Sunday, October 5, 2008

Political Wives

The Washington Post Magazine has a wonderful article on the intelligence and ambitiousness of Michelle Obama and the backstory on how she and Barack met. It's nice to read about a powerful strong woman.

Moreover, I think it says a lot about a man/candidate when he's married to a strong woman like Michelle Obama. Our trophy wife culture has gotten out of hand. Michelle's just as well educated and credentialed as Barack is. Why is it that men marry down the intelligence scale? In the medical field, twice as many female doctors are likely to married to male doctors (44% vs 22%) according to the Annals of Internal Medicine. Put another way, male doctors are only half as likely to marry a doctor themselves.

What about in politics?We know that Michelle Obama is amazing. Hillary is inarguably highly accomplished, almost as much as her former President husband. While the experience of a candidate is important, I think that who they chose as their wife tells something very important about them as men. To be fair Barbara Bush comes from a different generation. It was however not a barrier to her rich family to send her to Smith College, but instead she chose to drop out to get married. Man vs education. As unfortunately politics are still primarily dominated by male candidates, we have some important questions to ask in regards to who they choose as partners:
  • Do they value intelligence and ambition in women?
  • Do they respect a women with her own career goals?
  • Do they understand the new role women have in the workforce and that we are not just homemakers?


Habladora said...

Ummm... are we calling teachers dumb? 'Cause I'm a teacher married to a scientist and the implication that teachers are either unintelligent or unabitious makes me ... defensive and grumpy.

Habladora said...

I'd also like to add that W. married a woman who is far more intelligent and competent than he is - so perhaps we're seeing the effects of a sexist society that punishes women for their ambition rather than a phenomenon of male politicians "marrying down."

Mächtige Maus said...

I don't think the focus of this post was meant to be the statement, "Why is it that men marry down the intelligence scale?"

I like the post in that it does call into question the sexist notion of a trophy wife. Each and every woman mentioned can stand very well on her own against her husband's intelligence and qualifications. That just isn't what society likes to focus on because that *gasp* takes away from the patriarcy.

Le Loup-garou said...

Sorry--no intention to offend. I respect teachers--my mom is one, too. (I thought about not posting, because I predicted you might write that exact statement).

There is a difference between President and teacher. Just as much as there is between President and scientist.

I think it is interesting that Clinton and Obama chose women with similarly ambitious career trajectories. I was trying to say that this is a positive attribute of both of them, while politicians who choose wives who are 'socialites' and 'philanthropists' might say something about their view of women.

frau sally benz said...

My first reaction was Habladora's as well, but I understand what you're saying. I think maybe a different way of seeing the same pattern is that Clinton & Obama both married women who were headed toward the same path they were. The other examples married women that were on more... traditional (?) paths.

Though, I have to say that Biden's wife was a professor before becoming a teacher. I think I read somewhere that she still teaches classes, but I'm not sure.

In any event, it's an interesting point to think about.

Habladora said...

I agree with the idea that Michelle Obama is incredible, and I like Obama better for being married to her. Yet, for a long time the argument was made that women were less intelligent than men - and the justification was that there were fewer women who reached extraordinary positions of power and prestige. The fact that there were more obstacles for women and fewer opportunities was disregarded.

So, that's why I have to talk about the error in thinking in this statement:
Why is it that men marry down the intelligence scale? In the medical field, twice as many female doctors are likely to married to male doctors (44% vs 22%)
Many women who have the intelligence required to be a doctor - or senator, etc - choose other paths because our society still makes balancing career and family very difficult for women - particularly in competitive fields like medicine and politics. Since men still have fewer familial responsibilities than women, the family v. career decision doesn't come into play for men in the same way it does for us. So, the fact that a man who is a doctor is married to a woman who is a teacher does not necessarily mean he married 'down the intelligence scale' - it is more likely a reflection of the fact that women of intelligence are still discouraged or blocked from entering certain professions in a variety of ways.

While I admire Michelle Obama and think more highly of Barack for being associated with her, I'd hate to see attacks on Biden, for example, because his wife is a 'school teacher' and therefore somehow an embarrassing choice of spouses. I think we can laud Michelle Obama's accomplishments without demeaning other women's choices - particularly since we continually stack the deck against women.

Lindsay said...

Well, Jill Biden isn't just a school teacher; she's got a doctorate in education and teaches at a community college. From what I've heard about her, I'm fairly impressed.