Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sorry, you're only the wife

Word on the street is that Michelle Obama wants to be more active in her husband's administration, and Jeremy Mayer has a problem with that. Mayer posted a piece on Politico today about how being the First Lady and invovled in the government is disastrous.

According to Mayer, despite the fact that Michelle Obama is highly qualified woman with a lot of experience, she should not be significantly involved in the government (after all, look what happened with Hillary!). Mayer points out, "Marrying a top policymaker doesn’t magically grant you the rare skills necessary for your spouse’s profession, any more than marrying Serena Williams would enable you to win Wimbledon." While that is true, Michelle Obama is an educated, skilled woman who has something to offer this administration.

Being elected president, or really any elected official, is about the circumstances. Who you are, where you are, and when the election is play an enormous role in becoming elected. Michelle Obama is an intelligent and successful woman who is married to our president, and the events that led to his election also put her in a position to make a difference.

If she was not married to the president, would her offered skills and passions be more acceptable? Are we really going to say that being married to the head of state is something that disqualifies her interest and efforts?

When her husband was elected, her life changed and she had give up some of the power she had in her career. It is ridiculous to keep her from using her skills and pursuing her interests just because she is the First Lady. And frankly, I'd like to see more in the news about Michelle Obama other than that she wears sleeveless dresses and what events she attends.


WendyM said...

Great post. And yeah, this editorial irritates me on so many levels.

What I really want to know is how many appointed government officials (in the Obama administration and beyond) have/had previous political experience on the national level?

Sure, it's a great credential, but being an EXPERT in an academic/professional field other than politics sure seems to be enough for most. Why shouldn't Michelle Obama "qualify" as a legitimate expert in her own right?!

Additionally, implying that Hillary Clinton single handedly ruined US healthcare is completely irreverent of the political climate of the mid-90s. Does that mean Laura Bush cause the downfall of No Child Left Behind because she got involved with children's literacy programs? Of course not.

Give me a break.

Jenny said...

I think the fear is that first ladies are usually fairly well respected and listened to. Hillary didn't "ruin" health care; she was trying to address an issue before people were ready for it. What is one of the major issues right now? Hmm, universal health care.

The time is over where first ladies can only contribute with gilding and wildflowers. Or first men. Depending.

PatRice said...

I'm really disappointed in Politico for publishing this article. It completely downplays Obama's experience in the public sector thus giving her some credence toward influencing policy reform. I also think that Mayer is taking it to the absolute extreme by suggesting that there's a potential "monarchical" power that has existed in the White House for several years. Why is it that Michelle can be used as a political tool, but is to not necessarily participate in any discussions involving policy.

I'm a little tired of the media portraying the First Lady as some overbearing Black woman wanting to take over the oval office. The same goes for the criticism that Hillary has received in the past and still today. The moment that policymakers' spouses wish to reposition themselves politically--which they have every right to--skeptics believe that they're overstepping their "boundaries". Its a very archaic, yet normalized idea about powerful, ambitious women who happen to be the wives of politicians. We've yet to reconcile the fusion between public and private, wifehood/motherhood and careerwoman (or in this case wife and influential political figure).

Jenna said...

I completely agree with you.