The Vagenda


You’d think the wife of one of the most influential, powerful and sexily-voiced men in the world would feel like identifying herself as something more than simply ‘mother-in-chief’. But when Michelle Obama made her speech at the Democratic Convention, listing how, like, totally besotted she was with her husband after his 4 years in office and how her most important role in life is being a mother, shit got a bit uncomfortable in the feminist world (the actual world). 
Mummy Obama obviously didn’t realise that when she got up on that podium and declared those beliefs to the thousands, she was basically saying ‘I don’t do the politics-y thing, that’s my husband’s job’. Choosing to spend your life looking after your children is not an unworthy pursuit, but Mrs Obama resorting to dated stereotypes in order to coax backwards Americans to vote is just plain lazy and insulting. Michelle doesn’t need to come wielding The Female Eunuch, screaming ‘DEATH TO THOSE WHO OBEY CONSTRUCTS OF SOCIETY’ whilst burning a doll (or real) Todd Akin, but she depicts an insultingly simplistic portrayal of a lifestyle, a portrayal that, unfortunately, doesn’t say ‘as a woman living in 21st century where the role of a mother is only one of the many things I can choose to spend my life doing, I’ve decided that looking after my children as a job is fulfilling, and I do it not because I feel I have to fulfil a mould that’s set out for me, but because I want to’. 
It’s soooooo last century for the Democrats to try and push Michelle as the good ol’ ‘wife and mum’. The main reason they get female voters is because the Democrats aren’t disgusting sexist, woman-say-goodbye-to-your-vagina, you-don’t-know-what’s-best-for-your-uterus kind of politicians, but ones who often acknowledge that things have changed in the last hundred years re: women. Partially, the whole shtick was probably meant to humanise Obama. I mean, I get that it’s important for someone like Ann Romney to be up there doing that, reminding the world that Mitt isn’t just some unbelievably wealthy, misogynistic, cold, compassionless reptile, but actually, a genuine, real-life human being, with a real human heart, and apparently also, a brain (who knew?).
But Obama?! We LOVE Obama! He reeks cool, down to earth man of the people (I mean, look at THIS and THIS), and he definitely does not need to pander to Americans by presenting his policies and then going ‘but if you’re not into all that Medicare, welfare thing, well…I’m actually a bit old fashioned, and just LOVE a classic role fulfilment’.
Mamma O also at one point in her speech presents this long anecdote about how her father worked past medical issues to make the monies so he could support his family. Fine, good work, I don’t like working when it’s dark outside, or if I don’t have the right pen (Pilot VB7 Liquid Ink pen) so that’s pretty impressive. BUT THEN, she states that this is ‘what being a man’ is about (did someone say ‘heteronormative’??). Oh Michelle, you’re confused, it’s the twenty FIRST century, yes, there you go, no don’t worry about it, easy mistake. Men can make the monies. Women can make the monies. That doesn’t make a man a man and it doesn’t make a woman a man. And it certainly doesn’t make a ‘man’ any less of a ‘man’ if he wants to look after his kids or go travelling for a bit, or sit googling ‘funny cat videos’ for over 6 hours a day. It’s just foolish to try and enforce dated gender roles, especially as a cheap means of campaigning. 
So Michelle, do as the t-shirts say: look forward! Or,  just, like look around and notice how women are creating all kinds of roles for themselves, and that it shouldn’t matter whether you’re a man looking after kids, or single, or a woman earning money for a family (plus, most mums don’t give up their careers because their husband is the President, natch). The cult of motherhood, much like that other cult, Scientology, is increasingly obsolete in public discourse. And THANK GOD. There’s a difference between enjoying being a mother, and being a ‘mom-in-chief’, which is presumably some kind of uber mom who leads other, less organised, high-profile moms to…what exactly? Not liberation, that’s for sure. Still, at least they let the little lady make a speech. Progress. 
- Ruby Lott-Lavigna

6 thoughts on “Mom-in-Chief

  1. I totally agree with the sentiments of this post, but think that the anger is misdirected. Look at the speeches of Romney, Biden and Ryan’s wifes. They are identical to MO’s. Likewise, all four men devoted some of their precious speech time to pointing out that they love and are proud of their wives. Great.
    But why direct the hate at these women? They’re only being pragmatic. Speaking even half as candidly as Vagenda or I would like would ruin MO’s respect in various key demographics. Because various key American demographics are completely nuts. Plus, MO does actually do a *lot* of good beyond being a Stepford Wife. She just knows not to bring it up at the election. So if BO is re-elected, she can *keep* doing her good, independent, high-powered stuff.

    If you’re gonna be angry, be angry at the patriarchy, not this one pragmatic woman.

  2. I’d love the read the article Marty linked but I am going to give my opinion before then. I hope it says what I think it would.

    With all due respect Lindy, I think you are sitting the pot miss here. Michelle Obama shines as a beacon of light for feminists for one simple reason: She is all that comes with being such a high powered individual WITHOUT neglecting her motherly duties. She puts her children high on her list of priorities, as does her husband by the way. He is equally loud mouthed about his role as a father and how he thinks of what is good for his children. (How much of her and his speech is just that, is anyone’s guess. But if they are sincere and not just playing at politics, then they have very lucky children).

    To me, her speech said: I am a mother and I am all these other things. I make it work.

    The criticism I think that can be leveled is that she makes it seem like “you can have it all” when we all know that something has to give somewhere. No woman or man can be 100% something else and 100% parent. We can not be more than 100% in total. I think she makes it seem that women can do that. I’d like to see more honest conversations in the feminist realm where mothers do not have to feel guilty if they lack in either the parenting or the work/passion/whatever-else-they-identify as departments.

    I am fully aware that my last paragraph may be misinterpreted but I’m not saying that once women become mothers they cannot be anything else. What I say is that women need the luxury to choose what their focus will be in the same manner men have the freedom to do so. Both men and women have to be aware that their choices have consequences on their relationships with their children and the type care their children will get.

    Telling women they can have it all sets them up for failure and then, when they do fail, they might think feminism is all bull crap.

  3. She probably didn’t write much of the speech. I would like to blame it on the speech writers – and her inability to chose her own words.

  4. Every woman in the world has her own interests. Some just wants to be a great mother and wife to their family. I applaud Mrs. Obama for not going the mainstream and not following how people wants her to be. Still, I think she’s a super woman. In every successful man, lies a superwoman who loves and take very good care of him in order to do his duty well.