An Equal Marriage

ArticleLarge I'm reading the Jodi Kanter article on the Obama marriage with great interest. The Times website has some great little audio clips from them.

Like a lot of people of my generation, I relate to the Obamas. They are both highly educated, ambitious people who struggle with doing the right things for their girls, while trying to avoid traditional roles. The Obamas are very frank that Barack's career choices have dominated and that Michelle has had to attend the dance recitals and teacher conferences. She says that although Barack's career choices have won out, that they have an equal marriage. All important decisions regarding the family are mutual decisions.

I really appreciate Michelle's slight annoyance that her career was sidelined and, at the same time, how clearly committed she is to raising her daughters properly. It's honest. I get it.

She shows how it is possible to be a strong, feminist woman and not pull in a paycheck and how you can still look good in a sheath dress, even in your 40s. She has put loud-mouthed, opinionated, good-hearted women in vogue. Love her for that.

19 thoughts on “An Equal Marriage

  1. I guess that she doesn’t have an official job now, but she had important and interesting sounding jobs right up into the primaries, and apparently made more than $300K herself in 2006. If those jobs allowed her to spend much time with her kids then I can hardly see how they could be seen as a sacrifice when compared to the next most likely job for her, a partnership at a big law firm. That job would have allowed her to make more money but only at the cost of a much worse family life, and it’s not as if she were getting small amounts of money (or doing uninteresting or unfulfilling) work in exchange. It’s hard for me to see how most people wouldn’t jump for that sort of trade-off.

  2. An equal marriage with a suitable man? Though I can’t find a way to work in The Golden Gate, which is my favorite. (The man has such prodigious talent he writes his even acknowledgements as semi-sonnets.)

  3. Feminism has become totally a matter of attitude: it means every woman saying that whatever she does is “empowering” and “liberated.” Every Park Avenue matron I know has a lifestyle not significantly different from my grandmother’s (i.e., a breadwinner husband on Wall Street, hired household help, some do-gooder volunteer activities and hobbies), and yet all of them claim to be feminists.
    I guess if the infinite play of signifiers is infinite enough, you can do the exact same things as your grandmother and yet have it mean something totally different.

  4. For me the thing that makes Michelle more feminist is the fact that she so clearly defines herself beyond her relationship to her husband. Her attitude that politics was Barack’s thing and she had her own thing — for her to have her own thing, that’s big.
    I love the fact that no other man, not one, was good enough for her. She never brought anyone else home to meet the family.

  5. Matt, she made her $300K as a community liaison for a hospital which needed things from her husband, and which gave her a huge raise after he got to the senate. This is Mr Inside, Ms Outside, just like Hillary’s meteoric career in Arkansas law. And various Senate wives here in DC who are realtors and lobbyists, etc. So, on her own? My mileage differs,some.

  6. Dave S- do you know what the person who held that job before her was paid? I don’t, but unless you know, you can’t say she was paid an unreasonable amount. Maybe her contacts helped her get the job, but that’s true for many people, too. Her background before the job seems like one that would make her qualified for it. Beyond that, my point on the “on her own” bit was just that this was her salary, not his, so she’d not obviously given up anything in doing what she did, especially given that what she was doing was likely more enjoyable than being a law firm partner, the other obvious job for someone with her background.

  7. I’m not clear on the exact timeline, but roughly, MO was paid $100k until around the time that her husband became senator, at which point she got bumped to $300k. Then, after she left for DC, the hospital didn’t fill her position. There was also a story about Blagojevich wanting that kind of deal for his wife, too. As dave s. said, Mr. Inside, Ms. Outside. I don’t have time to collect links, but those are the facts as I understand them.

  8. I’d love it if “loud-mouthed, opinionated” were actually in vogue now but Michele is hardly loud-mouthed in public. Furthermore, what huge sacrifice is it to put her career on hold while she’s in the White House for four or eight years? She’ll be young when they leave and there will be many years for her own career if she wants one. Pretty much any future career doors she wants to open will already be ajar. Because of, not in spite of, having “stuck it out” during BHO’s political life. Where’s the sacrifice, exactly?

  9. Dave- I take Amy P’s comments under advisement, but you’ll have to forgive me for not reading what Steve Sailer has to say. I have to admit that, given his other posts about the Obamas (his dark mutterings about Obama’s African background and the like), and the fact that he’s a white supremicist, I’m not very interested in what he has to say and suspect that reading him will only make people dumber.

