I don't write about politics often. I want this blog to be a politically neutral place. Sometimes, though, the political touches my life in a way that I do want to share. After all, you know we must be a political family, what with our debate jelly beans and all.
A couple months ago I wrote about Mitt Romney's quote regarding the “dignity of work”, which I found deeply offensive. Today the Internet is on fire with binders full of women. But if we dig beyond the hilarity of women, three-hole punchers, and binders, the content of Romney's answers regarding women were deeply disturbing.
First let's consider the simple fact that a longtime CEO and elected official didn't seem to have any idea where he might find a qualified woman so he had to “ask” special interest groups; women's special interest groups. Even though women are disproportionately under represented in the upper echelons of business and government, I find it hard to believe that Romney hadn't found one or two qualified women in or near his circle in 25 years. I'm a stay-at-home parent and I know that men are disproportionately under represented in my field and I certainly spend more time chatting with moms than dads, but after a mere six years I have run across a handful of stay-at-home dads… Thank goodness Romney had those binders full of women.
More subtly, I found Romney's tone with Candy Crowly (the moderator), to be less respectful than his tone with President Obama or Jim Lehrer. He was more likely to interrupt her and to continue interrupting her. He was more dismissive of the things she said. Also, when I scanned the transcript, it seemed to me that he gave less direct answers to the women's questions. He was more likely to ignore what they said, slide around it, and do the classic debate pivot to what he wanted to talk about when being questioned by a woman.
But let's look at the section on pay-equity. Mitt Romney said:
My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can't be here until 7 or 8 o'clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o'clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.
That looks good right? Nice and supportive. Except… Between the lines. Of course she should go home early and cook for her husband and kids because that is what women do. It's where they truly belong and everything should be done to help them be there. I believe in flexible schedules and I certainly think that the American workplace puts too much stress on getting the job done and ever increasing hours and not enough focus on balanced work and family time. I just wonder how Romney would have responded to a male chief of staff with the same request…
So that's not so great, in my eyes. It looks okay, but if you contemplate both his binders of women and his slippery non-answer on pay equity you can see easily extrapolate that Romney doesn't see women as qualified as men in the work place. Better to get them home so they can cook dinner…and if they have those flexible benefits they don't deserve to make as much as a male counterpart, right?
There's one more here that I think deserves attention:
…in the economy I'm going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women.
Why women specifically? Because the magical Mitt economy will be just so darn good that all the men will be employed and employers will be so desperate for more employees that they will be willing to settle on women? Even though we are, apparently, only 72% as qualified as men? I missed this statement on my first run through the debate. It was last night, re-watching it with the kids, that this part of the answer leapt out at me. Watching I noticed that even the way Romney's body language seems to show how little he regards women as truly valid members of his society.
What about his answer on gun violence and banning assault weapons? Romney said:
We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that's not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that's a great idea.
And again, this looks good at the initial overview. I do think we need better supports in place to get parents good, quality time with their kids, and we know that kids with involved parents tend to do better in the long run. But to lay the burden of gun violence at the feet of single parents is insane – especially since several notable shooters (Aurora for a recent example) are from homes with married parents. Where are all these disgruntled children of single parents slinging their assault weapons through the mall?
We know that single parents tend to be (again) disproportionally moms. I'm not negating the single dads out there, but I bet Romney was actually trying to evoke the image of single, teenage, “welfare” moms. Let's get those girls married! Let's slip around this issue of banning assault rifles and focus on getting those pesky, drive-by causing, single moms under control. Never mind that he wants to evisscerate Planned Parenthood and our rights to abortion – programs that prevent single parenthood – as well as the social programs that keep single moms able to give loving care to their families.
Mitt Romney has binders full of women, or so he claims. And I think that if we tweak that silly comment just a little bit, we arrive at the real truth. Mitt Romney has binders for women. He wants to limit my access to health care for my reproductive system. He wants me to find a magical balance between being a productive member of employed society (provided I can find someone anxious to hire me) and keeping that husband fed and children appropriately cared for.
Romeny's positions on issues that directly affect women are hard to pin down. Should we have the dignity of work? Or aren't we qualified? Should we be staying home with our kids so they don't go shooting up the public or should we get our butts to the office (as long as we are home to cook dinner, of course)? I'm confused.
What I'm not confused about is who will be the better President for the women who live, work, and love in this great country of ours. It's not Mitt Romney.