The C is for Crank

Hilary Rosen Does Not Owe Ann Romney An Apology

By Josh Feit April 12, 2012

I'm assuming our readers are up to speed on the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney kerfuffle, but if not, here's a primer: Hilary Rosen---a Democratic consultant with no link to the White House or Obama campaign---questioned Mitt Romney's assertion that his wife was qualified him to advise him on women's economic concerns, saying that Romney "hasn't worked a day in her life." (The part of her quote that wasn't as widely circulated? "She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing.") Romney responded by tweeting, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”

Rosen, under pressure from the Obama campaign, subsequently apologized, and Michelle Obama tweeted,  “every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”

Obama, of course, is right. But so was Rosen. And she shouldn't have apologized. Here are three reasons why.

I haven't raised kids, but I take it as a given that raising kids is incredibly hard---perhaps the hardest work women are expected to shoulder, largely without the help of their husbands or partners. (Note that Romney said she raised five sons---presumably without much help from her husband, to whom she's referred as "my sixth son.") But Ann Romney is a woman who enjoyed an amount of privilege (and help from professional staff---five maids, for example, in 2010) unimaginable to most American mothers. She was able to "make the choice to stay home [in one of the Romneys' six homes, that is] and raise five boys" because of that privilege.

In contrast, for many women, raising kids means getting up at the crack of dawn, making lunches, getting the kids to school or day care, getting to work, working an eight-hour shift, picking the kids up, and getting them to their various extracurricular activities before going home, making dinner, helping with homework, and doing the many chores associated with having kids before finally putting them to bed and preparing to do the whole thing tomorrow.

So while raising five kids with the help of a large household staff, and millions of dollars of security that allows you to stay at home, "work"? Sure. But I'm pretty sure that raising five kids without those privileges, particularly if you're single, is even harder.

Which brings me to point 2. How many times have Republicans demonized single black or Latina moms for "leaching off the system," for being "welfare queens" by having babies out of wedlock? If Romney's decision to have five kids and stay at home to raise them is a "choice," it's a choice Republicans would deny to low-income and minority women, precisely because of their lack of privilege. Most low-income black girls don't really have the option, for example, to marry a multi-millionaire hedge fund manager. Yet conservatives like Romney demonize them---indeed, threaten to cut off whatever meager aide the government provides for them and their families---just because they lack the privilege people like Romney enjoy.

Point three. Since when has Romney ever showed one bit of interest in women's "choice" to determine their own futures? To the contrary, he's done everything in his power to move ever-further to the right on choice, vowing to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, defund breast and cervical cancer screenings, eliminate coverage for birth control, and decrease women's access to abortion. He also opposes the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, which gives women the "career choice" to sue for discrimination if male employers are paid more for the same work.  The only "choice" he appears to support is the ability of white, wealthy, suburban women to choose to have lots of babies and forego a career to raise them.

Michele Obama, by the way, worked in a law firm while raising her two girls---because she had to pay off student loans. I wonder what she would say about Ann Romney's glib statement that staying home to raise five kids is a "choice" any woman can make.
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