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In Session Anchor
The pundits applaud and cheer for the newly softened Michelle Obama after her speech. Flattened, more like it, by the American political machine’s insistent steamrolling of intelligent, accomplished women into one dimensional wifeys, apparently still the only mold of First Lady palatable to the electorate.
She came to us in last night’s speech, she said, as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother: identities in which she exists only in relation to family members, identities which have defined women for centuries. The first two require only birth. The third and fourth define women solely in relation to our husbands and children.
Are these identities important to strong women? Of course, just as they are for men. Our identities as children and siblings and parents and spouses are key parts of who we all are. But can we imagine a successful man introducing himself on a national political stage as a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and devoting his speech exclusively to these roles? Can we imagine him omitting his work entirely?
There was one drumbeat in Michelle’s speech, surely carefully vetted by the campaign strategists: family, family, family. Breaking news: she loves her daughters, she loves her husband, she loves her mother and her deceased father. Family values are important to her. Of course they are.
When she talked about work at all, it was Barack’s, not her own. She waxed eloquent for hundreds of words about her husband’s work on the South Side of Chicago, but not about her own career in the Chicago mayor’s office, or in public interest programs. There was just one brief throwaway line about how she left a big law firm job for community service, and how she loves America because a working class girl like her got into law school (just as girls are accepted in law schools now around the globe).
Uh, she didn’t just get into law school, she graduated from Harvard Law School. After graduating cum laude from Princeton University. She was then snapped up by the prestigious large law firm Sidley Austin, a plum job, even for an Ivy League grad. She was assigned to mentor Barack Obama when she was senior to him, she a practicing attorney while he was still a law student.
I am sure Michelle Obama’s parents were strong role models who encouraged both their children to study seriously and develop their minds. Michelle did that, to an impressive degree. What a shame that she must downplay her brains and hard work, and that it’s considered a resounding success that she has now successfully positioned herself as a warm and fuzzy potential First Lady because she can speak enthusiastically about being a daughter, sister, wife and mother.
As feminists said a generation ago, “a man of quality is not threatened by a woman of equality.” Barack Obama picked an intelligent, hard working, strong, high-achieving woman to marry, a big plus in my book in assessing Barack. Just as it says a lot about a man when he chooses a bimbo (Elliot Spitzer and the teenaged hooker, feh, that’s all I need to know), a man’s choice of a bright, opinionated woman says that he doesn’t just endorse women’s equality, he enjoys it at home. What a shame that the Machine decided, probably correctly, that the rest of us are not as highly evolved.
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