Even in this day and age, there is still a lot to be said for a strong-minded, savvy woman who stands at the side of her mate in his ascendancy to power. As women have stepped out of the hearth and into he public arena there is an obvious leap of logic that the woman-behind-the-man is actually power-hungry herself. The Clinton’s dynasty does not make this notion an easy one to dismiss. However, there has been such a significantly different path to the presidency for each of these families, that one might not be so easy to make correlations or rash judgments. The political analysts and policy wonks are all up in arms that Obama’s cabinet may not be as gender-diversified as even the W. administration. Obviously, I am aghast that Obama may not include as many women as was hoped. And, being a longtime political junkie and desperately mainlining for something to hope for in the last 12 years (no, I am not a Clintonite), has led me to be a touch more realistic as far as the political climate and presidential choices are concerned. While I think it is possible to find many qualified women to help Obama run the ‘free world,’ I realize that politics does not necessarily work that way. But hey, I’m just a feminist mama from a state who is likely to lose a good governor to the new presidential cabinet; and coincidentally, this would be the same state that put up the losing republican candidate. There are some who believe that M.Obama has a sort of tremendous sway over the machinations of the political engine that helped Obama win the presidency in the first place.
One of the very unattractive qualities of the Clinton presidencies has been the idea that Bill was the yuckster to Hillary’s brainpower. During the first Clinton campaign, I found the idea of Hillary’s knowledge to be an incredibly attractive quality, which – I admit – influenced my decision to vote for Clinton. I was deeply swayed by the idea that if such a buffoon could be married to an intelligent person such as she, then he must not be all that bad. And I liked her sass, her politics, and her uncomfortable public appearances at baking cookies on the Today show as she learned the ropes of politicking on the national level. I was in Washington DC at the time, living and working there in a non-political capacity, when the Clinton’s came in. I was there watching up close when the beltway forced change and cocooned the Clinton’s so as to leave Hillary gnawing away her own psyche. What has emerged from that era is the distinct impression that presidential wives are all power-mongering too. There is no doubt that to be a presidential wife, one must have some kind of desire for authority and might. No one goes through all the scrutiny, harassment, public viewing, and social chattering… let alone the campaigning, the debutante-ing , the nice-making, and fundraising, and, and, and… without some angle toward getting at the opportunity to borrow the white house digs for a bit!
Here, though, I have to defend M.Obama. Her efforts to navigate through the pressures of the press, the watching, the interest of the world, on her every move has proven that she is interested in a much different flavor of influence than say, what a previous democratic presidential first lady might have wanted… like being named to that husband’s cabinet! M.Obama has learned to garner and collect her chits in an entirely different manner. She is a strong woman and she does not shy away from many important feminist ideals, but she does not assert her authority as an intrusive force on the political process. Is it a sign of the feminist movement’s agenda being turned back? I am sure there are many who would resoundingly argue an adamant affirmative to the question. Am I worried that M.Obama will be the signifier of women’s most influential power being that of standing behind a man? Absolutely! I just feel that there is a more nuanced perspective here, a viewpoint that must acknowledge my vote in this election, which was not cast for M.Obama because she did not run for the office. I did vote for her husband because I thought that he was the best candidate for the job.
I may have some anxieties in the pre-Obamapresidency, but I am convinced that M.Obama recognizes her role in the presidential power structure and that she will challenge the definition of First Lady as she feels she is capable. M.Obama has managed a very successful life for herself thus far and I am confident that she will continue to exert her muscle as will suit her best… so far that’s worked out well for all of us, wouldn’t ya say?!