Michelle Obama on Her Marriage

What Women Really Think
Oct. 29 2009 4:12 PM

Michelle Obama on Her Marriage

Here's my favorite part of Jodi Kantor's really interesting portrait of the Obama marriage in this Sunday's NYT magazine:

When she interviewed for a job at the University of Chicago Medical Center, her baby sitter canceled at the last moment, and so Michelle strapped a newborn Sasha into a stroller, and the two rolled off together to meet the hospital president. "She was in a lot of ways a single mom, and that was not her plan," recalls Susan Sher, who became her boss at the hospital and is now her chief of staff.
Advertisement

Ah yes, the moment of bringing the baby where she doesn't belong. What I love about this story is that Michelle presumably got the job. Though, come to think of it, marriage and policy-wise, the "Be invincible!" message is not actually helpful. You could imagine Barack Obama concluding that his wife is managing fine, just as he was counting on.

More broadly, Jodi's piece made me think that Michelle has her footing as a First Lady who can handle the constricted role without being defined by it. Rebecca Traister and I went back and forth last November about whether Michelle was letting herself be "momm-ified," in Rebecca's phrasing. I held out then for Michelle's feminist cred. And I do think that when your husband is president, the rules are different. Yes, your power comes from him. But you have so much of it! Michelle impresses me in this new NYT interview by showing us how well she recognizes the tension. When Jodi asks whether it's possible to be married to the president and have a "true and equal partnership," Barack starts to answer and then subsides. Michelle, meanwhile, makes "a small, sharp 'mmphf' of recognition" and then says:

Clearly Barack’s career decisions are leading us. They’re not mine; that’s obvious. I’m married to the president of the United States. I don’t have another job, and it would be problematic in this role. So that - you can’t even measure that.

No, you can't. But she may be able to measure the impact she has as spokeswoman in the administration's effort to combat childhood obesity, her next project.

Emily Bazelon is a Slate senior editor and the Truman Capote Fellow at Yale Law School. She is the author of Sticks and Stones.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 9:22 AM The Most Populist Campaign of 2014
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Why Not Just Turn Campus Rape Allegations Over to the Police? Because the Police Don't Investigate.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 9:13 AM Clive James, Terminally Ill, Has Written an Exquisitely Resigned Farewell Poem
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 7:36 AM The Inspiration Drought Why our science fiction needs new dreams.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.