COMMENTARY | Of all the tribulations Ann Romney must face in her husband’s presidential bid, women-on-women hate is now at the forefront.
Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen argued that Mitt Romney should not look to his wife for input on women’s issues because Ann Romney has “never worked a day in her life.”
Rosen’s statement drew a collective gasp from viewers, who lit up social media in furor at the implication that raising a family isn’t a real job.
Despite the media frenzy over her comments, Rosen stood by her position that homemaker Mrs. Romney is not qualified to speak on the economic issues women face. Rosen wrote on her Thursday CNN column “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.”
So Rosen insists that stay-at-home moms are clueless when it comes to the economy. Evidently they’re inside the home with their cookie sheets, blissfully unaware of rising gas prices, bill paying or family budgeting. Wow — Rosen’s views on full-time mothers just keep getting better.
In response to Rosen’s criticism, Mrs. Romney noted that raising her five sons was plenty challenging. Perhaps unwilling to prolong a media feud with a second-tier talking head, Mrs. Romney didn’t mention her work as a director of Best Friends, an organization advocating for the special needs of adolescent, inner-city girls, nor did she mention her work as a volunteer instructor at the Mother Caroline Academy, a multicultural middle school serving young girls from inner city Boston. Her list of work goes on — but to bring it up in the context of women-on-women hate would have been a disservice to women around the world who are proud they have chosen to work as full-time moms.
Hateful Female Characteristics?
This isn’t the first time women-on-women hate has made political headlines. One of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ‘s most infamous quotes came during her husband ‘s 1992 presidential campaign when Mrs. Clinton said, “I suppose 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.”
But that was 1992, when Mrs. Clinton was out to prove herself as distinct from her candidate husband. Two decades later, women continue defending their choices — albeit, not all choices. Women don’t apologize for entering male-dominated professions. They’re lauded for that. They now apologize for electing to pursue traditional roles, and justify their decisions to Rosen and others who dismiss them as some kind of traitors to the women’s movement. This seems to be rooted in an unfortunate insecurity on the part of Rosen and her ilk.
It starts early. “Tomboy” is a compliment. What about Suegirl? Women-on-women haters congratulate themselves for shunning in their childhood what are perceived as girly attributes. They pat themselves on the back for opting to climb trees instead (since when is this a male-dominated pastime?). As young adults, these women boast at the water cooler that they can’t cook — “I can’t even boil water!” Do men walk around shunning traditional male roles: “Dude, I can’t even change a tire.” To the contrary, men who don’t know how to change a tire are usually embarrassed a little and ridiculed a little more.
This feminist insecurity shows itself periodically throughout adulthood, and even with regard to their own daughters. A co-worker once told me she was going to name her soon-to-be-born daughter Samantha so that she could use the nickname “Sam” which was a “strong name.” We give girls unisex names like Taylor and Hunter, which on paper, could be male names. What we don’t see is mothers boasting of sons they’ve named Cindy in the hope that the world recognizes the boy’s feminine side. Johnny Cash released a tongue-in-cheek song on the very topic in 1969, “A Boy Named Sue.” It wasn’t a compliment.
You’d have thought that this particularly galling battle was behind us. You would expect that women would not lead the charge against their sisters and against all things traditionally feminine. Gender-specific roles have been turned every which way and still, women mock and belittle one another’s choices.