Sunday, April 15, 2012

Choice Is the Operative Word, Mrs Romney

Let's listen once again to Hilary Rosen's remarks, which offended so, so many Republicans:-

Her remarks didn't fuss me too much. I grew up in a household where my mother was a full-time mom. We weren't rich; we weren't poor. Would we have been better off, had she worked? Definitely.

But guess what?

My mother wasn't raised to go out into the world and work. She was a Southern girl, who came of age in the 1930s. OK, I know the South was backward, but she was raised to marry and marry well and as soon as possible. This is what she did.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, everybody's mom stayed at home. That was the way of the world then. One decade later, and I was in college studying with a view to having a career.

Things change.

I understood Rosen's word, not as anything detrimental to Ann Romney or to mothers in general; indeed, when she chose to respond to the remarks, Ann Romney, herself, only reinforced what Rosen meant.

You can read The Washington Post's account of her reply here.

But here's what Ann Romney tweeted:-

“I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

And there's the rub.

The operative word is "choice."

Ann Romney married, very young, a man who was the son of an extremely wealthy man. Willard lived on trust funds, which plugged the holes in any household budget - not that his wages were ever very low. When Willard was involved in a traffic accident, whilst on his Mormon mission in France, Daddy contacted no less than Sargent Schriver, then the U S Ambassador to France, to ensure Willard were sufficiently and efficiently cared for in those socialist European hospitals.

How many other Morman missionaries, who, essentially, live off charity, could claim such attention?

But I think Rosen is right when she cites that Willard is time-warped in the 1950s - or at least the early 60s. His style is pure Mad Men. He does, indeed, have an old-fashioned, fairly quaint view of women, of which the rabid fundamentalists in the Republican party will fervently grasp and shape to fit their own pejorative agenda.

In that respect, Ann Romney, unwittingly colludes with that image:-

Early in Mitt Romney’s political career, their most traditional of marriages had been mocked — especially after his wife told the Boston Globe in 1994 that the pair had never had a “serious argument,” and that he had never raised his voice to her. If he had, she added, “I’d dissolve into tears.”

In that same interview, during her husband’s unsuccessful campaign for the Senate, Ann Romney gave an impolitic description of the closest thing to economic stress they couple had ever experienced. When her husband was in graduate school, she said, “we had no income except the stock we were chipping away at. We were living on the edge, not entertaining.”

In the first instance, this is a statement made by a woman who "knows her place," and she knows, but doesn't consciously realise, that that place is somewhere between "chattel" and "second class citizen" which existed in some vague netherland immediately before or immediately after women got the vote.

In the second instance, this example removes the Romneys even further from any hope of understanding the lives and foibles of us ordinary folk. With Willard in graduate school and a couple of kids to nurture, Ann could still choose to stay at home and raise the kids, because they lived off stock dividends - when most wives of graduate students waited tables, taught school, worked as nurses or secretaries or whatever, in order to keep a wage coming in and food on the table. They didn't choose to do that. They had to do it.

And that's the difference between Ann Romney and all these women who are worried about the economy and jobs. A lot of those women who are doing the worrying are moms with children. They're worrying about the economy and jobs because, unlike Ann Romney, they don't have the choice of being able to stay at home with their children. Their jobs might mean the difference between being able to pay a mortgage and being made homeless. Their jobs might mean being able to buy healthy food and eating cheap processed junk.

I don't know Ann Romney. She looks and sounds like a very nice and sincere woman. I know she's not been well, and I applaud her courage in fighting debilitating disease. But, there again, she's had the best of health care because she's had the highest level of private health insurance - which didn't come to Ann by way of any job other than her husband's.

I wish her well, but I want everyone to realise that the Republican pushback in this instance is payback for the Democrats exposing the Republicans for their agenda against women's health.

It would be nice if Ann Romneys' husband had enough courage to address that.

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