Michelle Obama has recently been criticized for privately sharing her take on life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. According to French first lady Carla Bruni, Obama compared living in the White House to life in “hell.” It’s unclear whether the statement Carla Bruni revealed is true or not; Mrs. Obama has denied it. If it is true, is it a sign that Michelle Obama is unappreciative of the luxuries that accompany life in the White House? Has a life of chefs, limousines, guards, vacations, and maids turned Mrs. Obama into a spoiled First Lady?
Life as First Lady may be luxurious, but with more power comes more responsibility. Through their personal initiatives, former First Ladies have set high standards for Mrs. Obama to follow. In addition to her duties as a mother, she started the Let’s Move! campaign to combat child obesity by building more playgrounds and motivating kids to go outside and exercise. She has also actively promoted the arts and arts education, encouraged national service and supported initiatives to help women balance their careers and families. Perhaps most importantly, as the wife of one of the most prominent, powerful leaders in the world, Michelle Obama must maintain poise and integrity as an influential “face” of our nation.
Not only must Michelle Obama live up to the standards set by First Ladies before her, she also feels pressure to succeed as an African-American woman. It was a big step for America to elect its first African-American president, and it’s a big step to have an African-American First Lady. In the past as a lawyer and now as First Lady, Michelle Obama has faced these boundaries. Furthermore, Michelle Obama faces the obstacle of gender discrimination. America has a history of being a patriarchal society; there once was a time where women were not even allowed to vote. Women had to break the “Suzy homemaker” stereotype, and although a lot has changed since the 1848 Woman’s Rights Movement, women today are still perceived as sensitive, inferior beings who can only handle specific jobs. Society still questions the appropriateness of women taking up traditionally “male” roles, such as coaching football or firefighting—and even when women do dare to take these positions, they often face obstacles in the workplace. Only two percent of firefighters today are women in that work force, and in a 1995 survey of 551 women conducted by Women in the Fire Service, 88 percent of female firefighters admitted to some form of sexual harrassment while at work. Although America has made progress with race and gender issues, racism and gender discrimination still exists, and it means Michelle Obama has to work even harder to do her job.
Michelle Obama is as sane as anyone else living in this country. Any normal human being under intense pressure and burgeoning responsibility could agree that life, whether in the White House or in a white house, is sometimes “hell.” Try having to break gender and race barriers while still maintaining an influential image. It’s not easy and Mrs. Obama should be able to express herself freely without being publicly derided. If we all have the right to blow off some steam in our moments of frustration, our sane First Lady has the right to vent too.