Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Times, They Are a Changin'

I was listening to the radio yesterday (BBC on NPR, it's always interesting to find out our news from the viewpoint of the rest of the world) when the subject of Michelle Obama came up. I don't even remember the context, but the guest said something I found interesting. She described Michelle as a "strong partner" for Barack, which was good for the U.S.

Do you remember when Bill Clinton was first running for president? After the primaries, when he was the democratic candidate, there were countless comparisons of Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton. Most of them were unfavorable to Hillary - she was too bossy, too un-ladylike, she would try to be part of the government, we weren't voting for HER, etc. And I believe that Bill even said something to the effect of "getting two for the price of one", implying that she would be part of the policy-making process. This was perceived as a BAD thing by the conservatives, including some Democrats.

Fast forward to 2008. We have another potential First Lady with a law degree, who's practicing as a lawyer. She is clearly an equal partner in her marriage. And yet, this time around, I don't remember hearing one bad comment about Michelle, even during the nastiest parts of the campaign. Perhaps she learned from Hillary's experience and kept her head down (although she was pretty visible). Anyone who thinks that she and Barack are not going to discuss policy and politics is deluding themselves. And yet, her brains were/are a non-issue, and potentially an asset.

Or maybe, just maybe, we've matured as a country. Maybe we can look at a smart woman and not feel threatened, or not feel like she "doesn't know her place." Maybe it's just that Michelle is more stylish than Hillary was at that point (remember the headbands?) and we cut her some slack because she's beautiful? I don't know. But I have tremendous respect for both women. Thank you for showing the world it's okay to be tough and smart and persistent - and female.