The War on Women and Mothers 2012

So, the war on women. Right? There’s a war on women. That’s what the media are telling us, that’s what politicians are talking about, that’s what’s been in the national news for the last month or so. 

This is new? 

Those with economic and political power have been battling women’s rights for centuries. Hell, it’s only been about 100 years since women were given a constitutional right to vote throughout the country. The Equal Rights Amendment – which would have strengthened Constitutional protections against discrimination – was never ratified or enacted. As Mad Men will sexily remind you, it’s only in the last 40 or so years that it’s become common or acceptable for women to pursue a career outside the home.

It’s only in the last few hundred years that common-law countries stopped treating women as chattel

America was built on paternalism and puritanism, and this country still struggles with basic womanhood. Locally, it’s only a few months ago that local ruin-hugging ex-columnist Donn Esmonde incurred women’s wrath by expressing the icky feelings he gets when he sees women breastfeeding – naturally feeding their children – in public.  We had a locally-sourced gubernatorial candidate who routinely shared misogynistic emails with captains of politics and industry.  

 Mitt Romney is saying that President Obama has been really waging a war on women, because the 2008 financial meltdown – which predated his presidency – disproportionately affected women in the workplace. Politifact says that claim is “largely false”.

This year’s traveling vaudeville act of a Republican primary season revealed that the GOP still struggles with the concept of women’s rights. As usual, they scrambled to out-oppose each other on any form of abortion rights. It got so bad that a debate over contraception that people thought was dead, revealed itself merely to have been dormant, as Republicans pounced on a rule of general applicability that required even religious employers to include contraceptive coverage as part of their health care plans.

While the right wing presented this as a fight over religious freedoms – part of the “Muslim Obama war on Christianity” meme – it came across as a battle over chastity.  The Republican id, Rush Limbaugh, crystallized it when he called Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” because she explained how the cost of contraceptives was prohibitive for many people, including students.  

Apparently, Limbaugh and his followers confused the use of female contraceptives with the way men use Viagra – as if Fluke was having so much sex, she couldn’t afford to take the pill each time. Again, it was semi-informed, ignorant men trying to control a narrative over something they barely understood. 

Yesterday, Arizona – the most tea partyish of the tea party states – passed an insane law that has nothing to do with science, health, or safety, but is called the “Women’s Health and Safety Act”. I remember 20 years ago, people would debate the morality and legality of abortion by discussing when life begins – conception? Viability? Some other time? Well, Arizona has firmly decided on “some other time” – namely, life begins at the end of the pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. The state will not only artifically re-configure nature itself, but will also attempt to bully and coerce women into not undergoing an abortion – a perfectly legal medical procedure that enjoys specific legal protection. 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/KagroX/status/190591900334559232″]

And so we turn to Hilary Rosen – someone I’d never heard of before this week – who clumsily accused Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, of never working a day in her life. Rosen has since apologized, and explained that her words were poorly chosen and she meant to underscore the fact that the Romneys lived a multimillionaire’s life and have absolutely no real-life understanding of the struggles that regular, middle-class people have. 

One could make the argument that Ann Romney’s laudable choice to be a stay-at-home mom is a “choice” that a great many American families don’t have the luxury to consider.  Just like most American families don’t have the choice to participate in the “rarified world of upper-level dressage“. 

The right pounced on Rosen, and much of the left establishment criticized her, as well. But the Catholic League – a detestable religio-fascist collective led by horrible person Bill Donohue – had this to say: 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/CatholicLeague/status/190427506904539136″]

I don’t even understand that. Is Donohue criticizing adoption itself as being less than proper, natural motherhood? Is Donohue saying that adoptive parents don’t “work” in raising their kids, but that biological parents do?  Remember the story I wrote about the school assembly, where some Catholic cleric derided adopted kids as “sociologically unstable”? Why are Catholic leaders attacking adoption and adopted kids?  I think for Donohue, it has more to do with simple rank homophobic hate, as evidenced by this Tweet, from later the same day, which goes to this post from Kristen Becker

[blackbirdpie url=”!/CatholicLeague/status/190059203518410752″]

Planned Parenthood said this: 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/PPact/status/190551328555143168″]

Ann Romney wrote these Tweets: 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/AnnDRomney/status/190262588163100672″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/AnnDRomney/status/190428549105188864″]

No, only some women get to choose their own path. A great many women can’t afford to do that. In the meantime, we ensure that people like the Romneys only pay a 15% income tax rate on their non-payroll investment income. Entitled? If Romney was a Democrat, Republicans would be deriding stay-at-home motherhood as just another socialist welfare entitlement program. 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/KagroX/status/190554001295687681″]

Hilary Rosen took to Twitter to directly address Romney: 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/hilaryr/status/190272145568440320″]

[blackbirdpie url=”!/hilaryr/status/190272730128592896″]

The whole thing could be solved quite simply. If, as Romney says, women are “entitled” to make the choice, then they should be entitled to make the choice. If the Republicans are now suggesting that motherhood is real work, it’s time for the federal government to make funds available to supplement household incomes in order to enable every American family to make the same choice that the Romneys were wealthy enough to make. The median annual income for a woman working full-time in America is just over $33,000. The federal government should expand social security to give women a choice to claim annual stay-at-home benefits equal to that figure, with annual cost-of-living adjustments.  If we’re for school choice and vouchers, we should be for this. 

Obviously, that’s never going to happen – we as a society can’t even agree on whether or not people should have universal access to quality health care without the fear of going bankrupt. Michelle Obama wrote, 

[blackbirdpie url=”!/MichelleObama/status/190469503161860096″]

There’s been a war on women going on for centuries. It’s still a big part of our society. I don’t think Mitt or Ann Romney are this generation’s catalysts for changing that shameful problem. 

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  • 104josephcoppola

    My wife spent 23 years on active duty in the Navy. While on active duty she also managed to complete a BA degree from George Washington University, a MA degree from Central Michigan State University and raise my (not her) son, while I was out at sea. After we both retired from the Navy, we bought a home, and she supported me while I was finishing my Physician Assistant BS degree @ D’Youville College. I have more respect for her than any other person I know. She is a great gal, a wonderful life companion & she loves fishing  & most firearm sports (trap & skeet, long range rifle compition). Wonder woman, & I still wonder what she ever saw in me. She was Gods gift to me. Being a woman is a tough job.

  • Great post BP!!  It’s frustrating to me that in 2012 we are STILL having these discussions though!!!  

  • Romney has terrible numbers with women voters while Obama has very strong numbers. McCain lost in 2008 with terrible support from women, and Romney will lose for the same reason in 2012. Unless…the Romney campaign can flip the script with some Karl Rove tactics.

    Rove always thought it best to attack your opponent where he is strongest. Essentially, assign your weakness to him. You might recall when George Bush had a weakness as a child of entitlement who was (at best) allowed to sit out the Vietnam War whilst John Kerry was running about collecting medals in combat. So, they accused Kerry of being an entitled prag who didn’t really deserve those medals, thus distracting from Bush’s weakness.

    In this election, Romney seeks to distract from his weakness with women by claiming that Obama is the one who actually seeks to keep women in their place and without rights. We then get 48-72 hours of a huge spin war covered by a complicit media arguing about he said/she said talking points rather than analyzing the actual issue. Good times.

    The greater issue that Hillary Rosen was speaking to was not the validity of Ann Romney’s economic viewpoints as a stay at home Mom. It was whether or not making the stay at home Mom and wife of a millionaire who has had every advantage (including six homes, housekeepers, nannies, etc.) the campaign spokesperson for women’s rights was actually a good strategy. Ann Romney’s point of view and experience is so incredibly out of touch with other working and stay at home moms that it is to be laughable.

    • A bit misleading. The split in women voters come from whether women are married or not.  Married women voters tend to support Republicans and single women overwhelmingly support Democrats.  McCain actually carried married women by three points over Obama in ’08 but got crushed by single women, something like 70-29.  The evil party pursues policies to maintain that support (e.g., welfare for single mothers; free! birth! control!, etc.) by incentivizing higher class women to marry later or not marry at all (smart politics, bad for the health of our republic) and to support all the offspring of lower class women (who are more likely to have to rely on BIG GOV as father/breadwinner).  The stupid party can’t articulate the connection between IQ/Class, morality and incentivization, so in net, it’s a loser for them.

      HW Hamlin nails Bedenko on Hilary Rosen.  Someone as “enlightened” as Bedenko appears to be (and I am sure he’ll tell you!) to not know Rosen was the head of the RIAA is kind of unusual, as she was the industry face in the losing battle of file sharing.  Anyways, her role as Obama’s surrogate (documented by her visits to the WH) is notable.  I am sure it’s more fun for Bedenko to quote Bill Donahue and his 1000 twitter followers for his callous tweets than do to any real research into the hows/whats of why these things happen.

      I do agree with Chris that we’ve entered another spin cycle, but unlike him, even though these things are pretty worthless, at least when liberals overstep, a cycle like this may have the consequence of reminding them that, at least once and a while, they can’t get away with making ridiculous comments w/o some sort of retribution.  Huzzah.

      • When did I claim enlightenment? You mock me for not having heard of someone I’ve never heard of? What am I supposed to do with that?  (Also, no – I don’t pirate copyrighted material, so I didn’t follow any RIAA coverage regarding that, so I didn’t know Hilary Rosen as someone affiliated with anything, anywhere, at any time). 

        In any event, you spout crazy ideas, and the way in which you capitalize “BIG GOV” reveals you to be a lunatic, so we’ll leave it at that. Because I believe that Americans are entitled to choose to be lunatics. 

