Venus Envy

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 9 2009 12:42 PM

Venus Envy

Jessica , the most striking thing to me about Amanda’s great post on the widely-envied Obama marriage was that I read it immediately before reading Naomi Wolf’s quirky piece in Harper's Bazaar that Willa mentions about women who ostensibly covet Angelina Jolie’s entire life . I confess that while I have glanced longingly at the Obama’s marriage-the date nights; the obvious, palpable affection; the perpetual-motion-mother-in-law-it never once occurred to me to lust after Jolie’s domestic arrangement. The kids! The saintliness! The Brad! (the Brad!!) It all looks to be so completely revolutionary but also so weirdly exhausting and unreal-even with one’s own pilot’s license.

Maybe that’s why Wolf focuses her attention on how women envy Jolie’s life, but not her marriage. In fact Brad Pitt is kind of hot-trophy-boy in Wolf’s telling; a man Jolie "took for her own pleasure ... as the most desired of the tribe." What does it say about how conflicted American women must be if we covet Jolie’s life but crave the Obama marriage? Is there something so transgressive about Joilie’s marriage-to use Wolf’s word-that it doesn’t seem appealing to us at all? We may want Jolie's have-it-all life, but we want it with a backyard swingset and grilled cheese every Monday.

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Perhaps the real truth is that nobody thinks Jolie’s "ego ideal" of a life, could possibly be united with that of, say, the male ego-ideal that is Barack Obama? It's why Michelle Obama, who's given up so much to become first lady, may not herself be anyone's ego-ideal right now. Which is another way of saying, we may covet Michelle Obama’s marriage but do American women want her life??

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. Follow her on Twitter.

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