Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 6 March 2014

The First Lady Debate

Politics in the United States of America are pretty conservative.

So conservative in fact that I think the left wing party there is pretty much in tune with the right wing here, and that America has no genuine left wing in mainstream politics at all.

Of course, here in Blighty, we’re heading in the same direction, but that’s probably a blog of another stripe.

In any case, America is not known, by me at least, as being terribly politically progressive.

You might wonder if that’s why that little infant nation has never had a woman president.

I don’t wonder. I have a theory.

Well... of course I do. You’d expect me to... I have a theory about pretty well everything, after all.

I call this theory ‘The First Lady Debate’.

We don’t have a First Lady. The wife of our Prime Minister has no defined role in our political leader’s life in office. Why should she have? I’m not sure that anywhere else in the World is such a role the accepted norm. But in the United States of America the wife, or should I say the spouse... No, definitely The Wife... of the President has a role in the Whitehouse, and therefore in the country.

The very fact that the President’s spouse is expected to be a ‘wife’ or more particularly the ‘First Lady’ is a problem to begin with. It suggests by its very nature that the President is expected to be a man. It institutionalises the role of the leader of an an entire nation as essentially masculine.

Where do I begin with the sexism? Aren’t there laws about this, even in America?

The first really credible female candidate for President of the United States of America was Hilary Clinton. She was running against a black man.

Of course America doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to racial discrimination, either, so, frankly, I was pretty happy when it looked like the job was going to go to either a woman or a racial minority, the last time around. That would make them stand up and take notice! 

The black man won, and I’m down with that.

Hilary Clinton was at a disadvantage though, and here’s why.

The United States of America has a role for a First Lady. It has a role for the President’s spouse. This suggests that the office is, in some way, held by a couple. The Family rules in the USA, and in any patriarchal society the man rules the roost. The man is the head of the household. What on God’s green Earth is a man to do in the role of ‘First Lady’, and, what’s more, what is the President to do if she happens to be a woman and her husband decides to swing his weight around.

The implication is, of course, that if the United States were to vote for a woman as President, they would in fact put her husband in the role, because, as all good wives must, she would, naturally, end up doing his bidding. No one wants the elected President to be overruled by her unelected husband, so, probably better not to elect a woman at all. Women are weak. Women are ruled by their husbands. Love honour and obey... Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? Isn’t that the natural order of things?

Hilary Clinton was the first credible female candidate for President of the USA, and just look who her husband was... President Bill Clinton. There are term limits in politics in American. He’d served two terms as president and he wasn’t allowed to serve a third. If President Clinton became the first ‘First Gentleman’ wasn’t that just handing him back the reins? Wasn’t that tantamount to giving him a third term in office? His wife, if she was a good wife would bend to his will, surely? And if she wasn’t a good wife then she couldn’t possibly be a good woman and so she had no business being President, surely?

Now extrapolate that idea out and shouldn’t Hilary Clinton as President, and any woman president, bow to the authority of any of her male advisors? Shouldn’t they all stand in the role of husband to her if she were truly a good woman?

The United States has screwed itself.

Hilary Clinton would have been better off without a husband if she wanted to be President of America, except that without a husband all kinds of suspicions would have fallen upon her head. Was she a harridan? A witch? Heaven forbid, a lesbian?

It’s just a theory, of course, but it seems to me that the institution of First Lady presents the electorate of the United States with an impassable conundrum. 

We won’t see a woman in that particular job in my lifetime. I’d put money on it. All the time the American public is more concerned with the muscularity of Michelle Obama’s arms or the cut of her cardigans or the height of her heels, no one is ever going to seriously consider whether a woman is ever going to succeed in this job.

Sam Cam? Who cares? Precisely nobody on this side of the pond, and Mrs Clegg doesn’t even use Nick’s name...

On the other hand, for what it was worth, and it wasn’t worth a damn in my books, we did have a female Prime Minister once upon a time.

Go figure.

1 comment:

  1. One of the few things Ireland has gotten right over the years was electing Mary Robinson to the office of president. I wish she'd stick her nose into local politics more these days, but she seems to be off saving the world instead.

    Ah well.

    Hillary might get it next time. I'd love to see her change the national vocabulary over there.