      • Ah, I love parsing.

        McCain won “married” women vote. So what? He lost the overall vote amongst women by nearly 15 fucking points. Obama has a nearly 20 point lead in polls over Romney with women, right now. And it’s trending negatively. Probably because Romney didn’t support the Ledbetter Act, wants to limit access to contraception, is vague in his support of VAWA,  and seeks to further repeal access to abortions.

        Unless there has been a massive surge in uptight conservative married women in America, Romney doesn’t have much of a chance of making up ground. Unless, of course, they can gin up some nonsensical controversy like this one.

        But, but, but…Rosen’s been to the White House! She’s been there more than Petraeus!  She’s a fulcrum in all sorts of right wing conspiracies! 

        If you honestly think that Obama has spoken with Hilary Rosen more often than David Petraeus (who provided daily briefings from war zones and the daily intelligence briefings from CIA), you’re just an idiot.

        Rosen is one of the most influential policy lobbyists in Washington. Her firm represents hundreds of corporations and activist organizations. I know, it’s shocking to think she might have access to the President. I’m sure you got your Irish up when Cheney secretly met with oil industry leaders in the White House to plan how to divvy up the national energy empire a few years back. However, I think you (like most denizens of the right wing) probably reserve your contempt for White House visits and access for lobbyists primarily when Democrats are in office.

        She’s also an employee of CNN, not the DNC. Enough already.

        • I thought Obama campaigned on the premise that neither he nor his adminsitration would engage with lobbists or be influenced by them.  Or did I misunderstand?

    • I know its a bit off topic, but let’s be clear about the Kerry story: he joined the Navy and picked brown water boats because he had a boyhood crush on JFK. Once he got into a shooting war, though, he discovered it wasn’t full of starry-eyed glory, and saw it for what it was. Whether by good luck or good decoration writing, he got three Purple Hearts in short order and a very early trip out of Vietnam, where he came home and testified that war was hell and we should stop buring southeast asia to the ground. This would all be fine, if that guy ran in 2004. But instead, the country was in the middle of war mongering, and instead of telling us to hold our horses, he tried to out-muscle Bush and “arrived for duty” with a salute at the Dem convention. If he had remained the Genjis Khan Congressional testifier, he may not have won, but he wouldn’t have been Swift boated either.

      Moral of the story – candidates lose when they try to be something they aren’t. Bush wasn’t trying to be a Vietnam war hero. He was trying to be a guy who “did his duty” during the Vietnam conflict and then adopted a “kill them all let God sort them out” attitude while in office. If Romney was still selling himself as the competent businessman who fixed the Olympics and could fix government, he’d at least be true to his story. I look forward to him trying to prove he’s the defender of women and “in touch” with average Americans, though, so he loses badly.

  • I’m surprised Hilary Rosen is to you “someone I’d never heard of before this week”. 
    She’s been heavily involved in White House policy and political consultation, having visited the White House on 35 occasions (Gen. Petreus has visited five times, Joe Biden six, according to official WH visitor logs).
    Her D.C. law firm, SKDKnickerbocker transformed Sandra Fluke from a 30-year old professional lefty activist into an innocent co-ed who pulled figures about the cost of birth control out of the sky—and duped the NonFoxMedia. Pro bono.
    Rosen’s law partner is former White House communications director Anita Dunn.
    Your disavowal sounds like Jay Carney yesterday (you have heard of him?), who said he’s not sure which Hilary Rosen she is, since he knows three women named Hilary Rosen.

  • You spend time looking, copying and pasting tweets from “relevant” organizations like the CL into this article, but couldn’t be bothered to spend a minute going to Wikipedia to learn about the protagonist of the episode. Makes complete sense.

    • I did. In fact, I posted two of her Tweets. Did you not see that? 

      What I wrote was that I had never heard of Rosen before this particular “episode”. Thank you for your concern. 

      •  Alan: I get that you may not have known Rosen before not, but Google Hilary Rosen and RIAA when you get the chance.

        You’re probably not going to like what you see.

  • The part I find particularly confusing about this whole ordeal are the derogatory comments about adopted kids…how can they be against abortion and then anti-adopted kids??? Where the hell do they expect all those unwanted kids to go??  They don’t want them to be prevented in the first place (via contraception) and then they don’t want them to be aborted and then they don’t want them to be adopted and they certainly don’t want to provide funding for the social services needed to help the parents of said “unwanted” children to raise those children??  Make up your damn minds!

    Also, as a child of a mother who sacrificed EVERYTHING she had in her life to raise me on her meager salary of $12,000/year with no health insurance coverage, I know first hand how extraordinarily difficult it is for a woman to work and raise children in the lower class of the US society…Ann Romney saying that her work as a mother with nannies and butlers was “very hard” is just insulting to me, seeing as my mother literally worked herself to death to make sure I had a roof over my head and food to eat.  Wake up, Ann…you have NO idea what it is like to be a typical American woman.

