We Haven’t Really Come a Long Way, Baby

The current ‘war between women’ pitting Hilary Rosen against Ann Romney is deflecting attention from the true ‘war ON women’ and distracting us from the real question—Who are we voting for?

[Editor's Note: Please keep an eye out later this week for "Patch Back," a new feature from Lisa Bigelow that will serve as a response piece to certain installments of Heather's "Patch In."]

The question isn’t whether Ann Romney ever ‘worked’ a day in her whole life, but: Does her husband Mitt truly give a rat’s ass about anyone—especially women—in the 99 percent?

This made-up battle between working moms and stay-at-home-moms is causing people of every gender to lose focus on more important issues—namely whether politicians are advocating stripping rights from women (like reproductive health choices) or finding ways to penalize them and hold them back (withholding equal pay) or simply having a double standard when it comes to lower- vs. higher-income women (Romney’s welfare mom requirement to work).

Pitting women against other women is demeaning, yet it’s a trap many women fall into themselves. —if you believe the stereotypes. Devoted PTA moms judge worker-bee women who are disconnected from their children and lack any maternal instincts. Or you have smarter, working women with a better sense of themselves and who still use their brains, who look down upon the frustrated, spoiled Stepford wives.

Whoever is doing the judgment making, it’s harsh, no matter the politics.

I recently went to a screening of the fabulous documentary, “Miss Representation,” about the portrayal of women in media and how those images work to undermine women politically, intellectually and societally. The movie shows how women are portrayed as creatures who only merit recognition based on physical beauty and attributes, and how unreal they seem to be in advertising. 

Narrated and produced by a former actress who is seen on screen throughout, she’s a media-friendly, typical ‘beauty’—tall, leggy, blonde and well-dressed. Judging by her looks, she certainly would never have been cast as the stereotypical, bookish academic, which perhaps disarmed the audience.

In the discussion period afterward, about how the audience could relate to the movie’s themes in their own lives, it only took to the second comment before the audience—made up largely of progressive women—started commenting about how distracting it was that the filmmaker was ‘attractive’ and ‘too pretty.’ The message had fallen flat for even this audience of aware, conscious women, who had fallen prey to their own misogynistic judgment. 

Hilary Rosen learned that lesson about being judgmental when she criticized Mitt Romney’s wife Ann for being a stay-at-home-mom last week. Rosen, a widely seen democratic pundit and CNN commentator, characterized Mrs. Romney as someone who “had never worked a day in her life.” She later apologized, especially after getting rebuked by President Obama himself.

Far be it from the left to take all the heat. Shortly after Rosen’s blunder, Fox News analyst Keith Ablow hit the other extreme, criticizing working women as anti-gender and who ‘despise themselves’ for rejecting their ‘femininity and … [natural] capacities to nurture.’

What this polar mischaracterization does is just push women too many steps back—no matter what role they, as is their right, choose to pursue themselves—and it allows those determined to reverse advances women have made in the last 40 years to further their efforts that set women backward.

Long-won reproductive rights?  Those are squarely in the crosshair targets. Single mothers receiving welfare benefits? They’re criticized as in need of the “dignity of work” by Romney, despite his later flip-flopped defense of his wife’s hard work staying home with their kids. What about trying to even up the playing field a bit with equal pay legislation? Only seven GOP U.S. representatives and senators voted to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

I could care less whether Ann Romney stayed home and worked hard raising her sons (regardless of the help she could afford to have); it didn't mean anything to me that Michelle Obama had a career outside of the home and earned more than her husband had before he was President.

What I'm looking into is where the candidates stand on the issues I care about—not what jobs their spouses had or didn't have.

I sure hope that other women try to pay attention over the distracting noise, and make up their own minds too. A poll at the beginning of April saw President Obama with a 19 percentage point lead in his approval rating over Romney with women voters. A CNN poll out just this past Monday, indicates that women are continuing to see through the misleading manufactured muck and sticking with the candidate they view as more favorable to women’s issues: Obama is still strong with a 16-point advantage.

There’s a lot of ground and time to cover before the elections next November. I wonder how many more “woman vs. woman” stories we’ll get to hear before we get there?


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