Michelle Pressed

First things first:  Michelle wore kitten heels in Europe.  Apparently they were the talk of Europe.   Because they are  so practical and suitable?  Don’t we wish.

So Katha Pollitt, in The  Nation,  is commenting on Michelle’s press presence.  David Samuels in New York is quoted as praising her lavishly:

There are clear limits to Michelle’s ambition. She went to excellent schools, got decent grades, stayed away from too much intellectual heavy lifting, and held a series of practical, modestly salaried jobs while accommodating her husband’s wilder dreams and raising two lovely daughters. In this, she is a more practical role model for young women than Hillary Clinton, blending her calculations about family and career with an expectation of normal personal happiness.

Pollitt points out that this is hardly accurate;  she had a high paying pressuring job while raising two children.  Still, it makes people feel good about her.  She isn’t like that ambitious Hillary, thank goodness.    (Samuels is advising young women to be practical in their ambitions; it’s interesting to wonder if we’ll get a lot of articles about, e.g., how damaging ambition can be for women.  See here, for example.) 

Still, there’s something depressing about the joy and relief with which the high-end media have greeted Michelle’s makeover from accomplished professional and outspoken social critic to new-traditionalist homebody. They’re not only not ready for Hillary Clinton, they’re apparently not even ready for Eleanor Roosevelt.

A black Eleanor Roosevelt?  Not quite so fast.  Having raised the question of whether the first lady should be paid for her onerous job, Pollitt concludes,

Meanwhile, we should be counting ourselves lucky that Michelle Obama is working for free and let her wear whatever she wants.

Gosh, that’s lowering our hopes.  On the other hand, perhaps the most important thing that the Obama’s can do is to get his agenda passed.  That Michelle has to play the supporting role  now may be another bad consequence of the last 8 years.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Michelle Pressed

  1. Samuels’s comments come as a bit of a shock. Wasn’t she Barack’s boss at some point?

    Anyway, I was talking with a friend over the weekend about the possibility of Michelle running for President in eight or twelve years. She’s young enough, sharp enough, and perhaps shrewd enough. I’m hoping all this new-traditionalist business is a bit of political maneuvering, for either her own future agenda or her husband’s current efforts.

  2. This reminds me of the discussion that has been circulating on the FEAST list about Dr. Laura’s new book on why women should stay home http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123913529589098057.html both discussions see the move as more “realistic,” or “practical” (and, yes, Dee Es, Barack Obama talks about meeting Michelle when she was showing him the ropes at the corporate law firm, Sidley & Austin, he had just been hired at in Chapter 9 of the Audacity of Hope. I don’t think she was his boss, exactly, but she was clearly more senior than he. Barack also describes her as “full of plans” and “on the fast track,” “with no time for distractions–especially men” pg 329). Of course, being “realistic” in the face of (changeable) patriarchal values, is rarely what feminists would advocate. And as others have pointed out, given that the recession is hitting men harder, it seems a little unrealistic to assume *women* should be the ones to stay home.

    Dr. Laura’s conversation about staying home with one’s children (although she did not let it hamper her career aspirations) reminds me of the discussion (chapters 9 & 10) of Susan Faludi’s Backlash, that talks about how new-right women made a (not-stay-at-home) career out of telling other women to stay at home.

  3. Isn’t the fact that Michelle Obama plays a supporting role constitutional? Had she been elected President and her husband First Man, would we be lamenting the fact his role is merely supportive?

    The best foundation for equality would be to eliminate any formal institutional meaning to the “role” of First Lady and see women like Michelle Obama continue her old job, or any other job just as she always has. Like Cherie Booth/Blair did the entire time her husband happened to be head of government of the United Kingdom. The oddity here isn’t that her role is second fiddle, ornamental or supportive only. The oddity is actually that she has a role at all, given that she’s only there by deign of being married to the guy who was elected President.

    Until the archaic role of First Lady is eliminated entirely, I doubt we’ll ever see a female President.

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