Who Does Speak for Me?

It was expected.

The firestorm about Hilary Rosen’s comments regarding Ann Romney.

She said nothing that was not true, she just said it inelegantly.

We all are used to other people speaking for us. Our parents did it, our teachers, or pastors, our spouses.

But truly it is the province of politicians to claim to do so.

Do you have any idea how many times I have come close to putting my foot through the TV screen when John Boehner deigned to tell me what I as  part of the “American people” want, expect, hate, refuse to accept?

It can only get worse when Bill O’Reilly tells me what I as “one of the folks” thinks about the price of hogs or the new Start Treaty.

The fact is, no woman may,  by that fact alone, can speak for me. I am too different even when we might share any number of characteristics. Having a uterus is not our connection, nor is having a husband, nor children, nor any of a host of other items we share or have shared.

Everyone sooner or later figures out that nobody, no matter how much they love you, spend years with you, or even study you intensely for science’s sake will ever really KNOW you. Nobody gets inside your skin. Nobody shares the pain, joy, fear, anger and on and on. Nobody. NO BODY. It’s the nature of being.

At best we get approximations. We share some of the same problems and concerns. But we have well more that we don’t share. And those influence how we think and what we need and desire as much as what we do share.

Ann Romney chose to be a stay-at-home-mom. Right there, she establishes a difference with tons of other women. She had a choice. Plenty don’t. She had enormous funds of money to help her out. She could have nannies and housekeepers and all sorts of support personnel to help her, whether she chose to avail herself of them or not. Again, another choice.

She was married, she had no independent career, she had no money worries. All these things separate her and join her in myriad ways with women around the country, but she cannot speak for any of them.

Most women don’t have the luxury of Ann’s life. Some wouldn’t want it if they could. Others would give up much to have it. She can no more relate to them and the pressures in their lives than Willard can relate to his gardener.

The best any of us can do is empathize. We can imagine how it MIGHT be to walk in someone else’s shoes. We can conclude that our life has been easier, more rich in opportunity, and we can thus feel compassion for those who have lived a rougher, more tenuous existence.

Rosen was simply saying that Ann Romney can’t know what it is like to worry about a sick child all the while trying to participate in a meaningful way in a board meeting. She cannot know what it is like to have to miss another school event because that second job is essential if the gas bill is to be paid. She cannot know what it is like to come home dog tired from being on your feet all day and have to try to put together a decent meal on a shoestring and then wash a load of clothes, check homework, listen to the woes of her elderly mother on the phone for an hour, and fall exhausted into bed.

I can’t know what that would be like either.

When Willard says that his wife talks to women around the country and “they are worried about jobs, and gas prices”, he is trivializing women and their lives. He is lumping us all together in some bloc of voters, and speaking for us.

President Obama got it right when he said that women are not some group. Like men, women are individuals, albeit with sometimes similar concerns, but sometimes not. Surely ultra conservative women don’t agree with being in the same group with liberal progressive women.

HUMANS are individual masses of contradictions, life experiences, opportunities taken and missed, choices, and lack of choices. We generally speaking want to be fed and clothed and housed and we want to have meaningful things to do, and we want to have access to decent education and we want decent health care. We generally want that for our kids too. The best way to get those things is as varied as there are stars in the sky.

So, stop all the faked shock and all that crap because Rosen said something the wrong way. She was perfectly right in her overall statement, she just said it badly.

And that’s my rant about that.