The 42nd president of the United States of America entered uncharted territory July 26 at the Democratic National Convention as he took his best shot at stepping into the supporting role his wife previously inhabited as she became the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
Americans can’t deny that this situation is unusual. Gender roles are completely swapped, a sign of ever-changing times that was evidenced by Michelle Obama’s riveting statement at the DNC, “Because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.”
I agree with this statement. It’s harnessing that millennial girl power we all love and know so well. It’s not feminism, it’s life as we know it.
So, now that the whole world can get over the fact that a woman can be president, I’d like to talk about how a man can become a first lady.
Bill Clinton might become the “first lady,” which is a completely gendered term in and of itself because it implies politeness via curtsies, baking cookies, folding laundry and taking lavish sponge baths.
I can’t really imagine Bill doing any of those things, but it’s not like Hillary did either. Which is why I’d like to discuss the underwhelming effect of gender in this year’s election.
Hillary has been a power player in American lives since assuming the role of first lady in 1993. Her husband Bill immediately named her head of the President’s Task Force on Health Care Reform, according to the National First Ladies Library (yes, such a thing exists).
A lot of Americans don’t see her as having the underpinnings of a traditional “lady.” Possibly because she’s been a leader in a political arena full of gray-haired men since before we were in diapers.
On the opposite spectrum, take Michelle Obama. She could be the president, sure. Her speech July 25 proved as much. But she could also assume the role as mother to every single child on this planet.
She fights for important causes like childhood obesity via her “Let’s Move” campaign, the education of girls around the globe via her “Let Girls Learn” initiative and veteran support via “Reach Higher.”
But I also watched Obama appear on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” last week and have seen her on countless TV shows. All in all, she is a wonderful personality that Americans truly enjoy watching.
Not even Donald Trump criticized her speech, and that’s saying something.
For Hillary, it’s never been about appearance. And neither for Bill, although his speech tried to highlight her humanity via stories of forgotten times, it’s going to be hard to break through the tough-politician façade that she’s assumed for all these years.
I don’t think Bill knows what’s in store. Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri tweeted, “Bill Clinton now realizing he’s signed on for possibly four years of sitting through other people’s speeches applauding politely.”
Who knows what the future entails, but I sure as hell don’t think Bill is going to be sitting pretty in Washington twiddling his thumbs and updating the White House’s Snapchat story. But that would be pretty funny.