Ann Romney's Appeal to Women
More than ever, the women’s vote is important in the 2012 Presidential Election. All of the attention around the politics of health care for women had made the Republican Party and the Romney campaign acutely aware that they must work to engage the female voting population and to convince them to vote Republican in November.
So on the first night for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Ann Romney stepped up to make an extended appeal to women. Her speech touched on her relationship with her husband, her struggles raising five children, and her belief that America would flourish under her husband’s direction. All of those appeals though rested on the idea that women - mothers and wives in particular - are the true backbone of this nation.
“You are the best of America,” she decreed. “You are the hope of America. There would not be an America without you.” She went off-script to enthusiastically declare "I love women!"
And she’s right. Mothers and wives struggle in many ways completely unfathomable to those who don’t share elements of that experience. No amount of cynicism or snark should take away from the fact Ann Romney just acknowledged something that could make the men in her party set their hair on fire. Women are out there working hard, and doing it all despite the challenges unique to being a woman in a largely patriarchal country.
But there’s so much more to being a woman than marriage and motherhood. The undertone of Mrs. Romney’s speech seemed to intone that a woman’s life suddenly gains unmentionable meaning once she makes the choice to have children -- or at least, that those are the only qualities her party really cares about in terms of women. However, this ignores the fact that women often choose other paths for their lives that don’t necessarily include traditional interpretations of marriage or childrearing -- and that that does not make them any less valuable. It also ignores the the possibility (the reality) that even if women do choose to be wives and mothers or a follow a traditional life path that they might have other interests outside of these roles, political or otherwise.
“What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage,” she said. She presumably said this as an attempt to dispel the idea that her marriage is a dream and possibly to distance herself from the common conception that the Romenys' considerable wealth has impacted their lives and relationship. It came off, though, as an attack on gay marriage, on any sort of intimate relationship that chooses to re-define the traditional elements of unions between two people. Throughout her talk of motherhood, you began to wonder what Mrs. Romney really thought of single mothers and their unique challenges, challenges that Mrs. Romney herself has never faced.
This speech made it clear the Republican party is not interested in women who choose to take any path different from the one prescribed for them and refuses to acknowledge that they may have concerns outside of these roles. Mrs. Romney’s appeal was narrowly targeted at an audience that’s up for grabs this election - the middle-class mothers and wives who acutely feel the strain of the economy on their lives. The party is counting on Mrs. Romney to appeal to people that her husband cannot.
But no matter how many times Ann Romney claims to love women, it's blatantly clear that her husband does not. Romney's position on equal pay for women is still unclear. The Republican Party platform seeks to ban abortion without exceptions for rape or incest. Mr. Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, cosponsored a bill that would have re-defined rape and has made outrageous statements about rape, including that rape is a "method of conception." The party is praying that those women who find Ann Romney and her husband intriguing will be able to vote against all of their personal best interests in pursuit of the larger interests of their husbands and their families.
Only November will tell us if their plan will work.
Editor's Note: If you haven't already PLEASE register to vote!!!
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