When Hilary Rosen uttered The Remark and the politics-fueled Mommy Wars absurdity ensued, I got mired in a comment thread on a popular blog site. The blogger was of the opinion that Rosen was biased against SAHMs and wrote a post calling for the end of the Mommy Wars.
The post set off an avalanche of comments. Most commenters believed that Rosen was anti-SAHM and saw Ann Romney as a victimized role model for mothers who raise kids full-time.
A minority of commenters, of which I was one, believed that the Mommy Wars debate was a smoke screen for the more pressing issue of Privilege, and how those who lack it are hindered, whether or not they stay home to raise children.
Some of the moms who weighed in were inspired by the Romneys and felt that they were proof that those who worked hard would inevitably be rewarded with financial gain.
One mom, “Stella,” explained that she had started a work-at-home business in order to become a “job creator,” because, she said, “when was the last time a poor person offered you a job?”
I became fascinated by Stella as she fired off comment after comment. How many people can ask “when was the last time a poor person offered you a job?” without a shred of irony or acknowledgment of the lack of Privilege that leads people who sell strawberries on the road side to be unable to offer steady employment with a nice benefits package?
Each of Stella’s comments was like a puzzle piece, and when I put them all together this is what emerged:
Stella was a single mom of four children. Her ex had limited involvement in her kids’ lives. She was a disciple of a how-to-get-rich-quick guru — let’s call him Richie — who sells books, DVDs, audiotapes, and seminar packages to people who want to be just like him.
Stella was convinced she would hit the money-lode any day and she used the comment thread for what appeared to be a pyramid scheme, peddling Richie’s videos. She was almost evangelical in her insistence that these videos would teach others how to be business dynamos and lead to the life of their dreams.
Because that’s what Richie promised.
There are many Richies out there. Some of them offer sound business advice that also incorporates living a life of integrity. Some of them are snake oil salesmen. Richie, in my opinion, is one of the latter.
Regardless of their integrity or lack thereof, motivational gurus are charismatic figures who have an endless supply of betterment products — books and tapes and seminars and day planners and vitamin water and God knows what else — that do create wealth.
For the gurus.
And while a minority of their disciples might become successful putting their principles into practice, most will not. As Malcolm Gladwell explains in his brilliant book Outliers, other factors such as luck, timing and possessing a very particular set of characteristics that a chosen career requires, have always diluted the hard-work-eventually-leads-to-success formula. Without these factors, hard workers will never strike gold.
What was possible after World War II was that middle-class people could work themselves into nice homes, nice cars, family vacations, and ultimately, comfortable retirement. They could do this because they could stay in jobs for thirty years and collect pensions. Houses were affordable. The tax system was far more equitable than it is today.
But the era of the contented middle-class worker is gone. Poof! It is a quaint, sepia-toned memory. Unless a miraculous sea change occurs — for example, Warren Buffet’s proposal for tax reform goes into effect, more billionaires bequeath their fortunes to organizations that benefit all of us, the defense budget is slashed and funds are diverted into education, social services, and universal healthcare — middle-class people will be working till they drop.
And single mothers like Stella, who lack education and an influential social network, will face even grimmer prospects.
Which is why I believe Stella took to the Mommy Blogs to hawk Richie’s wares. Confronting her reality is a downer. Fantasizing about hobnobbing with Ann Romney is an upper.
The inimitable social thinker Barbara Ehrenreich believes that the culture of positive thinking has actually contributed to the country’s financial collapse. How? By convincing those who have been screwed over by corporate America to support policies that only benefit the 1%.
I was amazed that Stella, and many other commenters, felt protective of the Romneys and insisted that Mitt was a “job creator,” despite staggering evidence to the contrary.
Ehrenreich would say that middle-class people like Stella unwittingly contribute to the class divide because they believe they can positive-think themselves into the 1%. And when they think this way they vote for politicians who are going to create policies that will further reduce their opportunities.
I’m not advocating pessimism. Relentless negative thoughts drag us down and sap us of the energy required to make the most of our situation. Judicious escapism serves a need. As much as I love Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman for his spot-on economic forecasts, for instance, I sometimes feel like sticking my head in the oven midway through his columns.
But back to Stella — and all women concerned with reduced options, whether their own or the options of others. You say you want to end the Mommy Wars? Join Unite Against the War on Women.
Founded by two women who got mad as hell with the abuse of privilege undermining women — and men — in this country, Unite Against the War on Women seeks to defend human rights.
How do they do this, exactly? By using social media to educate women about politicians’ policies. By creating online auctions to raise money to keep budget-slashed rape crisis centers afloat. And by spearheading a nationwide rally on April 28th to urge legislators to create policies that support human rights — equal pay, reproductive rights, access to healthcare — instead of dismantle them. Click here to find a rally in your area.
I don’t know if the rally, or the organization, will change anything. It certainly won’t make anyone rich. But it’s a step in the right direction. The very fact that in only two months time, two frustrated women have spawned a nationwide grass roots human rights campaign is remarkable.
It is the result of true positive thinking — the kind that ignites people instead of numbing them to their circumstances.