Dear Mr. President,
I'm not a big fan of "history months." For one thing, I've never met any member of a group whose history is celebrated for a dedicated month who appreciates it. March is "Women's history month" which should incline me, as a woman, to make an effort to remember those who came before me, those women whose legacies are the rights and opportunities I'm lucky enough to possess. And they're pretty great. Today, however, I'd rather write about a woman who I feel embodies the complexity and contradiction of modern feminism, and who does so while daily under direct personal attack. She is a hero of my own, the First Lady Michelle Obama.
Mr. President, clearly I'm a supporter of yours. I worked to see you elected in 2008, and I intend to do so again in 2012. But, let's be honest, you wouldn't be President without Michelle. She's an amazing woman who is widely admired for her abilities as a wife and mother, but she's clearly brilliant and politically savvy, as well. She's remarkably able to balance the satisfaction and importance of being a devoted and talented mother with the demands of her intellect and professional pride. My own mother reads pretty much any article she can find about the First Lady, and often calls me up afterward just to tell me, again, how much she admires her and, by extension, you. Every time some moron in the media tries to paint your wife as a terrorist-fist-bumping-black-nationalist-radical-feminist-America-hater, I'm sure that my mother's TV gets worried about being struck by flying projectiles, and the Democratic party gets another flood of donations from her and similarly-minded individuals.
I'm not just writing this to be a gushing fan. While it is an unfortunate reality that the First Lady's accomplishments make her a target for attack from the disgruntled old world order of men and even women who don't see her role in our society as appropriate, I was particularly upset by an e-mail that was recently forwarded by a CEO from Tennessee. This man may have apologized, insisting it was "political humor," but I, personally, hopes that he continues to suffer the loss of friends and clients as a result. There is nothing political about his attack. It is, among other things, blatant sexism. Secretary Clinton can probably recall equally offensive attacks during her own time as First Lady. (I don't know of similar examples for Laura or Barbara Bush, but then, I feel as though the right has often been more swiftly critical of a First Lady.) Why are men like this CEO so threatened by women like the First Lady? My roommate and I have attributed this partially to "angry white man syndrome", a condition we see often, which manifests as chronic complaints about the difficulties of being white and male and unable to qualify for the perceived "special treatment" that women and minorities receive. This fear is certainly not something that a national history month will undo. I think that women would gladly rename March "Men's history month", if it gave us half of the seats in congress and equal pay in the professional world, or raised realistic expectations for a man's participation in domestic life. I'd sacrifice having doors opened or getting drinks paid for on my behalf, if it meant that I didn't have to worry about seeming too smart or too strong.
I appreciate the steps you've taken, Mr. President, to promote education, equality and recognition for the girls and women in our country and across the globe. A man benefiting from the love and support of a woman like Michelle must clearly have an appreciation for all of the roles a modern woman is expected to take on, and the importance, to society as a whole, of equal opportunity for women. Our nation is lucky to benefit from her wisdom as well as your own, and our country is stronger, your presidency improved, by her contributions. She is certainly not the only First Lady to have served her nation as well as her husband, and our country is in debt to many remarkable women who deserve so much more than a month on the calendar.
I hope that the First Lady continues to be an example for all of us to strive toward, even as her accomplishments make her a bigger target for those who fear her. Happy Women's History Month. May the sentiments that made such a month necessary be quickly outgrown.