    • I think that Mr. Romney’s  the original comment was that his wife was listening/talking with women across the country, from a wide range of economic circumstances, and was “relating” what she heard to her husband.  She has not put herself forth as an economic expert, nor did he say she was.  He simply reported that the over-riding them of the conversations with American women was concern about the economy, and their childrens’ future. 
      For a responsible parent, rasing a family is a hands-on job, one that cannot be done as well by butlers or nannies.  Actually, it is a lot easier for someone of great wealth to hire others to do the daily work of raising their children while they jet around, and I gather that Ann Romney chose to do this work herself.   I am not talking about housework, but the interactive, loving, attentive, involved,  disciplined environment that nurtures strong, responsible adults.   This is an apparently tight-knit family, and I applaud that.   And let us not forget the glowing admiration we have heard for other women who have struggled with life-threatening illnesses, Elizabeth Edwards, for example, and apply the same generous kindness to Mrs. Romney, as she continues her fight.

  • Obama Pays less than his Secretary!  It looks like the Buffet rule did not apply to Obama even though he made almost 10 times what his secretary made.  Now that’s a battle in the war on woman

  • How sure are we that “Rosen” isn’t Yiddish for AYERS?

    /heard it in a Siena poll

  • Catholic Church leadership and these weird little factions of ultra-conservative Catholic maniacs just can’t help themselves.  I think they’re starting to recognize the widening  ideological gap between themselves and the rank and file Sunday church crowd.

    If you’re looking for someone to blame then point your finger directly toward the Vatican and Catholic capo di tutti capi Pope Benedict XVI. You could almost hear the collective groan of millions of modern church members when the Cardinals elected the most conservative man among them as Pope. Those of us who had spent even a moment involved in the church knew that that sucking sound we were hearing was all of Pope John Paul II’s progress, tolerance and acceptance being vacuumed back into the 19th Century.

    I haven’t been a practicing Catholic for years, but I sure as hell noticed this winter when Church leadership started cozy-ing up with the Evangelical Flat Earth Society for press conferences, photo ops and group hugs. Those in the Church who wield the big stick have apparently forgotten that many evangelical preachers spend their Sundays educating their flocks about the evils of the papist idolaters at the Catholic Church across town. Of course the two groups couldn’t help but find common ground when it came to insisting that women shouldn’t be allowed to have sex unless it was with the express intent of creating more little Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals etc…

    Modern society has produced a populace that believes in science and fact.  Science and fact run opposite to religion and so the power crazed cretins that spend their lives controlling the lives of others via superstition, fear of the unknown and bigotry toward beliefs that aren’t birthed in their own warped minds are flailing to gain whatever  foothold they can before they finally fall off the mountain. This means appealing to the most weak minded and stupid among their flock.

    I’m not worried though. Idiots like Bill Donohue are the shortest-necked Giraffes in the Serengheti and those of us who believe in the reality of evolution know what happens to them.

  • I actually know more wealthy women who choose to work – and hire help to raise the children – than to stay home, though they could easily afford it.  Most-not all – of them are very involved with their children, have flexible schedules and have been rewarded with well-adjusted kids.  But there are census stats that show that a significant percentage of SAHMs have made that decision DESPITE the financial restraints they will face, and these are families living on very modest incomes – nothing close to the 6-7 -figure+ that Ms. Rosen earns.  So, the real issue with Ms. Rosen’s comments is she is incorrect to imply that one must be wealthy to stay home and actually do the job of raising your children (and I don’t care if they are bio, adopted, etc, or the parents are G/L, etc).  But one does have to be committed to living on tight budgets, going without luxuries, walking, and visiting thrift stores at the beginning of a shopping quest.   Don’t frame this debate in terms of rich and poor; that just shows how out of touch with reality our talking heads are.  The only women who HAVE to work while their children are small (until they are chool age) are single mothers.   Couples who plan before they have children don’t indulge themselves, and aren’t overloaded with debt, so they are in a  position to make the decision that is best for them.   I have worked outside the home and do some work at home, but I sacrificed higher income and benefits so I would have the flexibilty of being present for my children.  Both graduated from college in the past 4 years, when so many are out of work, and because of the way they were raised ( a loving, supportive, but no -excuse household) the curriculum they pursued, they both got good jobs in their fields.  My daughter also put herself through grad school, and got her masters without accumulating any debt.  It can be done, so stop arguing that only the wealthy have options.  We all do, we all make good and less-good decisions that we have to live with.  p.s.  the comments from Donohoe from the Catholic league are disgraceful!

  • “America was built on paternalism and puritanism”

    Don’t forget racism and genocide!

  • Do you people really believe this crap?

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