't say it in a technically correct way. What she should have said is this: "Ann Romney never worked at a paying job a day in her life."
And therein lies the distinction that politically correct people (on the left and right) dodge when it comes to women's work: Working for a paycheck is different. And doing so while juggling home and work demands—particularly in pressure professions like law—adds another layer of complexity to the equation.
To me, it's crystal clear that being a woman who works outside of the home brings a different set of perspectives and experiences to the table. It's certainly an anachronism these days to have never worked at a paying job—which apparently is Ann Romney's situation.
No, I'm not going into how some women have to work to support their families—because that opens up a whole can of worms about class and economics. Too often, we hear: "A lot of women would love to stay home if they could afford it"—as if staying home is what women truly aspire to do. These arguments make working women look self-righteous, which I find almost as nauseating as stay-at-home moms who claim they're the ones who have their priorities straight.
My point is that it's ridiculous to collapse all of "women's work" into one big pot. And it's also ridiculous when President Obama says there's "no tougher job than being a mom." Really? Isn't being the leader of the free world just a tad tougher?
Being a mother—actually, can we make that "parent"?—is always tough. But must we always put motherhood on a pedestal?
Ann Romney seems like a perfectly nice person, but I don't think that someone who hasn't worked outside of the home can really speak empathetically or knowledgeably about the concerns of working women. I certainly wouldn't try to pretend to know what it's like to stay home with five kids.
So can we stop the pretense and admit there's a difference?
Related post: The Rich Husband.
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