Last night, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s wife of 43 years, Ann Romney, addressed delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. The speech, which CNN’s David Gergen compared to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, sought to humanize Mitt Romney, who has struggled with likeability ratings throughout the Republican Primary.
Plenty of pundits echoed Gergen’s gushing praise of Ann Romney’s speech. In fact, most of the conservative commentary that I read seemed to wish, deep down, that it was Ann and not Mitt Romney at the top of their ticket – I mean, if she didn’t have ovaries and the rest of that whole “woman” thing going on.
I didn’t listen to Ann Romney’s speech live, mainly because I care about my health and sanity. I find the GOP’s trotting out of conservative women to line up for Mitt Romney offensive and patronizing, but I suppose it’s better than having Republidudes lined up to mansplain to all us ladies about what is best for us.
However, there is a large swath of this country that Ann Romney would appeal to: mothers, conservative women, and wealthy women. This appeal, though, is all an illusion. Ann Romney knows about the plight of the “common woman” in the same way that her multi-millionaire husband understands the “common man.”
I’m sure Ann Romney is a lovely woman, but she is a little disingenuous when she talks about her life as a hard-working wife and mother. Sure, raising children is one of the most difficult tasks on the planet, but it’s significantly easier when you have financial security and the means to hire help and send your children to top-tier private educational institutions.
It’s important to put Ann Romney’s remarks into perspective. She took the podium at the RNC last night to encourage the ladies to trust her husband – something that Mitt hasn’t been able to do himself. In fact, she spent a majority of her speech appealing directly to women, mothers in particular:
“And if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the women sighing a little bit more than the men. It’s how it is, isn’t it?”
“It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right.”
“It’s the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters.”
Give me a break, Ann. Earlier this year, your husband said that stay-at-home mothers should enjoy the “dignity of work,” and accept federal day care assistance so that they can get a job. When he was criticized for those remarks, you told us that you made a “choice” to be a stay-at-home-mom.
I believe you, I do. I also believe that choice becomes significantly easier when you marry into $600 million. Ann Romney never knew the pain of not being able to afford to take your child to the doctor, to worry about putting food on the table. Ann Romney never had to miss a piano recital or football game because she couldn’t switch her 12 hour shift.
She then goes on to talk about their “poor days.” They apparently had a desk that was a door propped up on some sawhorses. They had to eat pasta and tuna fish. Ann Romney calls these days “special.” The rest of us don’t tend to see our days of eating Ramen noodles and worrying about putting gas in our cars as particularly whimsical.
This is why I find Ann Romney’s remarks so patronizing to the women and mothers of this country. Ann is simply echoing the other classist arguments that Republicans have used for years – if it’s so easy for us to accumulate wealth, why can’t all you poor people just hurry up and get rich and do the right thing already?
I also don’t doubt that beating breast cancer and battling multiple sclerosis isn’t an easy row to hoe. It’s not. But it’s significantly easier when you have access to the best care in the country, health insurance, and don’t have to worry about losing your job for going to the doctor. There are countless women who are struggling with debilitating illness that raise their children, go to their jobs, and suffer silently.
They don’t have a millionaire husband or a platform to share their stories. In fact, the Republican party wouldn’t give any of them a minute of time at the podium at the RNC – they’re told to stop whining, pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and get over it already.
This speech shines a light on the fundamental issue of this presidential election – class. Mitt and Ann Romney come from a place of wealth that the majority of us will never see. While we’re toiling away to pay our rent and student loans, Mitt and Ann are sending horses to the Olympics.
The policies that Mitt Romney would seek to enact (or repeal) would disproportionately affect women. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, banning abortion with no exceptions, defunding Planned Parenthood, and cutting Medicare and Medicaid are all women’s issues. Based on all of that, why exactly should women trust Mitt Romney?
Oh, right. Because he and his Republican buddies know what is best for “us women.” They’ve proven that with the deluge of anti-woman legislation that we’ve seen across the country this year.
And, of course, because he is rich and successful. And a safe ride home from the high school dance? Or something?
You can read the full text of Ann Romney’s speech here.
Amy is a social media strategist living in Dallas, Texas. She likes music, trashy TV, and ladybiz. tweet: @aemccarthy