The news media immediately jumped on Democratic factotum Hillary Rosen when she accused Ann Romney, wife of the presumed Republican presidential nominee, of being unqualified to speak about the economy and the struggles of most women because Ann has ”never worked a day in her life.”
Many have taken the remark to be a slur on housewives who don’t work outside of the home. Suddenly the question of Ann Romney’s competence to speak about economic matters has morphed into an insult to stay-at-home moms. Even President Obama and Vice President Biden defended Ann Romney and by inference those women who, for whatever reason, do not hold a paying job.
But I think that everyone missed the point, because Rosen used the word “work” ambiguously. I don’t think Rosen meant that Ann Romney has never held down a job, but that she has literally never worked, at least not since marrying her robber-baron-turned-hypocrite hubby.
The crux of my argument (and what I think Rosen was really trying to say) depends on yes answers to at least several of the following questions.
- Does Ann Romney, owner of several houses in various places, have a cook?
- Does she have a housekeeper or cleaning service working more than 16 hours a week in one or more of her homes?
- A driver?
- A personal assistant?
- Someone who routinely is paid to do the food shopping? A gardener or landscape service that works on any one of her properties more than a couple hours a week?
Virtually all women in the United States work very hard. Household chores, shopping and most of the non-fun part of child-rearing fall on the shoulders of the stay-at-home housewife. Women who have jobs typically do more of the housework and childrearing tasks than their spouses, and usually it’s a lot more.
If empathy only comes from experience then Ann Romney definitely cannot relate to most women, be they stay-at-homers, careerists or those burdened with dual responsibilities. Her actually experience in the work force is next to nil and I’m reasonably confident that she has even less experience scrubbing floors and toilet bowls.
But we’re not being given the choice of voting for Ann Romney. It’s her husband not Ann who is running for office. It is true that we have had a run of accomplished first ladies with fine careers beginning with a slightly more famous Hillary and including librarian Laura Bush and attorney Michelle Obama. But we’ve also had housewives who have made perfectly fine first ladies, including the wonderful Betty Ford, who did work before her marriage to Gerry. There is no law that says a first lady has to have had a career or currently have one.
Here’s some advice to voters that often gets lost in the avalanche of non-news stories revolving around personalities, petty spats, verbal blunders and he-said-she saids: Don’t vote for either candidate because you like their spouse or dislike the other’s spouse. Vote for the candidate on the stands he (and maybe someday she) takes and his/her fast track record.