Ann Romney and Systemic Inequality

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Interesting post at the Feminist Philosophers blog about Ann Romney's speech last night, where she recognizes systemic inequality between men and women, with women doing a lot more of the work on average than the men who share responsibilities with them. Is Ann Romney saying such structural and systemic inequality is just fine? I'm not so sure, and I'm repeating my comment on that post here. [Caveat: I didn't hear the speech or read the transcript of the whole thing, just what appears on that post.]

It's not clear to me that she's saying it's fine for women to have to work harder than men. I think she might just be saying that it's fine that life is isn't easy.

There's actually a little speech in the biblical book of I Peter that directs people in subordinate positions to do good to those over them, not because they deserve it or because anything unjust that they might do is legitimate, but because the more important goal is to win them over by good deeds. Feminism gets complicated when you're more concerned about the eternal salvation of those participating in oppressive structures than you are about the often-small ways that those structures manifest themselves on a day-to-day basis for those who happen to be affected by them in more minor ways.

It would mean, then, that you don't have to think those structures are perfectly all right to think that women should put up with them, because the putting-up with them is for a higher purpose. There's much of this kind of thinking in Augustine, who would accept any form of government for keeping order in this society, and how just it is isn't as important to him as going along with the laws Socrates-style but for the sake of winning over by good behavior those he sees as heading in the wrong direction spiritually. It allows him to think certain ways of ruling are intrinsically bad but are not worth resisting (and thus he has very mixed feelings about slavery, seeing something wrong with it and worth resisting on one level but also as an institution that Christians can work within to do a more important task of being a light to the darkness of the slaveowners. It's love for their enemy.

I don't how much of this approach would be manifest among Mormons, but I have to wonder if that's the kind of thinking that lies behind Ann Romney's speech. If I heard this kind of thing from an evangelical, it's how I'd take it, and evangelicals and Mormons are at least culturally very similar, even if they're worlds apart theologically.


It's worth reading the transcript for context. Ultimately, it's about enduring and overcoming hardship. It is a speech that is, from the point of view of the genre of political rhetoric, full of understatement. Here is a nice passage:

I read somewhere that Mitt and I have a "storybook marriage." Well, in the storybooks I read, there were never long, long, rainy winter afternoons in a house with five boys screaming at once. And those storybooks never seemed to have chapters called MS or breast cancer. A storybook marriage? No, not at all. What Mitt Romney and I have is a real marriage.

In real marriages, power in the theological sense belongs to the one who serves, not to the one who lords it over. Perhaps it is a sociological truth than women on average know this better than men. Regards, the theological truth stands.

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