It's Mother's Day 2012, coming up this Sunday, a time to celebrate moms, Hallmark cards, brunches and the War of the Rosen. Hilary Rosen, a Democratic Party consultant, recently unleashed this current version of the '70s debate on the roles of moms. In an interview, Rosen remarked that Ann Romney, a stay-at-home mom of five, never worked a day in her life.
Of course, this forced an ultimate societal outcry that essentially said that choices by women should be equally respected.
That's why it's curious that the designers of President Obama's Web campaign to reach female voters must not have been paying attention when they designed their new outreach series called "The Life of Julia." These Web vignettes trace Julia from age 3 to her death at age 78. Every aspect of her personal and professional life depends on government intervention, programs and President Obama's largesse.
This web of elaborate taxpayer-funded safety nets is really government sexism. Julia, the little lady, can't be expected to learn in preschool, do well on SATs, excel in college, enter the business world, even get contraceptive protection, without Uncle Sam directing her. Thanks to the government, she does live happily ever after and is able to retire to running a community garden. Since Julia does have a child, but no man is in the vignettes, I guess we can assume that there is a government program for that.
I know that Republicans like Mitt Romney have been criticized for seeing women living in a June Cleaver world with pearls, aprons and Wally and the Beaver, but June is a feminist icon alongside the patronized Julia.
It's ironic that the same day that the "Julia" initiative was launched, I read an op-ed in the Inquirer by Alicia Di Fabio, a middle-age, suburban-mom runner who ran in the Broad Street Run for the first time. She made the point that as of 2010 about 41 percent of American marathon participants were women and that it's guessed that women represented 59 percent of half-marathon runners. I loved her observation: "When I run, it's not an escape, but an act of determination. Every mile I cover feels like proof of my inner strength."
In the mind of the Obama Web people, if Julia were going to run, she'd have to thank a government program that taught her running in elementary school. She would be indebted to the program that developed better running trails, and maybe a sneaker czar to make sneaker manufacturers develop female-friendly sneaks.
Somehow, with all this, I doubt that Helen Reddy would be updating her iconic women's equality song to "I am woman, hear the government help me roar."
I think the main reason for this embarrassing attempt at reaching women is that it is part of the Rosen mentality that preaches that Mitt Romney and the Republicans are engaging in a war on women. "The Life of Julia" not only preaches that without President Obama and all levels of government Julia will have a miserable life, but that Mitt Romney if elected will take away the very things that give Julia her only realistic chance of success.
Will women really buy the notion that opposing the idea that women can only make it with government guiding every decision and paying for the consequences of every decision is starting a war against them?
I think that women will see through all this and that the administration will drop this Julia angle sooner rather than later, for at least two major reasons. First, our society is bursting with the notion of women and their choices and achievements. We see less and less of women not knowing how to run the family finances or make investments and economic choices. We see fewer women not having realistic chances at careers at the highest levels in corporate America, law, medicine, sports and the military.
In short, these women have made it, and I don't think they will attribute their success to men or the government.
Secondly, I think many will ask: Who is this Julia and why should I pay for her? Women often are on the front lines of making the family budget come together, and they see the rising cost of gas, food, medical care, taxes and every other expense. They recognize that women like Julia and her child will cost them a heck of a lot of money. It's not a war on women to ask how many government programs work, how much they should cost and how much they cost a woman in terms of self-respect and dignity.
So, happy Mother's Day to all moms and all choices that they make and are willing to deal with. I'll be at the Race for the Cure event on the Parkway this Mother's Day helping to get the runners ready to take off to fight breast cancer. I know that when the survivors of breast cancer march down the Art Museum steps, showing the world that they're fighting back against cancer, that's a real war and not one of these phony wars that no one really cares about.