In 2005, the Harris County Young Democrats invited Dr. Richard Murray, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston to discuss what the major contributing factors to the 2004 loss of John Kerry to George W. Bush. The wisdom he imparted with our organization has never left me, and it’s something I think about each and every time there is an election.
In 2004, the Republicans didn’t just execute Karl Rove’s plan to push polarizing social issues on the ballot in battleground states, like Ohio, where gay marriage was poised to bring out the Conservative Republicans in droves. If you remember the RNC’s Convention from that year, you clearly remember the words “Patriot”, “Freedom”, “Terrorist”, “Safety”, and “9/11”. It personally sickened me to watch politicians use one of this nation’s most traumatizing events as a way to win elections, but nothing really surprises me in politics, at least not anymore.
Prior to 2004, women were, in large part, Democrats. They could be counted on to vote for Democrats, because of issues like abortion, education, health care, and just, in general, their rights. Say what you will, but the Republican Party has always been on the wrong side of that argument, with few exceptions within their party. As such, Democrats stopped wooing women. They stopped having the conversations with them, about their rights, and women, who were largely comfortable in the gains they had made, by and large backed away from continuing the fight. There was no greater evidence of this, than in 2004, when “security” overtook “rights”, especially in the “soccer mom” world.
“Soccer mom’s” or “Hockey mom’s” began to align themselves more with the Republican Party. This is a part of the demographic that Sarah Palin spoke to. Sure, most of them still cared about reproductive rights, equal pay, and access to fair health care, but most of them were also comfortable and cared more about protecting their family from further harm, because there were probably terrorists on every corner, so better safe than sorry.
Which is why I was so heartened (and honestly, a bit amused) to watch as so many women started to get incensed this year, especially at the loss of the Women’s Health Program in Texas and at the “Personhood Amendments” in other states. The Republican Party started targeting these initiatives because they are being pulled to the socially conservative right - where evangelical extremists reign in their party. In their mind, they’re catering to the Christian base and the Christian elite and it’s a winning strategy. It’s a winning strategy because women, by and large, have allowed them to get to that point.
However, women began to really grasp what the change in these laws meant, especially after they had been signed into law, and almost immediately, the backlash against those laws began. Democrats began to understand how they had failed to reach out to this key group of voters, they began shaping the arguments in common sense ways. The Feminist movement wasn’t dead after all….
Until Hillary Rosen spoke last night.
The biggest problem in the Feminist movement isn’t women against men. It’s sadly, women against women. Career women who want the right to work, with equal pay, and respect from men in their fields often look down their noses at women who choose to stay home with their children, and women who choose to stay home with their children often do the same to women who choose to work.
Maybe Ms. Rosen meant well, but she incited that group of women, by saying that they “don’t work”. Maybe Ann Romney hasn’t had to scrimp or maybe she hasn’t had to do ordinary household chores without the aid of a maid. Honestly? I don’t know. But any women that has given birth to five children has worked more than a day in her life. Whether she has had help or not, she didn’t have help in the delivery room, she didn’t have help in recovery, and I’m sure even with help, Ann Romney was up all hours of the night either changing a diaper, comforting a quiet baby or sick child, running a child to the doctor, whatever the case may be.
The problem is, there are a lot of women who choose not to work, and that isn’t always an easy decision. Stay at home moms, who do not have Ann Romney’s bank account, do clip coupons, scrimp, save, and often, take on a lot more obligations than just lounging around their homes, eating bon-bons. These are the women that volunteer in schools, in hospitals, in elderly homes. These are women that take on many burdens without pay, but do it out of a sense of obligation to society. The myth that they have more time to do so, because they aren’t chained to their professional careers is just that: a myth.
Ann Romney may not understand the burdens of the average middle class stay at home mom, but she understands how hard they work. So, Ms. Rosen, you handed the Republicans a key group that was just starting to realize the harm of the Conservative Christian Republican base. Worse: they were just starting to get active. You need to apologize, not just to Ann Romney, but you need to do some serious soul searching. You had the luxury of pursuing an education and a career path that fulfilled you in many ways. Why do you turn your nose up at women who do the same by staying at home and taking care of their families and their communities?
Ms. Rosen is doing far more harm to the Feminist movement than she is helping. She needs to apologize, and she must apologize for committing the same crime that has befallen this movement time and again. We do not seek to pit women against women. All women need to work together, because, if we don’t, we will lose all of the rights we’ve gained, including the many that make it acceptable in this society for Ms. Rosen to go on television and work. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to still have all of the options available to me, as a woman. No matter what my choice is.