Posted by: Christine Johnson | March 5, 2008

More on the Michelle Obama Piece

You know, that one from The New Yorker. I just love this paragraph:

Obama is cool in temperament. When Stevie Wonder, whom she was escorting to the stage at a rally in February, tripped on a riser, sending her tumbling down next to him in front of thousands of people, she exhibited no embarrassment or alarm, turning what could have been a blooper-reel nightmare into a non-event. She is unquestionably accomplished, but she is not a repressed intellectual, in the mode of Teresa Heinz Kerry. More than anything, she seems to enjoy talking about her husband and her daughters (Malia, nine, and Sasha, six). She can give the impression, in the midst of the campaign’s endless roundtables and kaffeeklatsches, that she’d rather be talking to them. Obama seems like an iconoclast precisely because she’s normal (the norm for a candidate’s wife having been defined, in the past, as nonworking, white, and pious about the democratic process).

First of all, I think that I might not know what “repressed intellectual” means, because when I think “intellectual” I do not think of Teresa Heinz Kerry. I mean, maybe I didn’t pay enough attention to Mrs. Kerry, but she is not what would pop into my head when I think of intellectuals.

Secondly, that last sentence there is a whopper.

“Obama seems like an iconoclast precisely because she’s normal (the norm for a candidate’s wife having been defined, in the past, as nonworking, white, and pious about the democratic process).”

We can’t help the white part. But the non-working thing? Didn’t Laura Bush teach? Hadn’t she worked? Mrs. Kerry worked, and she was a candidate’s wife.

But even the nonworking thing…what’s wrong with that? If you have a family, isn’t it ideal for the children to have a parent at home to take care of them? Why would you – especially if you didn’t have to – farm out the raising of your children?

It seriously bothers me when I read things like this – things that make it seem as though being a homemaker is beneath really smart women. If a woman is smart, why would she want to be at home? Why be tethered to the children and the house? Why give up the career path for diapers and dishes and dirty laundry and dinner in the crockpot?

I get more out of my life now than I ever did as a teacher or interpreter. My reward is so much greater as a homemaker! And you can just up that to the umpteenth power when it comes to homeschooling my children!! What I do now is so much more important than any job I’ve held. And to call my vocation of being a wife and mother and homeschooler a “job” would be, frankly, to demean it. To insinuate that what I do is somehow beneath me is to say that what I do is unimportant. To say that I’m wasting my education by not working in my field out in the world is to say that my vocation – really, my life – is worthless without a paycheck.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about this article. For example, it praises Michelle Obama for being so much cooler than past hopeful First Ladies because she didn’t “gush over” the corndogs and candied apples in Iowa at the state fair. Her easy dismissal (“Stuff on a stick.”) says a lot about the way she views other people’s work. It’s not sophisticated, who cares? And this exchange:

Here’s Obama, talking to me in her motorcade halfway between Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and Green Bay about Obama Girl, the young woman who professed her crush on Obama’s husband all over the Internet: “That was a little weird, because, you know . . . I just assumed, you know, there’s no way anybody’s gonna hear about that. And one day Sasha comes home and she’s, like, ‘Daddy has a girlfriend. It’s you, Mommy.’ And it’s, like, ‘Oh, shhhhhhhhh—yeah.’ ” Curse word averted, barely.

… just makes me wonder why it’s so “cool”.

And the part about her unwillingness to “subsume her personality, to make herself seem duller and less independent than she is, even in the service of getting her husband elected President of the United States” makes me wonder just who is asking her to do this. Just because other First Ladies have been demure, or haven’t spoken boldly about how horribly expensive it is to buy fresh fruit and real fruit juice for your kids and make them actual lunches instead of Lunchables doesn’t mean that they didn’t have their own minds, were dull, or were not independent people. It’s a backhanded insult to other First Ladies! The article calls Laura Bush “prim,” and they don’t mean it as a compliment! (I’d love it if I was seen as prim and proper! I often lament my social clumsiness!)

Yes, I’ll read the whole thing and comment here. Michelle Obama actually has a chance to be First Lady, you know.

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