For several days the media seized on the furor unleashed by comments made by Hilary Rosen – described rather vaguely in news accounts as a Democratic Party strategist and White House adviser, though she has visited with the president on at least 35 occasions, more frequently than the heads of key government agencies – about Ann Romney, wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Mr. Romney had taken to noting that he frequently consults with his wife about the problems facing women in this country.
Ms. Rosen said this:
What you have is Mitt Romney running 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.” Guess what: his wife has never really worked 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 why do we worry about their future.
Many read her comments as reflecting the notion that women who stay at home, run their household and raise their children do not really “work.” To be sure, she did specify that she was focusing on Mrs. Romney’s lack of experience with everyday economic challenges, and in that light her statement might charitably be understood as a criticism of Mrs. Romney not for being a “stay-at-home” mom but for being the wife of a very wealthy man and therefore unfamiliar with the struggles of women of much more moderate means.
In any event, Ms. Rosen’s remarks were widely panned as being generally demeaning to full-time wives and mothers and she apologized “to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended.…I know my words…were poorly chosen.”
On one level, the scuffling over the meaning and intent of Ms. Rosen’s words is the stuff of electoral “gotcha” politics. But what Ms. Rosen said reflects an attitude about stay-at-home mothers that is all too common among liberals – Hillary Clinton, during her husband’s first campaign for president in 1992, made a similarly condescending remark about full-time homemakers.
And while Ms. Rosen is not an employee of the White House, it seems clear she is a player there, particularly on women’s issues.
What really rankles is the sense that Ms. Rosen’s choice of words reflects a contempt for women who choose to stay at home, run their households and raise their families rather than enter the work force as she did.
Presumably Ms. Rosen believes she is qualified to advise the president on this and related matters, yet she goes out into the workplace in the same way as most men do. Could men be advisers to the president on these very same issues? We don’t think Ms. Rosen would go along with that idea.
Also, she is a highly paid, high-powered executive. Is her experience equal to that of most other working women? Hardly. With that in mind, why is it assumed by women like Ms. Rosen that women like Ann Romney have nothing valuable to say about women’s issues? Do we have a special means test for advisers on such matters?