More on the Romney-Rosen flap

I really should be in bed right now. I should have completed the lesson plan for that 7:35 a.m. class I have to teach, but I’ve not been able to drag myself away from the total freakshow that is traditional leftist feminism’s response to the Rosen-Romney flap. Luckily I can teach that class with my eyes closed, because I have reached saturation mode. Must. vent. now.

Oh my gawd, can you believe these women? Let’s see, Jessica Valenti and Joan Walsh have both come to Hilary Rosen’s rescue, which I wouldn’t mind so much if they were focused on how the sexism against Rosen that’s crept into this narrative is all coming from the Obama camp. Well, to be fair, Judith Warner does address the issue, but not without getting in a few jabs at Ann Romney. But for sure, Rosen is under the bus now. We could have told her it was coming. SOP. There have been countless others apologists, a whole shrill chorus of pushback noise by the left on this issue and they just keep digging deeper.

The major talking point seems to be that that what Rosen really meant was that we could completely dismiss Ann Romney’s point of view because she had been born to privilege and never walked away from it. This is a highly offensive, notably UN-feminist proposition to make, made by women who are spending a lot of time claiming and defending the feminist mantle. Also notable, they are successful career women themselves. What these women of privilege, these feminists from places like New York and L.A.–let’s call them coastal feminists for the time being–what they don’t understand is that in attacking Ann Romney’s privilege, they invite a closer examination of one of traditional feminisms biggest flaws: that it is driven by women of means and privilege, like Warner, Walsh, and Valenti. It is the cat calling the kitty black in the most transparent way possible, at least out here in the heartland where the water makes the kool aid taste funny.

Let’s take a look at these, shall we, and explore how they expose some ugly truths about traditional Democratic-oriented feminism. First up, Valenti:

What’s being lost in this conversation is the incredibly facile and insulting notion that just because a woman made the decision to marry Romney and occasionally talk to him about other women, that he is somehow well-informed on women’s issues. Ann Romney is not an expert on women’s issues just because she happens to be one. And she’s not an expert in what mothers need just because she has children. Believing otherwise is infantilizing and reduces women’s very important and complex concerns to beauty parlor chitchat.

Get that? Married women can’t inform their husbands accurately about what other women are telling them. Because if we break it down, that’s what this is. Valenti and others would like you to believe that this is about the Romney’s making claims to know what all women want. But they never made that assertion, Democrats only claimed they did. What Romney said on the campaign trail was that Ann talked to women and reported back. So he was only reporting he knew what those specific women that Ann talked to, and by extrapolation, any woman who would fit that category, would be concerned about. In contrast, it’s Democrats who keep trying to speak for all women.

Distortion and spin are powerful tools, though, and Valenti is so desperate she’s  invoking tropes that should be verboten, like the rich white bitch meme. I get that she’s a younger feminist, but I’m not old, and was born well into the second wave, and even I, without a lick of Women’s Studies (not true; I tried a couple of course to see what it was like) know that women agreed in the 1970s that it was fruitless to attack each other over privilege. No human in her right mind walks away from privilege. Women have precious little of it and more risks without it. Women only control 10% of global wealth, so these attempts to use Romney’s wealth to drive a wedge into the hearts of women for the purpose of securing their vote is not only UNfeminist, it’s actively ANTI-feminist. Dividing women, attacking them for partisan gain, hurts all women and keeps us stalled.

I love how Valenti ends her diatribe with a warning that if you buy into the GOP line, you’ll be infantilizing yourself. Oh noes! Not the dreaded diaper again. Whack. Just whack. The real problem here is exactly what we’ve been discussing over at The Crawdad Hole (comments on that link are totally worth the time, ftr). These women actually believe that women can’t think for themselves. They think you need a degree in something like women’s studies to know how to lead the poor little wenches out of their bondage. A commenter referred to it as a “high priestess” model and that really resonated with me. I don’t need any authority to tell me how to achieve my empowerment. I already know what I need. It starts with someone listening. Guess who’s listening? And guess who’s not?

Joan Walsh isn’t listening. Here’s what she had to say about Romney’s privilege:

And the fact is, Ann Romney’s experiences are not the average woman’s. She is a woman of great privilege. Most mothers don’t have the “choice” to stay home full time with their kids; they need a paycheck. Meanwhile, her husband supports the Paul Ryan budget, which cuts nutrition programs for pregnant women and new moms and their kids. It cuts Medicaid for poor women and children. It slashes food stamp funding, when women and children make up two-thirds of the people who get food stamps. He wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood, which provides not just contraception but breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for millions of low-income women.

I want to pull my hair out! Jesus, Walsh is the Editor-at-Large for Salon.com. Her total compensation package for that job for last year was almost $200,000. Her experiences are not the average women’s. Do you think a woman like that can understand women who use Medicaid, food stamps, or Planned Parenthood? Or a woman who has to put off paying this bill or that until the next paycheck comes because the budget just will not stretch anymore? She’s much closer to Ann Romney than she is to women like me. And it’s glaringly obvious. It’s ugly and it’s indicative of the rank hypocrisy of traditional feminism. It is dominated by privileged women who don’t have the same concerns we have, who don’t really worry about contraception and abortion because they could afford access no matter what the conditions. The truth is that traditional leftist feminism has the stink of privilege all over it. They don’t speak for me. And they don’t speak for a lot of women. But they want to.