  10. “Furthermore, what huge sacrifice is it to put her career on hold while she’s in the White House for four or eight years?”
    Well, it’s no sacrifice at all, if there was any realistic chance at all that the journey that began with the sacrifices would have ended at the white house. But there wasn’t, you know. During the years when she was sacrificing (equal parenting, less money) and Obama was living in an apartment in DC as a senator trying to make it back for weekend visits, I’m sure it was a huge sacrifice. And, I still believe that it wasn’t until Wisconsin’s primary that Michelle Obama had any hope at all that the sacrifices might actually place them in the White House.
    In retrospect, of course, it was a completely worthwhile risk for her, and for her family and children. But prospectively she was looking at a snowball’s chance that her husband would actually end up in the White House against loosing her parenting partner for most of the time (as well as his potentially higher income).

  11. Matt,
    Basically, Sailer quotes the NYT as saying that BHO was on the Illinois Senate’s health committee while MO was working for the hospital. Sailer thinks BHO’s oversight of the health industry was why MO was hired by the hospital, but I don’t think he establishes the chronology. Nonetheless, working in the industry that your spouse is attempting to regulate is a pretty big conflict of interest.
    There’s a detailed “neutral” treatment here:
    http://www.factcheck.org/2009/05/michelle-obamas-salary/
    If you read the stuff from the Fact Check piece about MO cutting down her hours (and salary) more and more as BHO’s salary took off, you can actually see why talk of “sacrifice” is appropriate. BHO’s political career eventually killed MO’s career, at least for the next 3-7 years.

  12. Matt, why should I forgive you? I found a link, I put it up in response to your question. Do you think he is inaccurate in talking about Obama? Or that he is so vile you cannot maintain your purity if you read him? Or what?

  13. Dave S- many of the things Sailer has said about Obama are, by any plausible standard, vilely racist (see, basically, anything he’s said about Obama’s books.) But more so, given his white supremicy and his general dishonesty about anything involving race or, often enough, Obama, I don’t think he’s worth bothering with. There are plenty of good people to read, ones that you don’t have to filter out so much crap to gain anything from. That being the case, I don’t see any reason to pay attention to Steve Sailer and his white supremicist set at all.

  14. Matt, here are some lines by Mark Kleiman which he put up as a guest post at Volokh, about the values of reading folks with whom you don’t agree:
    I can’t read Eugene’s mind, but I suspect that he invited me to guest-blog (despite our basic disagreements) for the same reason that I regularly follow this blog and other libertarian and conservative information channels. The basic lesson of Bayesian analysis is that you can learn only from information that disconfirms some part of your current belief set. But of course the natural tendency of the mind is to minimize cognitive dissonance by accepting confirming evidence and rejecting disconfirming evidence, and that tendency is emphasized when beliefs get to be badges of group membership.
    This is a deeply unhealthy tendency, and it tends to defeat one of the basic evolutionary strategies of homo sapiens, which Karl Popper summed up as “letting our beliefs die in our place.” Unfortunately, it has been on full display in the comment threads to my posts, which consisted (when the comments related to the posts at all rather than merely ranting about unrelated topics) mostly of vigorous attempts to prove that the thoughts offered in the posts were worthless or wicked, and the poster an ill-intentioned idiot.
    Eugene no doubt thought he was doing his readers a favor by offering them some reading that might challenge their precoceptions. There is little evidence in the comment thread that the VC readership shares that view, but it’s possible to hope that the comments are not a representative sample of reader reaction.

  15. Dave, I read plenty of people I disagree with politically and on many other issues. And I know that people who like Sailer like to point out that he thinks (certain) Asians have even higher IQs than whites. (Though he thinks they ought not be allowed to immigrate to the US for other racists reasons, as do the other white supremicists at VDARE.) But that doesn’t change the fact that he thinks that whites are genetically superior to blacks and latinos, a claim that is not only vile but is not supported by science. Just as I don’t feel that I need to spend time reading the economic writings of Maoists or the scientific writings of flat earthers or the political writings of those who think women are genetically inferior to men, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not reading any more than I have of the writings of white supremicists like Steve Sailer. When people prove themselves to be untrustworthy guides you can only go astray by listening to them. The pseudo-scientific racism of Steve Sailer is one of those untrustworthy guides.

  16. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by not reading any more than I have of the writings of white supremicists
    I’m more of a white mediocracritist. We wear sheets, but only low thread count polyester blends.

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