“And ambivalence should be her birthright.”

“To the First Lady, With Love” is an article which consists of “four thank-you notes to Michelle Obama.” The four contributors are: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Gloria Steinem, Jon Meacham and Rashida Jones. Each note gives an account of Michelle Obama from the writers’ lens. This is a feminist piece, and it is fascinating to witness how different feminisms define Michelle Obama and her life in the White House. Adiche highlights that “she had to flatten herself to better fit the mold of first lady.” Steinem addresses the collective bias of a country which questioned whether or not Mrs. Obama “Was… too strong, physically and mentally to be a proper first lady.” Meacham focused on her organic garden—“ she cultivated her own garden, never threatening and never intimidating her neighbors.” Last but not least, Jones is concerned with the First Lady’s ability to be many things at once; she concludes that a part of Michelle Obama’s legacy is that she showed women “that it’s okay to be everything.”

“The position of first lady is, unfortunately, symbolic and it makes it fair game for media analysis ad nauseum. But no think piece can fully encompass a real woman.”

A symbol is a thing that represents something else; it usually represents something abstract. What is the first lady a symbol of? I am interested in how both Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama have been characterized. It is intriguing that a recurring sentiment in this piece is that Michelle Obama had to be purposely non-threatening. Was she successful? I believe that Mrs. Obama’s highlighted role as a great mother, a champion of healthy eating for the nation’s children, and a dedicated wife shifted attention away from her intelligence and her other accomplishments. It seems that one of the roles of the first lady is to make her husband relatable. It seems that Mr. Clinton has taken up the task to make his wife relatable, which is the traditional role of the first spouse. However, this traditional role has been characterized in such way that it reflects badly on H. R. Clinton. That is, she’s been characterized as weak , inaccessible and/ lacking in some way;therefore it is necessary that her husband, who is more charismatic, campaign for her.

 

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