Above: Nancy, Jackie, Michelle, Barbara, Laura, Hillary,Rosalyn and Eleanor
There is a new exhibit on “First Ladies: Styles of Influence” at the George W. Bush Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. Much of it is dedicated to the clothes first ladies chose to wear and this is what attracts most visitors’ attention.
Is this a frivolous pursuit? Or some atavistic remnant of pageantry and royalty watching? What do we really expect of our first ladies? After all we did not select them for who they were but who they “came with”. A first lady does not have an assigned job. She is not paid. She did not choose the position and is uneasy and unsure of what to do with it.
We do like our first ladies to champion some cause, preferably a benign, non-controversial one. Being interested in children’s welfare, parks and recreation, literacy or some other do-good activity is very much approved of.
Can a first lady keep her outside job? After all Jill Biden did keep hers.
If Hillary had been elected would we have expected Bill to sit home and tap visitors on the shoulder to exchange pleasantries with them?
Do we scrutinize the clothing choices of Teresa May’s husband Philip May or Angela Merkel’s husband Joaquin Sauer? Do we expect them to leave their occupations? In fact many people do not even know their names. And what of conflict of interest? Especially if a president’s family uses their influence to promote their business interests?
Perhaps in a post-feminist society the role of first lady will become obsolete and she will be allowed to pursue the activity of her choice, whether paid or not, as long as it does not conflict with the Presidency.
The next step to end the second-class treatment of women is to finally elect one as president. I have high hopes for Senator Kamala Harris in the 2020 election. I think she has a lot to offer the country and with a strong personality will be able to stand up to “the Don.” He’ll be unable to resist attacking her for being a non-white daughter of immigrants and his racism and ignorance will be exposed.
I think we absolutely have to elect a woman this
time around. But my choice is Elizabeth Warren.
Americans are fascinated by celebrities and want to know everything about their lives. TV stars, movie stars, singers, and the First Lady. We’ve been fortunate to have some First Ladies that have substance and have made a big difference by championing a cause. It will be interesting to see what happens when a woman is elected president. Will he be called the First Man? What will be expected of him?
I see no reason why a first lady can’t keep her outside job if she chooses to. It’s personal and she doesn’t really have a role in the presidential matters so it’s fair to let them run their things to allow them have rest from the busy white house activities.