And that’s what this is all about. Turf. We economically insecure women have traditionally been a Democratic constituency. Other constituencies of women have too, women who are likely to be sympathetic to the plight and causes of poverty and it’s unique brand of oppression. These women can’t be allowed to stray, can’t be allowed to think and decide for themselves whether Ann Romney is “likable enough.” But a lot of these women are already gone. We were willing to accept the authority of Democrats and their coastal feminist because they were the only ones we could see speaking up for women. These women are extremely judgmental and will cynically exploit any argument if they think it will win them more support, especially in the form of votes. They run around promoting hysteria and victimhood in the most offensive terms to women like me, who want to give others the benefit of the doubt because it’s how we were raised, and who don’t consider a $200,000 a year blogging gig to offer much authority to speak on women either.

Women like me appreciate a can-do attitude, and we have respect for those who’ve built their own success. Women like Nikki Haley and Sarah Palin. And yes, Ann Romney. She may not have worked at a paying job, but we used to understand in this country that the wife of candidate for office was a job. These conservative women are the voices of earnest hard workers, many of whom pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and they have an honest, straightforward syntax and cadence. This is familiar to me because it is similar to my own Midwestern tendencies. Finally I have women who look and sound like me on the stage. It doesn’t matter that I have more liberal values. They represent me better than the arrogant scaremongers the left keeps sending out to persuade me. That kind of hostility and negativity simply does not fly out here in the heartland.

That’s what Valenti and Walsh, and the Democratic Party are afraid of. They’re afraid that women like me, and maybe you, will keep putting the puzzle pieces together and keep talking about it. We’ll keep exposing the flaws in traditional feminism, calling it to task for its exclusivity and hypocrisy, and for the fact that it is now a major impediment to the progress of women.

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13 comments on “More on the Romney-Rosen flap

  1. wmcb says:

    Great piece (again!) And yes, I agree with you that what they tried to pivot to, the whole “she’s to rich-bitchy to have an opinion”, is just as offensive. And it is about turf. They are frightened. They are frightened that other women besides their closely knit club might connect with women voters, that the idea of womanhood and empowerment might escape their hands.

    I said some of this in a comment at crawdad, but I’ll say it here too. Because most of the women who are trotting out to esplain to us rubes why Ann is utterly unqualified to open her mouth on women’s problems are not qualified either by their own standard. Ann can’t have anything to say to or about women, because she is too unlike them in class and the circumstances of her life.

    That’s the rule now? Wow. Do they have a list for me of who is qualified? Because I’d like to see it. I’d like them to list for me women in the public sphere whom they perceive as having valuable things to say about women’s economic concerns, so that I may apply to them the same standard that Hilary Rosen applied to Ann Romney.

    Oh, and Hillary Clinton is OUT, by The Rosen Rule. She’s waaay too fucking rich, and has nothing to say to stay at home moms at all, since she isn’t one. Because the standard is the standard, no matter how much I may really like the woman in question. We’re playing by Rosen Rules, remember?

    Now excuse me while I go scratch off Eleanor Roosevelt from the list of women who might have anything pertinent to say to me. Fucking heiress.

  2. wmcb says:

    In contrast, it’s Democrats who keep trying to speak for all women.

    Actually, I’ve been pondering this, and as presumptuous as that is, they are in truth doing a much worse thing. They are not only trying to speak for all women, they are actively trying to silence other women. They have decided that they and they alone are the gatekeepers and arbiters of who may speak for or about women, even if the speaker is another woman.

    There is a huge difference between saying to a conservative woman “You don’t speak for me”, and saying “You may speak for no women. You are hereby summarily de-gendered.” The first is fair disagreement, the latter is authoritarian and anti-feminist as fuck.

  3. zaladonis says:

    Another great post, Lola.

    I’ve been thinking about this whole flap and why it happened, its genesis. I mean, this will severely damage Rosen’s career and earning potential, which is why her buddies are defending her. So what was so important that this seasoned professional did something that, if she were thinking rationally, she had to know was a fool’s errand. You just don’t attack the spouse or the kids, the unelected schmucks who aren’t responsible for policy and are really just props in a campaign — unless absolutely necessary.

    Ann Romney’s job, obviously, is not to inform her husband about women’s concerns, her job is to show voters that her husband is a man who respects and loves his wife and holds women in general in high regard. If she succeeds at that job, that translates to votes. The Obama campaign must have decided she accomplishes this. (Which makes a great irony of the original line that she’s never worked a day in her life: the thing that sparked this firestorm is the fact that Ann Romney not only works –to help her husband get elected if nothing else– but succeeds at her job.)

    I noticed a long time ago that the point of an Edith Bunker or a Marge Simpson is to make their obnoxious husbands tolerable or even appealing — Edith loving and vouching for Archie means he must have redeeming virtues. Political wives play the same role.

    • Good comment Z. I tell you, I can confirm this. I was absolutely lukewarm about Romeny. I wasn’t even sure I could vote for him. I supected I would because I am all in for ABO, but what I know of him makes him so close to Obama that in some ways I feel it would be throwing my vote away into the same garbage bin of history. However, now I’m energized. I’m not a Romeny fan per se, but if bullcrap like this keeps up, I will enthusiastically vote for him. If he picks a woman VP, all bets are off. I’m all in. That’s what scares Democrats about this. It further entrenches the anger people feel, and it solidifies their sense that the DP has lost its way with women. People like me who may have been unenthusiastic are getting interested now. Votes are being lost as it happens.

      • zaladonis says:

        Yup. I thought I couldn’t vote for Romney even though I’m solidly ABO (was going to vote for Ron Paul, which I realize is pointless but really couldn’t think what else to do), but this has softened me on that. Now I’m seeing the Romneys as more benign than bad, like the country club or church going religious types when I was a kid — I didn’t respect them but they didn’t scare me, seemed to be non-thinkers rather than evil doers. And now I’m thinking if the Romneys are like that, too rich and comfortable and Mormon to have given much thought to our severest problems, that’s better than the Obamas who I really do think are bad people (I’m sure there’s life-experience reason for who they’ve become but that’s for Dr Phil). So while a non-thinking GOP President is not what I want in the White House, I think it’d be better than the damage the Obamas would do with a second term.

        • Go read Mitt Romney’s Wikipedia page – I did that while researching my latest blog post, and the more I read, the more I realized that Mr. Romney is someone that I CAN support.

        • I’ve also been finding more info on Romney that makes him more pallatable to me, Teresa. This thing is backfiring BIGTIME. Just a month ago I was saying no way to Romney. Now I’m saying show me what you’ve got!

        • LOL! My aunt left a comment at my blog about this – she was an accountant, and she is VERY big on Romney; as she says, “He knows how to read a balance sheet”!

      • After what happened to Sarah Palin in 2008, I would be VERY surprised if any woman WANTS to run for Vice President….

  4. paper doll says:

    Excellent post, thanks. I use to think one of Obama’s jobs ( his actual ones I mean ) was to destory the Dem party. Now I see it’s also to rehab the post Bush 2 GOP. He and his handlers are doing a hellva job . But regardless of which party is currently installed, sadly the wars will expand

  5. henriettanorth says:

    Such a good post Anna Belle! I’ve been amazed to see the likes of Jessica Valenti and Violet Sox join forces on this issue. So thank you for making me feel not alone on this issue. While I am not poor, I do struggle to pay the bills each month and I often have to make choices about which bills to pay and which bills not to pay. I am also (mostly) a SAHM who works very part time in the evening. I cannot afford to work full-time until my daughter starts first grade because my income is low and childcare is expensive. Like you stated, I do not relate with Joan Walsh and I find Ann Romney infinitely more relatable. This is one of the jobs political wives have long had – relating with female constituents. Since we have never had a Female Prez it is one of the jobs of first ladies to connect with women. Women can better talk with and understand other women on a certain level, even women who disagree with each other politically. I do not like Obama but I relate with Michelle Obama on a level. Of course on many levels I do not. Same with Ann Romney. Acting as if Romney is doing anything out of the ordinary in having his wife speak to and try to relate with and understand American women is nothing but disingenuous.

    I also don’t understand why her work status was an issue AT ALL. If the discussion is about privilege (which frankly, I find irrelevant when considering the privilege of the political and media class) then why does her SAHM status matter? With Romney as her husband, she would have the same privilege whether she chose to work as a teacher, a corporate CEO or a SAHM. It’s absurd and so bringing up her SAHM status was, IMO, a latent scorn that Rosen has for women who do not enter the workforce in what is seen as a timely manner after having children.

    • Speaking as someone who left the workforce to be a SAHM, unless you WANT to work, you might want to “run the numbers” first – when we did that (24 years ago), we were SHOCKED at how little my job added to our coffers after we factored in the additional taxes we had to pay (we got thrown into a much higher tax bracket, and 1/6 of my income was going to pay for taxes alone), SS, Medicare, health insurance, “work” clothes, gas and car maintenance, getting food to go because neither one of us had the energy to cook, and child care.

      My “extra” income worked out to $2.00/hour – and would have gone down to $1.00/hour when we had another child (we ended up having 4) that we would have to put in day care.

      And I can honestly say that our kids needed me at home MORE as they got older – as counter-intuitive as that may seem. There is something quite comforting for a child to know that Mom is going to be there waiting for them when they’ve had a bad day. And when they get to be teenagers, you cannot BELIEVE what a deterrent a SAHM is to overly-hormonal kids with “hanky-panky” on their minds…..

      It’s hard in them thar trenches (and I’ve got the grey hair and wrinkles to prove it!) 😛

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