A ‘war on women’ ceasefire?

As anyone who has read GetReligion over the last three or so months might have picked up, I occasionally disapproved of the way many media outlets took serious concerns that some folks have over Planned Parenthood or religious liberty and turned them into a non-stop meme regarding a “War on Women.” I was pretty subtle about it, but you may have noticed me bringing it up once or twice (OK, two dozen at last count).

This was going very well for Team Planned Parenthood until a few days ago, when top Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen misfired in her attempt to disparage the presumptive Republican nominee’s wealth. She said that Ann Romney, a cancer-surviving woman with multiple sclerosis who successfully raised five boys, had “never worked a day in her life.” She then went on to bash apple pie. Just kidding, but her comments suggesting that stay-at-home mothers (such as myself, I should disclose) don’t work went over like a lead balloon.

Now, you could say fair’s fair, and we should expect a good three-month-long deluge of mainstream media coverage filled with deliberate misrepresentations of liberal viewpoints, ignoring of their actual concerns and other shenanigans. Something tells me that probably won’t happen. In fact, already the coverage over Rosen’s remarks seems to have died down (after what I gather was a pretty crazy day or two). We probably won’t see repeats of any of the problems I highlighted in those two dozen example-packed posts on the Komen/Planned Parenthood/religious freedom issues. And having endured the last three months of non-stop media misrepresentation of some of the values I hold most dear, I am thankful for this. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

I’m neck-deep in taxes right now so I haven’t had a proper chance to survey coverage as much as I’d like, but I wanted to highlight one piece at the Washington Post that took what I thought was a pretty interesting religion angle to the story, headlined “Ann Romney ‘stay-at-home mom’ debate: Mormons react“:

The public dust-up over Ann Romney and stay-home mothers played out in a particular way in Romney’s own community of Mormon women, who are twice as likely to be housewives as non-Mormons.

Mormon culture and preaching is strongly protective of distinct gender roles, with church members more likely than Americans of any other faith group to say it’s better for women to stay home and men to work outside the house.

On Thursday and Friday, with reports flying about a Democratic pundit’s comments that Ann Romney had “never worked a day in her life,” Mormon social media outlets were bustling. The vast majority of Mormons lean Republican, but even some liberal and self-described feminist Mormons felt defensive of the candidate’s wife.

“These are people who have a lover’s quarrel with the church, and were upset to a person that such a comment could be made about a stay-home parent. It seemed to undermine women’s work,” said Jana Reiss, a Mormon writer and religion professor. “Among all Mormons, feminist or not, they identify with the primacy of the family, and this seems like a comment that just dismissed the family as an appropriate calling for anyone.”

Isn’t that an interesting angle to take? We get lots of color about what was going on at the Facebook page of Mormon Feminist Housewives. Women weren’t just concerned about the disrespect shown to stay-at-home parents but also whether this wasn’t a harbinger of what the general election attacks on Mormonism will be like.

The article goes on to describe some of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said about women working outside the home over the years and how that has changed. This was just a blog post so I don’t want to nitpick but while the article did mention at the top that most Mormon women aren’t liberal, it only really highlighted those who are.

All discussions about women’s role in the home are likely to involve religion ghosts but did you see any particularly good or bad coverage of this topic that dealt with religion in particular? Let us know.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    One day early in the midst of the controversy I watched ultra-liberal MSNBC for some time. It was amazing. No REAL issue here was blatantly the party line. They used every verbal trick in the book to defend Rosen’s anti-mother babble. The class warfare dems so love was getting a real workout.
    Of course, if Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” raising 5 sons–that also means that mothers who choose to– or must– work outside the home as well as inside the home have no real problem since one of their jobs (mothering plus homemaking) is really not work at all.

  • Martha

    “top Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen”

    Is she really, Mollie? You wouldn’t know it from the way the Democrats are falling over themselves to go “Hillary who? Rosen? Never heard of her, sorry” and the explanations that there may have been a woman of that name who visited the White House sometime, but she is a completely private individual who runs some business and has nothing to do with the party, the administration, the President, nor nobody at all.

    Are we still arguing over women going out to work outside the home being the only thing counted as “work”? If I clean someone else’s house, or mind someone else’s children, I’m making a valuable contribution to society and working; if I do it for my own house or my own children, I’m just lolling around at home all day, eating bon-bons and watching soap operas on the telly, because it’s not real work at all.

    Still having this argument in this, the 21st century? And women tearing other women down to make a political point on behalf of men?

    As to the “war on women” remark that Ms. Rosen made (“Well, first, can we just get rid of this word, “war on women”? The Obama campaign does not use it, President Obama does not use it—this is something that the Republicans are accusing people of using, but they’re actually the ones spreading it”) perhaps President Obama does not use it, but certain persons not a million miles away from his government apparently are quite happy to use the phrase.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    It was also funny listening to most of the TV news outlets playing “Mickey the Dunce” about how often Rosen visited the White House. The one news network that gave what turned out to be the accurate statistic was FOX. Her 35 visits were apparently more than the number of visits made by most top goovernment officials.

  • Jettboy

    “. . . so I don’t want to nitpick but while the article did mention at the top that most Mormon women aren’t liberal, it only really highlighted those who are.”

    Its always like this, and usually the same people over and over again. Do reporters know anyone that isn’t liberal like they are, and if they do then why aren’t they asking them questions? Mormonism isn’t the only religious news coverage like this either. The only voices recognized by the media beyond the barest of of soundbites are fellow liberals with the same axes to grind.

  • Jeff

    This is only the beginning, so put your mackintosh and galoshes on.

    Expect one ugly religion-ghost-haunted attack after another against Romney, his family, Mormons, and all “bitter-clingers” from now until November.

