If she weren’t doubling down on her controversial comments and dismissing the genuine consternation she caused as “faux outrage,” Hilary Rosen might actually inspire a little pity in me. Oh, I wouldn’t feel sorry for her because she’s been vigorously rebuked by the right. No, I’d feel sorry for her because I know — as she seems not to have known — that few women could possibly come out looking more sympathetic or appealing as persons by inviting comparisons with Ann Romney. Breast cancer survivor, MS patient, devoted wife and, er, hard-working mother, Mrs. Romney is a woman to admire and to emulate. By comparison, Rosen seems about as small as — what’s our comparison du jour, again? oh, that’s right — an insect.
Not surprisingly, then, Romney’s handling of Rosengate has been far better than Rosen’s. While Rosen, to borrow a sarcastic phrase from Jim Treacher, shows off her expertise in damage control, Ann Romney delivers this:
He seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women and I think that comes across and I think that that’s going to hurt him over the long-term because he doesn’t really see us as equals.
Ann responds with a slightly sterner voice, “Now, that does bother me.”
It bothers me, too. Just because Mitt supports stay-at-home motherhood, he doesn’t see women as equals? Sometimes, I think it’s women like Rosen who don’t think women are equal. If they did, they would recognize that it’s worth just as much to stay home with children as it is to work outside the home.
That’s true in terms of economics, too. Does Rosen not pay her daycare provider? Do we as a society not pay housecleaners, chauffeurs, teachers and nurses? Stay-at-home parents fill all these roles at one time or another. One working spouse plus one stay-at-home spouse equals one of the best possible of all economic partnerships! It’s time for Rosen and others to remember that the marketplace — in which all “working” men and women work — actually arose to satisfy the needs of the household, not the other way around.
In Hallie Lord’s excellent and entertaining book Style, Sex and Substance, contributor Rebecca Ryskind Teti explains:
There was a time when each household had to provide everything for itself. Economy, in fact, comes from the Greek word for household management, and it refers to all the activity necessary for a household to have what it needs. Each family planted crops, hunted game, spun its own cloth and so forth in a division of labor that assured that everyone in the household had what he or she needed to live well. And a household typically included not only a nuclear family, but also extended relatives and servants, because it took a lot of people to perform all the necessary tasks.
“Business” is a form of task specialization by which the household outsources to others what it used to have to do by itself. Increasing specialization of this kind has led to massive changes in social organization, but it hasn’t changed the essential nature of the activity, which is to provide households with what they need to live well. We don’t talk about economics in these terms because we have become philosophical materialists, interested only in what and how, never concerning ourselves with the questions of origin (Why does this arise?) or purpose (To what end is it ordered?). It’s not necessary for a woman to “contribute” to the world of work. The world of work exists to be sure she has what she needs for her family (emphasis mine).
So, um, actually, Mitt Romney should be asking Ann about the economy. She and other stay-at-home moms like her know it better than anyone.
Meanwhile, feminists should take a good, hard look at themselves and ask what kind of sad self-contempt it is that leads them to decry what is traditionally considered “women’s work” as somehow worth less than what is traditionally considered “man’s work.” Guess what? There are some things that women (in general — yes, I’m stereotyping here) can’t do that men can do — but the same is true in reverse. Men can’t do all that we can (especially the obvious — birth children!). Why do we as women feel so compelled to try to do what only men can do to prove our equality? They don’t feel compelled to try to birth children to prove theirs.