Mande Wilkes | In defense of gold diggers

As Congressional conservatives earlier this week voted down equal pay legislation, the Republican “war on women” rages on – or so it seems. Since the springtime, the media have doubled down on the narrative that right-wingers plan to “set women back.” In fact Republicans themselves – a certain sect, at least – are largely to blame for the media’s insistence that there’s a war on women.

A few months ago, erstwhile presidential candidate Rick Santorum campaigned for the loftiest office in the land on a platform of puritanism. Ever since, the Republican party has revived its pursuit of social conservatism – a pursuit that flies in the face of everything we conservatives say we stand for: Limited government, individual liberty and personal responsibility. It’s no wonder the media cling to the notion that Republicans are out to get women. Many are, and they’re very vocal about it.

But that’s not a conversation worth having in these pages right now. You can’t convince me that condoms are the tool of Satan, and I can’t convince you that the Constitution permits – nay, mandates – access to contraception.

What I shall try to convince you of, instead, is that there’s a certain classism underlying the whole war-on-women topic – particularly with regard to economic issues like equal pay.

Let me say right off the bat that, as an ardent admirer of anti-feminist Dr. Laura Schlessinger, I’ve become myself this state’s most outspoken anti-feminist. I mean, I’ve had the chutzpah to claim that women’s involvement in politics – either as voters or as elected officials – is largely to blame for the demise of our capitalist democracy. I view women as the nexus between politics, culture-, and economics. So it’s with great interest that I watch so-called women’s issues be politicized, even as nobody seems willing to embrace or even accept what it really is that women want.

As I prepare to have my first baby later this summer, I’m struck by the number of expectant girlfriends of mine who are wistful for a time when they could simply stay home and raise children. These women aren’t concerned with equal pay legislation. They – we – look at Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann, and see a women who’s been dishonestly martyred as a champion of women’s choice. It’s absolutely gobsmacking that Ms. Romney, multimillionaire, has become the poster woman for “choice” simply because she made a home rather than a living. Kudos to her for raising her family herself, no doubt, but it’s disingenuous to hold her up as an example of feminine freedom.

If there is class warfare in modern politics, as so many claim, it’s that right there: The farce that women can now “choose” whether to make a living or make a life. In reality, the only women who have that choice either married well or were born into money – women like Ann Romney. That’s why women of my generation – girls born in the 1980s – don’t appreciate feminism, we resent it. We resent the illusion of choice, and we resent the insistence that we’re supposed to be grateful for that illusion. As far as any of us can tell, the only “choice” we have is between marrying well or letting go of our homemaking dreams.

That’s why it’s hard to get women excited about things like equal pay legislation, which just obfuscate the more genuine concern that the reality has shifted from “the ability to work” to “the inability not to work.” Politicians want women to care about fair pay, but those same politicians refuse to embrace the fact that many women wish they didn’t have to bother with paid work in the first place. For those women, there is but one “choice” – marry well, or go to work.

Contact Wilkes, a local political blogger, at m@mandewilkes.com.