Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Portland girl weighs in on the Hillary Rosen kerfuffle

Portland is a place where people go their own way.  That's one of my favorite things about this city.  Another of my favorite things about Portland is that we are proud and voracious readers.
It's not unusual to see a person walking down the street reading a book.  We read in coffee houses.  We read at Powell's.  It's a place where it's cool to be smart.
This Portland girl is therefore about to do two predictable Portland things:  1) Move outside the bounds of popular opinion; and 2) read about a subject before I open my mouth.
Mitt Romney, the inevitable Republican candidate for president, recently commented that he uses his wife, Ann, as his expert on women’s issues.  Ann is a stay at home mother of five boys, a breast cancer survivor and suffers from multiple sclerosis.  To the extent that she represents the interests of independently wealthy married women who stay at home to raise their children, breast cancer survivors who have access to the best health care in the country and those who fight to overcome an incurable autoimmune disease that affects central nervous system, Mitt's reliance upon his wife for advice about women's issues is relevant and admirable.
The totality of women's issues, however, are far more numerous than those in the realm of Ann Romney's experience.  For instance, the average American woman
  • Lives longer than men,
  • Earns about 20% less than men, and
  • Spends eleven of her productive earning years as an unpaid family caregiver
In light of these facts, it's not surprising to find that twice the number of elderly women live in poverty than elderly men.
Hillary Rosen's comment that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” was admittedly inaccurate.  Any reasonable person knows that raising a family is hard work.  What is true, though, is that Ann never worked outside her home a day in her life.  That means that women's financial issues pertaining to half the US workforce, and over half of all women, are not shared by Ann Romney.  When Mitt seeks counsel from his expert on women's issues, his expert is one who is lacking in background and experience that pertain to a majority of other women.
Ms. Rosen's comment should not digress into a commentary about whether women who raise families are working.  They most certainly are.
But they are not experts in the issues faced by women who work outside the home.
That is the issue.

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