Nov 26 2008

Will Michelle Obama Challenge Expectations of a First Lady?

Feature Stories | Published 26 Nov 2008, 1:24 pm | Comments Off on Will Michelle Obama Challenge Expectations of a First Lady? -

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michelle obamaWhile most news is focused on President Elect Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black First Lady is receiving a very different kind of attention. The Financial Times sums it up thus: “Her husband is the nation’s foremost politician and her main job is to help him do his. But she must always remember that she holds no elected office and wields no independent political power. She is the chief ceremonial female – literally the First Lady – in a country still unsure about the proper role of women in public and private life. If she happens to be African-American, she is a symbol of her race. Oh, and she must be able to choose precisely the right dress for every occasion.” A graduate of Princeton and Harvard, Michelle Obama is quite different from her predecessors in more ways than one. But her high powered career and her own background in community organizing has not generated as much interest as where she plans to send her daughters to school, and the embrace of her role as “mom-in-chief” – aspects which fit more comfortably with standard expectations of the First Lady. Michelle Obama, the dutiful mother and wife, is the dominant narrative rather than Michelle Obama, the independent intellectual and activist. With more women in politics than ever before, much is made of American women’s opportunities and the end of sexism. Yet why do we still expect the First Lady to be the nation’s most prominent doormat?

GUEST: Rebecca Traister, senior writer for Salon, where she covers women in media, politics and entertainment.

Read Rebecca Traister’s article about Michelle Obama here: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/11/12/michelle_obama/

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