By Richard Larsen
Do moms who choose to stay at home just sit around and “bake cookies and have teas,” as Hillary Clinton mocked many years ago? Or are they shirking their domestic and familial duties when they enter the workforce or public life, as Howard Gutman, a member of Obama’s campaign insinuated in his accusations against Sarah Palin?
The issue of gender stereotyping surfaced this week with some ill-advised comments by a political activist.
“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.” For being a public relations specialist working for the Democrat National Committee, Hilary Rosen’s effused foot-in-mouth statement on MSNBC’s Anderson Cooper Show betrayed an ignorance and insensitivity toward moms who work at home, when she criticized Ann Romney, a cancer and multiple sclerosis survivor, mother of five, and a stay at home mom.
There is probably no job more difficult and challenging, and conversely, rewarding, than providing for the temporal, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of children. Yet the mainstream media and vocal advocates for the feminist movement, as characterized by Ms. Rosen, would have us believe that motherhood’s not hard work and should not be a preferred lifestyle for women.
W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia claims these are false perceptions, and asserts, “Many in the media and academia think working women are one way, and that stay-at-home wives and mothers are another way. This overlooks the fact that many women who work outside the home would like to work less or not at all. That is, they are working because they feel they have to, not because they want to.”
Wilcox bases his analysis on the 2000 National Survey of Marriage and Family Life, which, as he explains, “Indicates that, among married mothers with children in the home under 18, only 18 percent of married mothers would prefer to work full-time; by contrast, 46 percent would prefer to work part-time, and 36 percent would prefer to stay at home. Clearly, the most popular option for married mothers is part-time work, whereas only about one-fifth of these mothers would prefer to work full time.” In other words, 82% of women with children under 18, would prefer to work less or not at all.
It seems ironic that the same people who are such advocates for “choice” in terminating unborn children, seem almost apoplectic and cynically critical over women who exercise a “choice” to remain at home to rear their children. Yet the irony and duplicity doesn’t stop there. For even Ms. Rosen, who was the head of the Recording Industry Association of America, resigned in 2003, to “spend more time with her family,” which consisted of her then-partner, Elizabeth Birch, and their adopted twins, Jacob and Anna, according to Politico.
After the news of Ms. Rosen’s gaffe hit the airwaves, The Washington Post featured the story online with an opportunity to vote, “Is raising a family hard work?” or “She’s right, Ann Romney is out of touch with the issues facing working women.” 97% of respondents voted that raising a family is indeed hard work.
Too many political analysts and pundits characterize the “women’s vote” as a monolithic block that votes based on perceptions regarding female reproductive rights or other gender-specific issues. It presumes that their primary concerns are somehow different than everyone else’s.
Yet in the real world, I find women mostly concerned with the same issues that preoccupy men as it relates to politics: the national debt, the spending deficit, high unemployment, the security of the nation, government intrusion into our private lives, government control of our economy, and over-regulation that curtails economic growth. In other words, they’re a demographic segment with the same concerns as men, yet with some sensitivity to the aforementioned perceived priorities.
Really the so-called “war on women” is, and always has been, an exercise from the left of the political spectrum. Media, academia, and feminists who want to define for women what they should want and choose, rather than letting them choose for themselves. Women are no less diverse, concerned with national issues, or inclined to stereotypical archetypes than men or any other demographic group is.
For yet another major political figure to erroneously attempt to define women in as limited a fashion as Ms. Rosen did, not only seeks to restrict women’s ability to “choose” for themselves what to do in life, but limits definitionally what is a viable life-style choice for women. That, my friends, is what I would call a real, rather than an artificially concocted, “war on women.”
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