Dear Mitt Romney: Am I Setting Feminism Back 30 Years Because I Like to Cook Dinner?

Ah crap. I would love it if an employer told me I didn't have to stay at work until 8:00 every night.
Publish date:
October 22, 2012
parenting, cooking, feminism, women, mitt romney, binders of women

Dear Mitt,

It’s Mitt, right? Can I call you Mitt?

Like many people watching the second presidential debate last Tuesday, I was floored by your response when asked about the issue of equal pay for women. Not only did you NOT actually answer the question, but you proceeded to give us that "binders full of women" gem, thereby making it the most hilarious and tweetable presidential debate in U.S. history.

Of course, that binder story turned out not to be totally accurate, but still. Thank you, Mitt, for the comedy.

Anyway, you said something else that was pretty upsetting to a lot of women, something about “letting” your female employee leave work at five o’clock so she could “cook dinner for her family.” Because you know, women’s work and all.

I realize I'm addressing this a week after the debate, which is approximately one and half Internet years, but honestly I was so distracted by the binder thing that I really didn't allow myself to process your full answer to the equal pay question until several days later. And then it hit me:

I want to leave work at five o’clock so I can cook dinner for my family.

First of all, except for the occasional lapse into pure laziness, I enjoy cooking. I like to throw a bunch of ingredients in a pan and see what I get. I find it soothing. I also like being in control of the food I put into my body. Second of all, I’m a damn good cook. Ask me about my roasted chicken sometime, or the savory pie that I make with mushrooms, gruyere and onion confit.

I do virtually all of the cooking in my house. Jeff can cook two things really well: garlic mashed potatoes and spaghetti with this fennel sausage that he gets from the Italian deli. So unless we want to eat only those two things, or frozen meals from Trader Joe’s, it is necessary that I cook the meals. Plus, I’ve written before about the one-hour guacamole incident. If I let him cook every night, we wouldn’t eat until 10:00, and this isn’t Spain (unfortunately).

So we have a deal: I cook, he does the dishes. I’m OK with this arrangement. It serves us both well. Jeff gets to eat delicious food, and my son and I get to eat at a reasonable hour.

Aside from all the cooking, I’ve always enjoyed being off work at a decent time so that I can spend time with my son, help him with his homework, and tuck him into bed.

So I would be pretty happy if an employer said to me, “you don’t need to stay at work until 8:00 -- go on home to your family.” I never want to have a job that would force me to prioritize my life in such a way that I am not able to spend time with my kid, though I have certainly had jobs like that, and I acknowledge that it may become necessary again at some point. I am not a live-to-work sort of a person at this stage in my life.

So, yeah. I have to admit, I am kind of glad that you would let one of your employees go home to her family at 5:00. That seems like a nice thing to do.

Oh, holy crap, am I setting the feminist movement back, like, 30 years?

I thought about it for a few minutes, and I’m going with no. Because here’s the thing: while I think it’s actually a nice thing for an employer to respect his or her employee’s personal time, this is a courtesy that should be extended to all employees, not just the ladies makin’ the dinner, and also not just to people with children.

Because if you’re “letting” the women go home early, they are also probably not getting ahead as fast as the men. They are probably viewed as not working as hard as the other employees (you know, the men) who are staying until 8:00 or 9:00 every night simply because that is what is expected of them.

Plus, there are many guys who would rather leave the office at 5:00 than 8:00, right? What if they just want to have, you know, lives? And, hey, what if there are some men in your employ that want to cook dinner for their families? Just because it takes my boyfriend 30 minutes to heat up a can of soup does not mean there aren’t plenty of guys who are handy in the kitchen.

And, hey, what about the people without kids (not to mention all the gay people you won't let get married)? Don't they need to eat food at some point, too? I think some of them would probably like to have a life, too.

So, yes, give the women a flexible schedule, by all means, but also extend that same option to the men.

You know, and even though I love to be done with work early enough to put a meal on the table, I cannot erase the gross feeling I got from your answer to the question of equal pay for equal work. Because, as you might remember, Mitt, you also gave us this gem:

“I recognized that, if you’re going to have women in the work force, that sometimes you need to be flexible.”

If.” “You’re going to.” “Have women in the workforce.” Look, this is not 1964, and you are not Jon Hamm, so this Don Draper shit does not work. (On a side note, if you’re going to let the women in your office use a writing instrument, it should definitely be this Bic For Her pen.)

Because answering a question about equal pay for equal work with some smarmy shit about letting your lady employees leave early to cook dinner, and then following it up with “if you’re going to have women in the workplace,” is based on the assumption that women all want the same thing: babies, and husbands for whom we can craft elaborate dinners after we leave our jobs earlier than the rest of our coworkers.

Look, we are not the fucking Borg, okay? I assure you, we do not share a hive mind. Some of us want to have kids and some of us don’t. Some of us want to be the Marissa Mayers of the world, and some of us would rather work in part-time retail sales for the rest of our lives. Some of us abhor cooking (Emily), and some of us enjoy cooking. Women do not all want the same things in life, just as men do not all want the same things! It is almost as if both men and women are human beings, with nuanced opinions and individual thoughts and feelings! I know, this is blowing your mind.

I would keep laughing about that binder thing right now if only I didn’t feel like crying.

Look, I already have some issues with your party's platform on reproductive rights, and if you aren't sure what I'm talking about, please see: the Prophet Margaret Atwood.

This debate educated me further on your attitude toward women in general. I hate to break it to you, “if you’re going to have women in the work force, sometimes you need to be flexible,” and eventually just resign yourself to those silly demands of equal pay for equal work.

Anyway, Mitt, I would argue that if you’re going to have people in the work force, sometimes you need to be flexible. And maybe answer the goddamn question next time someone asks you about equal pay, since half of your constituency, should you be elected, would be women. Something to think about.