The Real “War on Women”

There was quite an uproar from both political parties when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen commented to Anderson Cooper on April 11 that “Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life.” Duh. Raising five kids – boys yet – isn’t work? Rosen went further, saying that Ann can’t relate to American women because “she’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing.” Oh, please. That logic is ridiculous.

If that argument is used, apply it to President Obama and his Health Care Bill. Does he have to be on Medicaid to understand the health care needs of the poor? Do all members of Congress have to be women to understand why free contraception might be a good idea?

What Rosen said was not just stupid, but divisive and mean, because in essence, she was saying that women who choose to work within their homes are clueless when it comes to “real” women’s issues like economics. Naw. She meant women of means don’t have to worry about economic issues – you know, the 1 percent. So Ann Romney can’t relate to American women because “she’s one of them.”

And that’s where it gets scary. Back in the ‘60s, I championed for a woman’s right to choose. Class warfare didn’t enter into the mix. This was simply a matter of choice. Never did it occur to us that there would been distain for women who chose to work within their homes. It was simply an option, often based on household income. We were championing women’s rights to be fairly represented in the workforce, in government and as entrepreneurs who had a fair chance at obtaining a government contract. As more career opportunities opened up for women, our numbers increased in the workforce. We liked the lifestyle a two-income household provided. While we embraced the concept of diversity of human experience, we also were very aware of the hardships single working mothers and others faced. Thus, we campaigned for on-site day care centers at work. Flextime. Tax breaks. Many of us never had children, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t comprehend the plight of the single mother trying to feed, clothe and educate her kids. Back then, the best-selling book, The Women’s Room, became a must-read for feminists and those ready to take the feminist plunge. The author, Marilyn French, made an argument for choice.

But let’s be logical about the Ann Romney uproar: She has five children, a wealthy husband, has had breast cancer and has multiple sclerosis. Plus, she’s the wife of an ambitious politician running for president. She’s managed to make 110 event appearances on her husband’s behalf in just the first three months of 2012. I have the feeling that had she wanted to, she would have pursued the career of her choice, and dealt with family, health and time management. Instead, she chose the mommy track. So what? She had a choice and chose.

Let’s not pit women in the workforce against women working within their homes. The haves and the have-nots. The idea of a political party conducting “a war on women.” If you think that there’s a political war against women, the reality is that both political parties have not kept up with the times and this in itself hurts women. Outdated policies, developed back in the 1950s when few women were in the workforce, haven’t been revised to be compatible with the enormous shifts in American society. Antiquated labor laws, resistance to reform, punitive tax burdens – these are just some of the discriminatory issues against women that neither political party wants to tackle. This is a job for Congress and perhaps it’s time we questioned why our elected officials want to punish us with old laws from old times. Of course we know the answer: they only care about getting re-elected.



About Sherren Leigh

Sherren Leigh is president and founder of Today's Chicago Woman and Today's Chicago Woman Foundation. She muses about life - the good, the bad, the ugly - and anything else that's on her mind in “Girl Talk.” Sometimes funny, other times serious, she's always thought-provoking and often controversial.