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.