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Ann Romney, Working Mom?

by Mark Gabrish Conlan/Zenger's Newsmagazine Sunday, May. 06, 2012 at 7:01 PM
mgconlan@earthlink.net (619) 688-1886 P. O. Box 50134, San Diego, CA 92165

It's not that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life; it's that she's never HAD to work a day in her life. Ann Romney, like her husband Mitt, have been insulated from the day-to-day struggle to make a living most of us have to deal with. Like Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, they soar above the country they would lead, andin the era of the Occupy movement and the huge number of Americans who are shocked, shocked! to find that 1 percent of the population actually controls half the nation’s wealth and income, the Republicans have added insult to injury by anointing a candidate not only of the 1 percent but the 0.1 percent at the top of the top.

by MARK GABRISH CONLAN, Editor

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

On April 11, 2012 a sometime Democratic Party consultant named Hilary Rosen said something on CNN which threatened — at least once it got mangled by the ever-present Right-wing hate machine, which seems to have been dissing Obama ever since he got out of his mother’s womb (in Hawai’i, not Kenya!) — to evaporate Obama’s 18-point lead in the polls among women voters.

Ironically, Hilary Rosen started her remarks on a CNN panel show by saying that fellow Democratic campaigners should “get rid of this word ‘War on Women,’” and actually agreeing with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney that “ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like” than they do about whether health-care plans cover contraception or whether abortion is safe, legal and available. Then she cited Mitt Romney’s repeated statements that he takes his principal advice on what women want from the one he knows best, his wife Ann, as further evidence of his alleged cluelessness.

“What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, ‘Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what, his wife has never actually worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we — why do we worry about their future.”

Rosen probably knew she had stuck her foot in her mouth as soon as she got it out again. Republican propagandists grabbed the phrase that Ann Romney “has never actually worked a day in her life” and ran with it. Rosen’s remark was turned into an attack against all women who stay at home and work as housewives and child-rearers instead of making their way in the workforce for pay. Ironically, her comment reopened an old wound among feminists that dated back from the 1970’s, when activists in the so-called “second wave” of American feminism argued over whether women should seek out-of-the-home careers as a means of self-actualization or whether they should seek compensation for the often fearsome workload concealed behind anodyne terms like “housewife,” “homemaker” and “mother.”

It was a lively debate for a while — I can remember when there actually was an organization called “Wages for Housework” — but it quickly got overtaken by economic realities. Beginning in 1971, the ruling elite of this country started an all-out war on wages that within a few years left most American families unable to sustain the middle-class lifestyle on just a husband’s income. For millions of Americans, women’s jobs became not a luxury item but a necessity if they were to keep their homes and clothe and feed their children.

Ever since, most American women — whether married or not — have had to struggle with the dilemma of how best to take care of their families: do I stay at home and accept a much lower income and standard of living to take care of my children and be there when they get sick, when they hurt, when they suffer; or do I go out in the workplace, make more money, buy them things and pay the cost of being present for that much less of their lives? Indeed, for nearly 80 percent of all American women with children, wage work versus housework isn’t even a choice: they have to do both, the notorious “double shift” second-wave feminists used to complain about but today’s trendy, upscale “lifestyle feminists” seem to think they’ve risen above.

And that’s exactly the point Hilary Rosen was trying to make about Ann Romney: that she married big money and therefore she’s never had to suffer through those dilemmas. The truth is that whether Ann Romney has ever “worked” a day in her life — however you define “work” — she’s never had to work a day in her life. As a charter member of the 1 percent, Mitt Romney has given her a sufficiently lavish lifestyle that she’s been insulated from the hard choices most American women have had to make for the last 40 years.

What’s more, Right-wingers and anti-feminist women who want to seize on Ann Romney as an exemplar of the stay-at-home housewife and mother are barking up the wrong diamond-studded dog collar. Women of Ann Romney’s social class almost never do the actual work of cleaning house, making meals, dressing the kids for school and taking their temperatures when they feel ill. They hire other people to do all that. Often the other people they hire are undocumented immigrants, and recent American politics is littered with the scalps of officeholders and candidates — Dianne Feinstein, Michael Huffington, Meg Whitman — who’ve had to deal with scandals of their own when the undocumented status of their nannies and maids has been revealed by the media and exploited by their political enemies.

Like Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Mitt and Ann Romney soar above the people they would lead, inhabiting empyrean realms of which the rest of us can only dream. In his pathetically doomed attempts to try to pass himself off as a “common man,” Mitt Romney likes to describe himself as “self-made,” which is so much B.S. Even if his well-to-do father George Romney never gave him seed capital, as Mitt claims, just by siring him he opened doors for him that proved invaluable in a country that actually has an hereditary aristocracy but likes to pretend it doesn’t. Like the Rockefellers, the Mellons, the Morgans, the Roosevelts, the Kennedys and the Bushes, the Romneys haven’t lived the kinds of lives the rest of us do and haven’t struggled with the burdens the rest of us have.

That’s the case the Democrats should be making against Romney: that in the era of the Occupy movement and the huge number of Americans who are shocked, shocked! to find that 1 percent of the population actually controls half the nation’s wealth and income, the Republicans have added insult to injury by anointing a candidate not only of the 1 percent but the 0.1 percent at the top of the top. What’s more, they’re pointing to the silver spoon in Mitt’s mouth as an example of his “success,” and his career as a hedge-fund manager — in which, unlike his father, he made his money by destroying jobs rather than creating them — as the sort of expertise this country needs to lead it out of the economic despair caused by four decades of deregulation and lassiez-faire policies pursued by both major parties.

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