Shut Up and Listen

Paul Jacob

4/15/2012 12:00:29 AM - Paul Jacob

Sometimes men should shut up and be good listeners. Especially when the issue is about women. What do men know?

Look, I’ll be the first guy to plead guilty for my gender, that we don’t know anything about women. Zip, zero, zilch. Moreover, we’re listening-challenged — though that, arguably, is a species-wide malady.

Nonetheless, we males still know something about the issue of working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers. After all, some of our favorite mothers were and are working or stay-at-home moms.

We’re sensitive, too — and a tad squeamish — when we see the scab picked off that Superwoman scrape, as happened last week, when Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, charged that Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mom for five boys and best known as the better half of presidential candidate Mitt, had “never worked a day in her life.”

Mothers who are homemakers and rearing children were outraged. And had every reason to be. Their husbands, as I can attest, were offended as well. As were many others.

Stay-at-home mothers work. Hard. And long hours. So, there!

Hilary R’s off-hand and out-of-mind comment echoed a similar statement from another Hillary R. Back in 1992, Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.”

Does anyone believe it harmful for a mother (or father) to stay home to rear the children, rather than to work?

It would be hard to make that case, not if staying at home was a personal choice rationally made.

So, why the condescension from Hillary and Hilary? Mrs. Clinton is too well-schooled these days to repeat her gaffe, and one can easily bet that Hilary Rosen will do her level best to avoid stepping on this land mine again. But do they still harbor the view that mothers who stay home to rear children are second-class, unaccomplished women?

To me, it’s not just that oven-baked desserts taste really good. From a political standpoint, I’d like to know whether someone who seeks to have a finger on so many buttons considers the job of stay-at-home mom to be important. President and candidate Barack Obama was quick to side with his likely opponent’s spouse and come out decisively in favor of motherhood and the baking of apple pies — if not (due to recent food policies imposed on him in his own home) chocolate chip cookies.

Appearing on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Rosen added, after denouncing Ann Romney’s work habits, that “She’s never really dealt with the kinds 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, and, and how do we worry — and, why do we worry about their future.”

See, the damage-control folks argue that Rosen wasn’t attacking Mrs. Romney’s decision to stay home and rear her kids at all, merely her commission of that heinous crime of BWIA (Being Wealthy in America). Get it straight folks, Mrs. Romney’s views are not to be ignored because she’s a homemaker, but because she’s rich.

That bias is supposed to be okay; it’s nearly official national policy. Rich people, unless they’re clamoring for their arms to be twisted so they must fork over more in taxes, are to be shunned, barely tolerated — not arrested, mind you, but certainly watched, shaken down and held in public disrepute.

Thus, though a devoted and hardworking mother, Ann Romney, as a member of this un-trusted class, has nothing to teach anyone.

It’s true that Romney doesn’t worry about budgeting her kids’ meals; she probably never has. She has that in common with the overwhelming majority of Americans — the hyperbolic rhetoric of well-paid political hacks (and Jane Fonda) notwithstanding.

Yet, surely, Mrs. Romney once worried about her sons’ educations. All five do appear to have been well schooled.

Contra the trends of class warfare, I bet we can rest assured that no matter how wealthy a person is, that person will worry about his or her children. Oh, and the future.

And if you prick Mrs. Romney’s finger, she does bleed. Eh?

Funny, though, Rosen’s main assault wasn’t on Ann Romney at all. It was on Mitt Romney. After condescendingly criticizing Mrs. Romney as a non-person, Rosen declared that “there’s something much more fundamental about Mitt, because he seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women. . . . He just doesn’t really see us as equal.”

Tough charge. Yet, Rosen didn’t cite one issue or a single stance taken by Romney to back up her contention that Mitt Romney hates women and wants to make women second-class citizens . . . as Rosen had just attempted to do to his wife.

For the record, Mitt Romney is not my preferred candidate. Yet I respect the wealth he has earned. He may be old-fashioned, but if remaining married to his wife and helping their raise five kids is old-fashioned, let’s place an order for more.