Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Well, No.

That's the answer to the question the LA Times poses in its headline for an article about Michelle Obama's possible First Lady role:

Is Michelle Obama really in the kitchen?

She is not in the kitchen. Someone else cooks the White House meals. Probably a large number of someone elses. And of course the article doesn't mean that Michelle would herself cook and clean and do laundry. No First Lady ever did those things, unless that's what they got their kicks from.

The article is not about the real lives of many women who actually do cook and clean and wash clothes every day. It's about the metaphorical meaning of "wife" in the American society and about the roles that women are or are not allowed to play. That has always been the hidden function of the First Lady's job, and an important part of that job is to soothe the subconscious fears of so many that women are somehow getting out of hand and will no longer be willing to be just helpmates.

Hillary Clinton did not do this. That is one of the main reason why she is still so hated by many. Michelle Obama doesn't want to go the same way. After all, the right-wingers already label her as an angry black woman, and "angry" is not what Americans want the partnering word with "wife" to be.

Still, I hope she remembers that she is now a mirror in which every American woman is supposedly seen as reflected. Not a nice job to have, especially an unpaid one.

But a job it is.