    And expect very poor and biased coverage of these ugly attacks by an MSM whose difference from the DNC will be even harder to tell in the coming months than it already is.

  • JL Fuller

    It is only a war on women when Republicans make controversial comments. When Democrats say something outraqgous it is a minor misunderstanding and easily cleared up.

  • sari

    Now, you could say fair’s fair, and we should expect a good three-month-long deluge of mainstream media coverage filled with deliberate misrepresentations of liberal viewpoints, ignoring of their actual concerns and other shenanigans. Something tells me that probably won’t happen.

    Do you think it’s because stay-at-home Moms populate both sides of the fence–liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, religious and secular–and that many are financially stable?

  • Mollie


    Please work to keep your comments focused on media coverage.

  • paul marxhausen

    I was struck how the moderator on the PBS newshour this last week, chatting with Mark Shields and David Brooks, brought up the subject of “the War on Women” in a way that clearly communicated “The so-called ‘war on women’” – not sure if he used the phrase “so-called” or it was the tone of his voice and face that put scare quotes around it, but that the “war” terminology was no more than an attempt to frame an issue appeared to be assumed by all present, and nobody seemed to be buying into it.

  • Mary

    Ms Rosen commented about Romney not being representative of women, so therefore not qualified to speak on their behalf. Has any of the MSM brought out the fact, that perhaps Rosen, as the mother of adopted twins with her lesbian ex partner, inside the beltway Democratic strategist, is more outside the mainstream than stay at home moms?

  • Matt

    This post and the comments in the thread are a clear example of how people with liberal theological/political views are simply not welcome at this site.

    Mollie, your characterization of Rosen as a “top Democratic strategist” is based in what? She worked for the RIAA and BP but does she have connections to the DNC or Obama?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


    Hilary Rosen is one of the most powerful people in the town where I live. She is a strategist, that’s what she does (and normally much better than she did last week). She is a Democrat, that’s just a fact. She’s powerful enough to have been at the White House more than most high-ranking cabinet officials.

    It’s not a slight to call someone a top Democratic strategist. Particularly when they’re a top Democratic strategist.

    If you want to learn more about her public relations work, that’s all publicly available.

  • Jeff

    “Has any of the MSM brought out the fact, that perhaps Rosen … is more outside the mainstream than stay at home moms?”

    One missing dimension in media coverage of this story is how far outside the mainstream both economically and politically is Rosen herself.

    While she is clearly not as wealthy as Ann Romney, she is certainly a member of the 1%.

    And no one who has entree to The White House on average once a month is part of the mainstream.

    So, Rosen’s own logic could be seen to disqualify her also from speaking for the mainstream, either women or men.

    I wish that some of the media coverage had made these points.

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    There are certainly many angles to explore with regard to this Rosen gaffe and the media response to it.

    However, please stick only to those that deal with religion.

    This is not the place to hammer out political disputes, per se. Just focus on media coverage of religion angles in this latest round of news centered around SAHM (stay-at-home mothers).

  • Matt

    “Hilary Rosen is one of the most powerful people in the town where I live”

    No she isn’t. She’s a lobbyist and PR hack. She’s a paid shill for the cable shows who was once fired by The Huffington Post for God’s sake. And you have no way of knowing if the “Hilary Rosen” who visited the White House 35 was this same person.

    Anyway, in a five paragraph post, you have devoted the first three to simple liberal bashing and recitation of GOP talking points. Again, people with my views, no matter how passionately we care about religion and press coverage, are simply not welcome here.

  • Ann

    Matt is correct that liberal opinions are not welcome, which is obvious from the deletion of comments about Republicans or the Christian right while not deleting attacks against Democrats (especially Obama), liberals, and Christian middle/left.

    Mollie started above with a biased political attack with a weak attempt to include a religion link. As the majority of media, Mollie took one sentence out of context to make an unreasonable assignment of intent – attack on stay-at-home mothers and

    Romney has repeatedly said that Ann Romney is his political adviser for women political issues. Rosen’s comments that were the point of her, which was questioning Ann Romney’s ability to understand women that do not have the choice to be a stay-at-home mother opinion:

    What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, “Well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.”

    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.

    In Context: Hilary Rosen saying Ann Romney ‘never worked a day in her life’

    Romney’s past statements blow a major hole in the Mormon religion stay-at-home mother that started making the round yesterday and was played on CNN today.

    Mitt Romney flashback: Stay-at-home moms need to learn ‘dignity of work’

    “While I was governor,” Romney said, “85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless,’ and I said ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”

    Does Romney think stay-at-home moms have no dignity or is assigning intent to his words?

    see video

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie

    I’m sure there’s some correlation with what we discuss here — mainstream media coverage of religion news — and all the partisan politicking going on in the comment thread, but I guess I can’t see it.

    This makes my third warning to keep comments focused on media coverage of religion.

    Anything that fails to do that — whether it’s an attack on me or GetReligion or not — will be deleted. With glee.

    If you all need to take a moment to reacquaint yourself with the commenting policies, please feel free to do so.

    I welcome you to do that, in fact.


    The mgmt.

  • sari

    All discussions about women’s role in the home are likely to involve religion ghosts

    Why? Many, many irreligious women stay home, because they feel that staying home benefits their child(ren). Take a look at this NYT (front page, no less) article from 2005.


  • John Pack Lambert

    Actually a quick perusal shows me that outlandish and culture war claims against Mrs. Romney are the order of the day. It seems that actually having sources is not needed to accuse people. You just claim that Mrs. Romney had a nanny, and we are supposed to accept this undocumented claim as fact.

    At the risk of being attacked as a right-wing radical, here is a link to the Fox News story on Bill Maher’s http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/16/bill-maher-facing-bipartisan-criticism-over-ann-romney-comments/ even more outlanding attack on Mrs. Romney.