In last night's presidential debate, Governor Romney managed to offend me and other women in both new and creative ways. It was astounding, really. He made these seemingly throwaway comments that, twelve hours later, are still gnawing at me.
Full disclosure: I am not of any concern to Mitt or his campaign. First of all, I live in Illinois, where I have yet to see a single campaign ad. Team Romney is not seeking my vote, nor does it matter to them. I'm an Obama supporter, which was probably clear to you after reading my headline.
That said, I am an interested participant in our democracy. I am the geek that will watch all three presidential debates, not to mention last week's vice presidential sparring. Every four years I indulge myself.
Last night, in response to a young woman's question about lessening the wage gap between men and women in the workplace (it felt like a flashback to 1984, honestly), Mitt started talking about things like binders and moms utilizing flex-time to go home early and fix dinner.
The thinly-veiled misogyny in Mitt's responses has me reeling. Why is it that women, moms specifically, need to go home and make dinner? Where are the men? Do men not eat? Do men not cook? Do men go hungry, waiting for their working women to tend to their most basic of human needs?
In choosing those words and sharing anecdotal evidence of his progressive work place strategies, he both dates and outs himself. He makes himself the helper of women, and it is through his beneficence that moms can cook and tend to their families. Thank you, Mitt. Truly, thank you.
We need to embrace a culture that does not continue to restrict the duties of the home -- which are really very important to a family's well-being -- to women. You know who should be cooking and cleaning and shopping and tending children and laundering? Parents. If the family leaders -- either one or two parents, male or female -- make specific arrangements that one will work outside the home and one will work inside the home, all is good. A decision has been made and agreed upon. Cue the songbirds.
If the finances are such that both parents, should there be two parents, need to work outside the home, do not assume that all of the work that must continue to be done inside the home -- IMPORTANT WORK -- will be done by women, specifically mom. MOM is not code for 'managing others' messes.'
Last night, Romney revealed to us all his narrow, narrow understanding of the American family. To him, that is a husband/father, a wife/mother and a number of adorable children -- the more children, the better. If a family should lack a husband/father, that family runs the risk of children playing with AK-47s. If that family should include two moms or two dads, well, let's just not talk about that, alright?
So much has already been said and written about the binders of women Romney commissioned. What I haven't seen is an exploration of how completely condescending and paternalistic that comment was. Here was Mitt, casting himself as the beneficent patron of women. Are we to honestly believe that in 2002, Team Romney could find NO qualified female candidates for cabinet posts? Really? And if was only through the helping hand of Governor Romney that women were allowed into the inner sanctum of Massachusetts governance? Really?
I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I -- and I went to my staff, and I said, 'How come all the people for these jobs are -- are all men?' They said, 'Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.' And I said, 'Well, gosh, can't we -- can't we find some -- some women that are also qualified?' And so we -- we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women.
Apparently, I am supposed to be grateful to Mitt for helping a gal out. Um, no. I am not grateful. I am scared. Truly scared.
On paper, Mitt Romney would love me. I am white, a home owner, a mother, my husband is the sole income earner and yes, I cook and clean for our family. In reality, I challenge everything he stands for. His positions related to women are alarmingly dangerous to my sisters young and old. They are dangerous to families, too, as women are such a strong thread in the family fabric.
I will not cook for you, Mitt, but I may give you some of my old binders, which have been collecting dust since 1991. Seems like you need them.