Monday, December 15, 2008

Mommy Issues at Forbes.com

"Mrs. Bush is of a certain American type: wholesome, inclined to good works, a homemaker and mother, a supporter of the man she married, a smiling hostess. She is not flashy or colorful, overly intellectual or palpably shrewd, demonstrably independent or politically aggressive."

In other words, Laura Bush knows her place and stays in it!

The quote above is from an article at Forbes.com by Tunku Varadarajan called In Praise Of Laura Bush. In it, Varadaarajan begins, as all writers seem to when covering women - no matter who they are - with talk of fashion. Yes, fashion.

He harks back to the Republican convention, and tsk-tsks about what Cindy McCain was wearing on the stage while standing next to Laura Bush. He slams Cindy for being "over the top" and praises Laura for being "elegant but restrained". Both women had on nice dresses with jackets, but Cindy had - gasp! - chose one with color, which suited her pale complexion and blonde hair, while Laura was dressed in white, which suits her coloring.

But honestly, who gives a rip what they were wearing? Someone needs to tell men that, unless you are Tim Gunn, your take on appropriate female fashion is nonsense!!

Could he trivialize these women any more?

To paraphrase a popular phrase of the day, "Oh yes he can!"

Witness the following, which does more to reveal Tunku's mommy issues than shed ANY light on Laura Bush as a person:

"There has never been any doubt, however, that she Stands By Her Man, and it might even be said that she has "mothered" him to a significant extent: by being patient, and fully aware of her (frat) boy's tendency to over-exuberance; and by tamping down the tempests that surge within his breast."

In case, we miss the jab at Hillary and her 'stand by your man' comment of oh I don't know, 16 years ago, he clarifies for us what is appropriate First Lady behavior and who embodied that:

"Of course, Laura Bush is cast from the same mold as most first ladies of the past 60 years (if not two centuries!): Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter and Barbara Bush. Jackie Kennedy was socially fancy but weirdly popular even so--and yet she was, foremost, a mother and interior decorator, not a maker of policy.

Hillary Clinton is the big exception."

Good thing Jackie had that "mother and interior decorator thing" to save her from joining the ranks of that pariah of First Ladies, Hillary.

He is concerned, however, that Michelle Obama will follow in Hillary's footsteps rather than Mamie's and Laura's:

"There is some danger that Michelle Obama, a forthright and independent woman, could hew more to the Hillary model than to the Laura Bush way --although her demeanor in the election campaign suggests that she's not unaware of the public boundaries that Hillary, as first lady, failed to respect. And if Mrs. Obama really, really is, as I quote her saying (above), "taking some cues" from Mrs. Bush, then President Obama will be a very lucky man."

Varadarajan does not seem to realize that all the First Ladies are people in their own right, not simply appendages of their husbands. I give Laura Bush, who I genuinely admire, the respect that she chose for herself what kind of First Lady role she would take. I believe the other First Ladies he mention did the same. He assumes they are cut from the same boring cloth, that stereotype of the stalwart wife with which he is so enamoured.

And I note, with some irony, that he did not mention Eleanor Roosevelt, who was outspoken and visible throughout FDR's administrations.

Until women stop being written about as one-dimensional characters, who have to fit into either Box A or Box B, we will continue to be treated as fools fit to be judged more by our wardrobes than our intellect.

The media narrative for Michelle Obama is already Box A or Box B - Mamie or Hillary. Barbara or Eleanor. Mommy or ball-buster.

This is sexism of the worst kind, because this man thinks he is praising Laura Bush. He just does not get that he has reduced her down to something trivial and cartoonish. That is the trap, my friends. Don't just read things like this and let it pass. I haven't. I'm posting a link to this blog entry on the Forbes.com website, because Professor Varadarajn needs to wake up and join us here in the 21st Century.

And he needs to stop giving fashion advice too!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to write and publish a rebuke to such a nonsensical article that had no basis for being written in the first place, despite it being an op-ed piece. I can't begin to imagine how painful a course taught by him must be. I concur, no fashion advice from a guy who dresses as he does (http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/faculty/facultyindex.cgi?id=456)!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I can't even believe that such an article was printed -- in a mainstream magazine like Forbes, yet. It's like reading an article about genetic inferiority of the "negro race" except that it's still OK to treat women like this.

Alessandro Machi said...

As a guy, I tend to think that Mrs. Bush came across more like George Bush Sr.'s mother, than wife. I'm not trying to be insulting, that's just how it looks to me.

Alessandro Machi said...

I guess this topic is about Laura Bush. OOPs. Yeah, I would agree that how she is depicted is crummy.

Stray Yellar Dawg? said...

Just meandered into your blog.

Nice work!

Tunku said...

Hi Spiral Gate: I enjoyed reading this. Mrs Roosevelt was an anomalous First Lady---a wartime/Depression-era political ally to her husband in times like no other. Anyway, I have added your blog to my Favourites. Nice piece on shoes.
Best wishes, Tunku Varadarajan (Forbes.com)