Much of the talk of political analysts this morning has been focused on whether Ann Romney connected with female voters in her Republican National Convention speech. She relied heavily on her mothering credentials — did you catch that she’s a “mother of five boys”?
The reaction has ranged from wildly appreciative (on the convention floor) to dismissive (Democratic feminists) to analysts who praised her delivery but were critical of the speech’s lack of substance.
Silence on the reaction from one important group, however. What about the other folks involved in parenting? What about the dads?
Did they “connect” to a speech that began: “I want to talk to you about that love so deep only a mother can fathom it — the love we have for our children and our children’s children.”
Or that lingered on the idea that mothers universally work harder than fathers?
“It’s the moms who always have to work a little harder, to make everything right,” Romney declared. “It’s the moms of this nation — single, married, widowed — who really hold this country together. We’re the mothers, we’re the wives, we’re the grandmothers, we’re the big sisters, we’re the little sisters, we’re the daughters.
“You know it’s true, don’t you? You’re the ones who always have to do a little more.”
The convention crowd exploded in cheers at this line. But how did this fall on the ears of dads watching at home who consider themselves co-parents?
Let’s just say the connection was spotty ...
“I don’t think anyone would dispute that women have had to fight harder for many, many things in this country, and still do. Particularly in the workplace. But nothing that Ann Romney gives as examples of the special role of moms — helping with a book report after a long day at work, late-night calls or long drives to help elderly parents, basic knowledge about local medical care for our children, wistfulness about the passing of time when we see our child graduate — doesn’t apply just as much to dads. Nothing. If she wants to credit those things for holding our families and our country together, why not credit both parents?” fumed Chris Routly when I asked him.
Routly is the Pennsylvania father who this year led a successful campaign to change Huggies diapers advertisements that depicted fathers as bumbling fools in the home. He is also Canadian, so will not vote. For what it’s worth, though, he considers himself a political moderate.
“Incidentally, I find it telling that her one praise to dads specifically is a throwaway line later about ‘the single dad who’s working extra hours tonight.’ While the picture she paints is certainly the reality for many single parents, she still equates a dad’s sacrifice for his children as being purely defined by his role as the hardworking breadwinner. This is followed up by a statement that working moms really just want to be at home with their kids, and can’t because of the difficult economy.
“If there is an extra burden upon moms in the home and in the day-to-day duties of caring for their family, perhaps it’s time we start considering it’s because we keep suggesting that it’s only their job in the first place,” Routly said.
Not everyone felt so insulted. Both women and men in her immediate audience cheered her words. One father there told NPR’s Liz Halloran that he especially appreciated Romney’s “energetic explanation of marriage — and I know, because I have three children at home.”
That was not, however, the takeaway from Greg Olear, author of the novel “Fathermucker,” who frequently crusades against the bias stay-at-home dads often face, self-describes as a “leftist” and watched the speech this morning.
“By singling out moms for praise, Ann Romney is tacitly excluding dads, and perpetuating the stereotype of the mother as primary caregiver and the hapless father who works full-time and has no idea what’s going on with his kids,” he told me.
“I wonder if she really grasps the way things are now, that the way she raised her children is very, very atypical.”
And then there was the reaction of the bad-boy of involved fathers, Adam Mansbach, who wrote last year’s bestselling children’s book satire “Go The [Expletive] to Sleep.”
Mansbach told me that he wasn’t offended by Romney’s focus: “After all, her job here is to reverse her husband’s huge deficit among women voters who don’t want the GOP stripping them of rights. But it does strike me that even when she’s going for a feel-good, all-embracing moment, it’s gotta come at somebody’s expense, has to be divisive. In this case, women are great because they do more than men; men ‘can’t understand’ what women go through.”
The self-described Democrat was not exactly primed to be converted to the Romney camp, though. He went on: Ann Romney “can’t acknowledge the policies that make it that way, because they’re all policies her husband supports, from the GOP’s rejection of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (which would grant Ann’s wish that working moms get more time with their kids, by ensuring that they make the same money as men for the same work) to its opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest (men definitely ‘can’t understand’ what it’s like for the government to tell you what to do with your body!)”
What did you think of the speech?
Did Romney “connect” or turn-off with her emphasis on mothering?