Rosen vs. Romney is not exactly high noon at the Powder Puff Arena. But it provides an insight or two in the gender games at the center of the culture: Trendy lesbian working mom, a public relations strategist raising adopted children, attacks traditional super mom for staying home to raise five sons.
This is not exactly a rumble in the jungle or the thrilla in Manila, but the way it's hyped, you might think it's a fight that would frighten Muhammad Ali, a thriller if not for the ages at least for this news cycle.
Rosen vs. Romney is supposed to be another battle in the mommy wars, but it's not. There's little to add to the argument of working mother vs. stay-at-home mom; most any woman will tell you that she can do whatever she pleases, depending, of course, on her finances, her abilities and her personal psychology. Few people any longer judge a woman by her decision, now that we know the trade-offs. If stay-at-home moms express sympathy for the career woman who is stressed to the max and misses the day-to-day domestic milestones of her children, the fatigued full-time moms joke about "drowning in the car pool." Life is not fair for anyone.
The actual conflicting choices for women today are wrought by a new set of problems quite outside the arena where Ann Romney and Hillary Rosen live. They're privileged mature women who have cultural supports, financial assets and educated abilities to prosper in the paths they've chosen. The controversy revives debate over the question that stumped Freud and continues to perplex all of us, whether we like it or not: "What do women want?"
The feminine mystique is long gone, but so is the militant feminism of the 1960s that insisted that only work defines the female. Feminists know how wrong Betty Friedan was when she described the traditional woman's life as a life lived in a "comfortable concentration camp." For many working women, there's more than a little nostalgia for breadwinning fathers who take pride in the responsibility for the family. There's renewed appreciation for full-time mothers who had time to nurture independence in their daughters.