Friday, April 13, 2012

Is it sexist to protect the wives of political candidates? Your thoughts?

   I do claim to be a feminist, and thus I do try to call out sexism when I see it. I've been noticing what seems to be a bit of sexism in presidential politics that got hot yesterday.

   The trigger event apparently occurred Tuesday night on CNN when Hillary Rosen suggested "it was wrong for Mitt Romney to be using [Ann Romney] as his guide to women's economic struggles when she 'had never worked a day in her life.'" I don't find it as all that horrible of a remark. Rosen was specifically talking about how Ann Romney had a job that pays actual money, whether it be in private industry, government, etc. However, since Rosen just said "work," she phrased her remark in a way that left it vulnerable to being taken out of context, like in the response she received from Ann Romney:

   It has been quite disappointing that this has been turned into a supposed attack on mothers. It wasn't. (Never mind that this was likely viewed as an opportunity to distract from the Republican's "War on Women.") Perhaps the most disappointing thing I saw were comments from President Obama that I heard this morning in his attempts to play defense. (Interestingly, the interviewer was from my local ABC affiliate!)

I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates. My general view is those of us who are in the public life, we’re fair game. Our families are civilians.
   My big problem with this is that, the way I see it, Mitt Romney brought his wife into the public when he said, "My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy." I can understand the families being off limits when they don't really do anything for their candidate other than make appearances with them, but if they are actively campaigning and serving as an adviser on women? Does that not put them in "public life"?

   Now, when I first saw the Obama comment, I was thinking it may have been a bit sexist, hence the title of this post. I was thinking this was maybe even some misogynistic "protect the vulnerable women" move. As I've been writing, I'm no longer sure. I may be seeing it that way because so often presidential candidates are male. But then I had to think back four years ago when Sarah Palin was on the ballot for vice president. (Hillary Clinton doesn't count because Bill Clinton was obviously in the "public life") A lot of the focus on her family was on her pregnant daughter, but didn't she even try to declare her husband Todd off limits? It's been a while, so my memory is not clear on this. But if that is the case, this may just be politics at its worst—family members are used as tools. It's not right for candidates to use their families to enhance their image, but then be hostile to criticism.

Your thoughts?

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