What the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney Spat Says About Gender and Economics

What Women Really Think
April 12 2012 5:09 PM

What the Hilary Rosen-Ann Romney Spat Says About Gender and Economics   

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Ann Romney

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Hilary Rosen has been roundly bashed for her ill-advised comment that Ann Romney  has “never worked a day in her life,” so I won’t indulge in pointing out the hypocrisy of her statement from earlier today (before she finally apologized) that she  has “no judgments about women who work outside the home versus women who work in the home raising a family” when it was precisely such a judgment got her in trouble in the first place.

I’m more interested in what Rosen had to say about Romney and “women’s economic issues.” In that CNN piece from early Thursday, Rosen writes, “What is more important to me and 57% of current women voters is her husband saying he supports women's economic issues because they are the only issues that matter to us and then he fails on even those.”

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But then Rosen goes on to talk about women’s health issues, like Planned Parenthood funding, and the fact that there were few women executives Romney headed Bain Capital (which he started almost 25 years ago—how many other similar firms had an overabundance of women executives then?). And I think that demonstrates thea fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives on gender and economic issues.

Yes, Ann Romney has given many speeches where she says she’s out talking to women and that economic issues are their top concern. Presumably, if she’s out campaigning, she’s talking mostly to Republican women. And we are less apt to view economic issues through a lens of gender. At least among the conservative women I know, we just want the economy to get better. We don’t care whether it’s our paycheck that gets bigger, or our husband’s, or our sister’s or our neighbor’s. An improved economy helps everyone. We don’t care what kind of jobs are created to replace the millions that have been lost during the recession and so-called recovery. It’s in a similar vein to what Libby Copeland wrote in this space last week—that women don’t care about women’s issues any more than men do. Rosen might think that Romney “fails” on women’s economic issues. If Romney can get into the White House and improve the economy (two big ifs, granted), women will be better off whether those improvements were targeted at them or not.

Rachael Larimore is Slate's managing editor.