bullshit is not news

So a couple of days ago a political pundit name Hilary Rosen was talking about the whole constellation of policies that have been labeled as the ‘Republican War on Women.’ She mentioned that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney often cites his wife as his source of information about women’s issues, including how the economy affects women in particular. And then she said this:

His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we — why we worry about their future.

It seems obvious from the context that what Rosen was saying was that Ann Romney has never been employed a day in her life–which is accurate. But of course the conservative media immediately pilloried Rosen for ‘insulting stay-at-home-moms’ and ‘attacking Ann Romney.’ The other news outlets responded like sharks in chum-filled waters.

Mrs. Romney went on FOX News (the safe conservative ‘news’ channel) to defend herself. She said this:

My career choice was to be a mother, and I think all of us need to know we need to respect choices that women make. Other women make choices to have a career and raise a family, which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that, that’s wonderful. But there are other people that have a choice, and we have to respect women and all those choices that they make.

It doesn’t need to be pointed out that a parent (father or mother) electing to stay home and care for children is a legitimate choice. It apparently DOES need to be pointed out, though, that it’s not a choice every parent has. A lot of parents who would like to make that choice simply can’t–sometimes because there’s only one parent, sometimes because it takes two incomes to pay all the bills. When Ann Romney says “I think all of us need to know we need to respect choices that women make,” I can agree with her wholeheartedly. But I can also say that for a lot of women those choices include affordable contraception and, if necessary, easy access to safe abortion services.

Hilary Rosen’s choice of words may be unfortunate, but she was right. Ann Romney has never had to face the choices made by most working moms. She’s never had to wonder how to pay the bills at the end of the month, she’s never had to worry about finding affordable day care, she’s never had to worry about being late to work (and possibly risking her job) because of an unexpected kids car pool crisis, she’s never had to choose between having lunch or running a necessary errand over the lunch hour, she’s never had to feed her children breakfast and prepare their lunch and insure they’re properly dressed while preparing herself for the work day and getting everybody out the door on time. Ann Romney has never had to lose a day of pay in order to stay home with a sick child, or worry about affordable health care. When she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, she included riding dressage as part of her treatment plan (her horses are valued at over US$250,000). She’s never had to worry about being refused health insurance because she had Multiple Sclerosis as a pre-existing condition.

Ann Romney is a fortunate woman, and nobody should criticize her for her good fortune. But if her husband is going to cite her as a source of information about how the economy affects women, then it’s appropriate for people to point out that even if she’s a really nice woman, she doesn’t know jack-shit about being a working mom. She’s never had to struggle with the crises that face employed mothers on a daily basis. Hilary Rosen, on the other hand, actually IS a working mom. She HAS had to face those issues. When she points out that Mitt Romney advocates policies that make life more difficult for women in general and working women in specific, policies that restrict their choices and limit their options, and when he cites his wife as an adviser, then it’s okay for for people to evaluate whose opinions are more valid: Hilary Rosen or Ann Romney.

For this non-story to be turned on its head, for Ann Romney to be portrayed as a victim and Hilary Rosen as a villain, is an example of how the modern news media is less about delivering the news and more about creating controversy to drive up viewership and guarantee advertising revenues. This is not news. This is just bullshit being reported as news.

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2 thoughts on “bullshit is not news

  1. I do mostly agree with you, but as a mother who has chosen to live under the poverty level to be home with her kids, it drives me nuts to be told I’m “lucky to have that choice.” FTR, we do this without government aid, but our cars have years old body damage, we don;t have a dishwasher, all our clothes except socks and underwear are second hand, and our kids only go to camp thanks to camperships. I know it’s a choice, one I am happy every day that i have made, but it’s work, not luck.

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    • I don’t think anybody–well, hardly anybody–would suggest there is a single ‘correct’ choice to make. As far as that goes, the issue really isn’t about the choices mothers make. The issue isn’t even MItt Romney saying he relies on his wife for information regarding the effect the economy has on women when she’s not equipped–neither by experience nor education (she has a degree in French)–to provide it. The real issue is that this isn’t a news story, yet it’s treated as one because the 24 hour news cycle demands to be fed on controversy..

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