Before we move on from the dust-up over Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney, let’s be clear on what’s really going on here. Neither Ann Romney nor stay-at-home moms were ever the point.
What is increasingly apparent is Mitt Romney’s strategy to rally his base of narrow-minded men who couldn’t care less about women or, worse, blame us for all that is wrong with their lives. Rosen unwittingly gave him a perfect opportunity.
In an interview about Romney on CNN, Rosen said, “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
Minutes later, Ann Romney posted her first tweet: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” She had plenty of room to add “count me privileged,” but she didn’t.
The Republicans immediately accused Rosen of disrespecting all stay-at-home moms. Rosen soon apologized, but by then, mothers were on trial in the court of public opinion. Or so the Republicans wanted us to believe.
The problem was the messenger, not the message. If a mother working as a waitress in any city in America had said that a millionaire’s stay-at-home wife hasn’t worked a day in her life, most would have nodded in silent agreement. Context is everything.
Of course, we seldom hear a waitress’s opinion about anything other than what’s on the menu. The media have a habit of ignoring virtually all women who are hourly wage earners, except to relegate them to a voter demographic. Thus, we know little about the lives of mothers who work on assembly lines or who mind our babies in day care facilities or who add up our purchases at the local Target.
Mothers who barely are scraping by are invisible to most of us — and by our choice, even when they’re standing right in front of us. So it was only too easy to misconstrue Rosen’s message and stoke an imaginary fight.
There is no war between stayat home mothers and those who work outside the home. That battle is long over, and it had no victors. Nevertheless, Republicans tried to pit mother against mother and then did the happy-feet dance over the ensuing firestorm.
Who wants to divide women against women? A campaign that doesn’t care about women, that’s who.
I know too well the men Romney stirs up with this fake animosity among women. They’ve been reaching out to me from the day I started writing a column 10 years ago — first as a single mother and then as a wife in a second marriage.
Why mention my personal life? Because that’s all they care about. No matter the column topic, their attacks — via email and voice mail and in online comments — focus on my role as a wife and mother.
A common theme in their anonymous vitriol: No wonder this woman — with her face, her opinions, her priorities — ended up divorced.
These men think women are put on this earth to marry and reproduce. They insist that mothers belong in the home, not in the workplace. Nothing sets their teeth to grinding faster than an unwed mother getting assistance from the government.
Which brings me to a speech Romney delivered in January, unearthed by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and his staff.
Here’s what this wealthy husband of a stay-at-home wife had to say about another kind of mother:
“Even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well, that’s heartless.’ And I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving day care to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that day care, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
So, only some mothers deserve to be home with their children?
You don’t say things like that if you care about female voters.
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine.