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Women, work and wealth: Getting real about the Ann Romney-Hillary Rosen rumble

A Commentary

The furor over Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen's statement about Ann Romney had her retracting and apologizing profusely. Republicans and Democrats alike were outraged by her remarks made on CNN's AC 360 last week.

The offending words directed at Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, were:

"Mitt Romney runs around the country saying well, you know, my wife tells me what women really care about are economic issues and when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing. His wife actually never had to work a day in her life--she's never really dealt with the kind of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing--in terms of how do we feed our kids; how do we send them to school and how or why we worry about their future..."

Republicans played this one brilliantly and their spokepeople over at Fox News, along with conservative talk radio and blogs, had a collective orgasm when they pounced. The RNC demanded an apology and even the Democratic president and the first lady weighed in, chastising Rosen. The White House quickly went into P.R. mode, minimizing the strategist role in the current administration and distancing themselves. Rosen had now become a pariah, a liability in an election year. Did the president throw her under the bus?

Meanwhile Mitt Romney is using this shamelessly, trying to attach it to President Obama and Ann Romney's righteous indignation is seen on television, heard on talk radio and on the campaign trail. Many stay-at-home moms and moms working out of the home alike are all riled up, taking affront to Rosen's words.

I admit that the Democratic strategist did not phrase her words in a sensitive way and came across as condescending, which in turn muddied the message she was trying to give. Stay-at-home mothers as well as mothers who work outside the home know caring for our families is like having two or sometimes three jobs, and those who do it and do it well deserve a medal. Taking care of a home, budgeting and juggling make us the best accountants, economists, therapists, psychologists, chauffeurs, coaches, tutors, cooks, and everything else in between.

But let's get real for a minute. After the noise and outrage has run its redundancy across every television, talk radio and blog out there, we should address some pertinent issues. After all the points scoring politics have been played, let's face some harsh truths. I'm sure Mrs. Romney raised her children to the best of her ability and, with five boys, must have had many moments when she wanted to tear out her hair. However, hard as it might have been, her reality is not the same as that inner city mom who has to work two jobs to take care of her family. Or the stay at home mom who made a decision, like Ann Romney, to raise her baby on just the one salary of her teacher husband because they want to give their baby that quality time.

Wealth is a deciding factor here, whether some want to acknowledge it or not. No one is faulting Mrs. Romney for having several nannies, or maids or cooks or housekeepers or gardeners or pool boys. Heck, we all wish we had those perks that mucho money can buy. I am not knocking the Romney's riches, I am simply pointing out that there is a stark difference between stay-at-home moms with wealth and the rest of us moms out here who do not have that kind of a "downpayment," on life; those kinds of privileges that are bound to make parenting quite different from those without.

The abysmal economy does not impact Ann Romney as it is impacting working class or even Middle Class women, so when Mitt Romney says his wife tells him about women and the economy, I too find that strangely troubling. If he really wants to know about women and the economy he needs to meet with women from different walks of lives across America who are living the realities of their daily struggle.

He needs to hear from the mother who works two jobs, with a husband who works 16 hours days but still cannot adequately take care of their family. Or that woman who is now in the unemployment line, collecting unemployment which cannot meet all the monthly expenses because it is now half of what she use to earn. Or the mother who has to get up at 4:00 in the morning to prepare, drag her kids to daycare or school, get on public transport--which can run over $100 monthly just to get herself to and from work.

Where, between, the cost of daycare, food, transportation, clothes, electricity, telephone, gas, rent or mortage, credit cards, etc., there is no money left for anything else. I did not add health insurance and education to the mix so she is already over budget and stays in the red month after month.

Or that mom who despite having a career, worries daily about how she and her husband are going to send their five kids to college if the economy doesn't improve and with the ever-escalating tuition costs. They already lost most of their investments during the financial crisis and are now scared to death of the market especially since much hasn't changed in the way Wall Street and big banks do business, despite new regulations. Incidentally, Romney says regulations stiffle businesses so I'm guessing he wants to roll them all back to pre-financial crash days.

So as much as we would like to pour on the admiration for Ann Romney and bash Hilary Rosen for her insensitive remarks, let's not lose sight that all moms may be doing some of the same things in taking care of our families, but we all certainly do not live equal lives. Ignoring that glaring fact and jumping all over Rosen will not change that.

It is time to have an honest conversation on wealth and privilege in this country. Just as the Women's Movement was not and did not mean the same thing for all women, stay at home, "working class" and professional moms do not all share the same experiences. Ethnicity, color, religion, class, socioeconomics, education and wealth play an important role.