Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Offensive, Condescending, and Tone Deaf

"I know picking words that don't sound terrible isn't Mitt Romney's strong suit, but..."

During yesterday's presidential debate, Mitt Romney responded to a question about pay equity for women with an answer so tin-earred, it took my breath away:
Thank you. And — important topic and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the — the chance to pull together a Cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, how come all the people for these jobs are — are all men? They said, well, these are the people that have the qualifications. And I said, well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified? 
And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, can you help us find folks? And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America. 
Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for — making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you. 
Romney answered a question about gender discrimination by telling an anecdote about how he had to accomodate a woman on his staff who wanted to be home in time to make dinner for her family. This is a candidate who has just demonstrated, quite remarkably, that he is as tone deaf on gender issues as he is on class issues.

The saddest part is that there is absolutely nothing wrong about a mother or father wanting to spend time with their children. A recent episode of the television show Louie sensitively addressed the tension between career advancement and family commitments from a male perspective. Sheryl Sandberg and Ann-Marie Slaughter have had a very public debate about the same topic from a female perspective. Yet somehow Romney has to frame it in the most regressive Leave It To Beaver Back to the 50s way possible. Awesome.

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