Published in Role / Reboot: Make Sense of Men & Women April 19, 2012
Article by Kate McGuinness
There is no way to measure whose lot is harder, and it shouldn’t matter anyway. In the wake of Hilary Rosen’s comments about stay-at-home mother Ann Romney, Kate McGuinness urges women to stop letting political rhetoric interfere with solidarity.
The latest skirmish in the battle for women’s votes centers on whether it’s “harder” to be a stay-at-home mother of five boys or a women who works for a paycheck. This debate was sparked when Ann Romney tweeted that staying at home to raise five boys was hard work. Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, observed that Mrs. Romney had “never worked a day in her life.”
These comments (and the spin doctors’ comments on the comments) re-ignited the war between women who work for a paycheck and women who work in the home. Whose life is “harder”? Even President Obama joined in the fray when he said, “There is no tougher job than being a mom.” Should we then conclude that Michelle Obama is better suited to be leader of the free world?
But the President and his sidekicks who fell all over themselves in apologizing for Rosen were victims of a trap cleverly set by the Romneys. Ann Romney giddily announced at her birthday party on Sunday that, “It was my early birthday present for someone to be critical of me as a mother. And that was really a defining moment, and I loved it.’’
Mrs. Romney apparently shares her husband’s habit of ill-considered words. Although the lavish party/fundraiser was held at Donald Trump’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla., reporters standing on the sidewalk overheard her remarks broadcast to supporters over a microphone.
Even before news of Ann Romney’s exultation had leaked, I wondered if the animus between these groups has been enlivened to divide women and sap our strength. There is no reason for these artificial battle lines. Can’t we simply acknowledge that the day-to-day burdens and concerns of these two groups may be different?
What yardstick could we possibly use to determine whose lot is “harder”? Is it harder to be a doctor or a pilot? An accountant or a reporter? Is it harder to be the stay-at-home mother of five boys or one autistic girl?
Dividing women into these groups also ignores the majority of women in the country today who are both mothers and work for a paycheck. Moreover, it perpetuates the notion that women have primary responsibility for childcare and ignores the many fathers who stay at home and shoulder that responsibility.
Women, regardless of where or how they work, need to unite to gain and preserve our human rights. Citizens of the United States think of our country as advanced, as “the home of the free.” But in many ways, our government fails to comply with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Today, our right to bodily autonomy, to determine whether and when to carry a child, is under widespread attack. State abortion restrictions violate Article 3 of the U. N. Declaration, which calls for the “liberty and security of person” and Article 5 prohibiting “inhuman or degrading treatment” as well as Article 12 barring “arbitrary interference” with privacy.
Our Congress dithers over passage of the Violence Against Women Act, legislation providing for the “security” of women’s bodies consistent with Article 3. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley opposed the Act’s passage out of the Judiciary Committee because it protects “too many victims.” How is it possible to protect too many victims?
The War on Women is raging. Let’s not be distracted by political rhetoric about which women have a harder life. Regardless of where or how we work, regardless of whether or not we are mothers, we must stand together to defend our human rights.
Kate McGuinness is a lawyer who spent 17 years at Biglaw before becoming the general counsel of a Fortune 500 corporation. After leaving that position, she studied creative writing and is the author of a legal suspense novel Terminal Ambition, which will be published early in 2012. She is an advocate for women and tweets as @womnsrightswrter.
Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr