Former First Lady Michelle Obama is the most admired woman in the world. Since leaving the White House, she and her husband, former President Barack Obama have earned tens of millions of dollars. Her memoir Becoming topped bestseller lists around the world. She hobnobs with royalty, celebrities, and statesmen. Last year, the couple bought a $12 million mansion on Martha’s Vineyard. They also own houses in Chicago and Washington, D.C.
As it turns out, none of that is good enough.
Michelle says she was forced to give up her “aspirations and dreams” when she and Barack welcomed their daughters, Sasha and Malia.
“My relationship with Barack was all about our partnership,” she said. “If I was going to have an equal voice with this very opinionated man, I had to get myself up. I had to set myself off to a place where I was confident that I was going to be his equal. The thing that really changed it was the birth of our children. I wasn’t really ready for that. That really made it harder. Something had to give, and it was my aspirations and dreams.”
She added, “I made that concession not because he said, ‘You have to quit your job,’ but it felt like ‘I can’t do all of this, so I have to tone down my aspirations, I have to dial it back.’”
She made these remarks in a new documentary about herself titled – like her book – Becoming. It’s the first release in a massive production deal the Obamas signed with online streaming service Netflix. The exact value of the deal is unknown but it is estimated at upwards of $100 million. This is in addition to the $65 million the Obamas were jointly paid for their memoirs.
That fact alone disproves Michelle Obama’s words. This woman is being paid millions to tell us that she was forced to give up her dreams. How can viewers keep a straight face?
In many ways, Michelle and Barack Obama are a great advertisement for a more traditional marriage. She helped further his political ambitions, and the arrangement paid her back in spades.
The Obamas’ massive fortune testifies to that. But Barack’s electoral success actually put Michelle in a much better position to pursue her aspirations and dreams. As First Lady, she could promote causes she believed in and make a real difference. Now as an international celebrity, she is free to do whatever she pleases.
She did not have the “hard power” of the presidency but that also spared her a great deal of the criticism that her husband - as a politician - received. First Ladies are usually more popular than their husbands, and Michelle is no exception.
Michelle’s comments go beyond simple hypocrisy. She tries to score points with her husband’s socially progressive voting base. She suggests a woman cannot be an “equal partner” in her marriage if she takes on a more traditional gender role. That’s false. She also disparages motherhood as a “concession.” In fact, for many women, their aspiration and dream is to have a happy marriage and children – like Michelle.
Unfortunately, traditional marriage and family are noxious to social progressives – feminists in particular. The idea that a woman could be happy and fulfilled by prioritizing her husband’s career over her own is offensive.
As G.K. Chesterton once observed, “[Feminism] is mixed up with a muddled idea that women are free when they serve their employers but slaves when they help their husbands.”
Try to imagine Michelle telling young girls something like: “You should marry a guy with a lot of potential and then help him rise to the top. You can enjoy the benefits of his success.” It’s unthinkable. Even though that’s exactly the path she followed.
Moreover, many of the couples in Barack and Michelle’s rarefied social circle probably did the same thing. A recent study found that most top male earners have a wife who stays home. These elites live very different lives personally than what they promote for the rest of America.
When Michelle Obama encourages other women to put their own aspirations ahead of their family, what she’s really telling them is: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons-The White House, Pete Souza, public domain]
Emma Freire is a writer living in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has also been published in The Federalist and The American Conservative.