Friday, April 3, 2009

What a First Lady is Made of

As our new First Lady, Michelle Obama has been widely received, not only by our own nation, but recently by the world. In the First Family's visit to Europe we have heard just as much about Mrs. Obama as we have about President Obama. The media has become fascinated with this beautiful, well dressed, intelligent woman. And, we consumers, eat it up.

The majority of us are engrossed in the pretty little details of Mrs. Obama's lovely existence. We love the way she looks and the way she dresses; we go as far as to compare her to our nation's very own debutant: Jackie Kennedy.

It's hard not to respect a woman with that kind of class.

But what about the part of Michelle that has nothing to do with her clothes or her beautiful appearance?

In our haste to accept her as the perfect counterpart to the 21st century's version of JFK, we have forgotten, perhaps, her classiest feature.

Her mind.

Yes, indeed, underneath that well-dressed exterior, we might be able to catch a glimpse of a human being with intelligence and character that could rival the leader of our nation.

So, why have we ignored a part of her that we have so remembered and valued in her husband? She seems to be a good First Lady. She portrays herself as a dignified human being who supports her husband with all the charm in her designer-clad figure.

Looking back over the years, it is the dutiful women who stand behind their men that are received the best by our nation. It is those who apply themselves to the role of First Lady that win the hearts of the masses. The First Ladys who actually act like "ladys" are the ones we seem to embrace.

After a small bout with pondering this issue, the feminist in me is what draws the conclusion: this is the example of what a good woman should be like. Beautiful, feminie, stylish, supportive of her husband. Of course the masses love women like these. They do not threaten our current idea of societal status, they do not make us contemplate what would happen if the boundaries of the roles of man and woman were blurred. They make us feel secure in the fact that the way of life to which we have become accostmed will not change.

In a lot of ways, most people are right in looking to women like Mrs. Obama as a good example. She is the kind of woman we would all like to be like.

I can't help but wonder why more women aren't looking up to Hilary Clinton this way. She was a dutiful First Lady. We all know the depths of her martial commitment, especially in the face of a true martial test. She has proved over the past decade or so that she is hard as nails, strong enough to withstand the strutiny of the media mircoscope we put her under in the late 90s.

Beyond that, she has persued her own political career, and made a success of it. She has come closer than any other woman to getting a poltical party nomination as a presidential canidate.

And still, so many people hate her. Why?

We call her "kneniving" and "ugly". What poltician isn't those things? Since when has a male poltician's attractiveness been the reason we chose to elect him? Doesn't anyone remember what President Chester A. Arther's protrait looks like?

Still, I feel it is in Hilary's tendency to defy certain gender roles that we find fault. It is theorized by feminist scholars that woman are often separated into two categories: the angel and the witch.

The "angel" represents innocence and purity. She is selfless and dutiful to her family; constantly self-sacrificing. In contrast, the "witch" (often considered a whore as well) is a monster. She is ugly as she is corrupt. While she might be powerful, her power only lies within her ability to lie and manipulate.

If Michelle is the "angel" and Hilary is the "witch", then we know we haven't progressed much further than the belief that a woman's place is in the kitchen. When will the rest of this nation catch on that women are just like any other human being in that they cannot be simply classified into two distintly separate categories? When will we realize that there is an equal amount of "angel" and "witch" in all of us and it is the perceptions others chose to have that dictate which side of the specturm we fall into?

It is my hope that once speculators start to find a middle ground in this specturm, we will all be able to forget theidea of the First Lady and start to see the real woman behind whatever facade we have given her.

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