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The weaponization of a first lady's image

October 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Many a first lady has felt the warm glow of public adoration, only to have it quickly flicker out when it is decided that she does not fit the image created for her.

Leah Wright Rigueur, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, offers her answer early in an episode about Michelle Obama: First ladies are meant to be the "representation of American's better selves. " When Americans elected their first Black president in 2008, the country's first Black first lady Michelle Obama was, to many adoring fans, a symbol of hope, opportunity and change.

It was a phenomenon recalled by Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion editor and critic-at-large for the Washington Post, during an interview for "First Ladies. " "People zeroed in on her arms because they were not the arms of a fragile damsel who was White," she said in the episode about Obama.

"Non-White Americans have for years looked at a White first lady and were still able to say that she represented them.

But I think it becomes a much more challenging thing for some White Americans to look at a Black first lady and see themselves in her.

While she did face flak from critics on the campaign trail for her expensive taste, from the moment she took to the stage on inauguration day in her now-iconic pillbox hat, Kennedy became the First Lady of Fashion.

Like Rhode Island. '"Complex legaciesIf history had played out differently, Jackie Kennedy's legacy might have been reduced to the story of a pretty object with a flair for interior design (she dedicated much of her time in the White House to renovating the official residence).

In Michelle Obama's memoir "Becoming," the former first lady reveals the lengths she went to when styling herself for public appearances, finding it impossible not to look across the room at her husband: "I sighed sometimes, watching Barack pull the same dark suit out of his closet and head off to work without even needing a comb," she wrote.

This, arguably limited power remains one of the ways that women in politics can make a statement without saying a word. 'First Ladies': Reagan's inauguration was 'very Hollywood' Credit: AFP/AFP/Getty ImagesConflicting expectationsNancy Reagan was seen as a relic of old Hollywood when she entered the White House.

According to their son, Ron Reagan, who features in the documentary series, she wanted the President "to be the frontman, and she wanted to be the producer/director behind the scenes. " It was, perhaps, a precursor to the Clintons half-jokingly campaigning under the slogan "buy one get one free. " Indeed, it's well-documented that Hillary Clinton often felt the scorn of the American public, due in part to her career-woman image.

Clinton's pantsuits became her emblem -- her way of reminding people that she was a first lady with a law degree, an independent career and, ultimately, her own agenda, which she proved when she left the White House as Senator of New York, not effectively jobless like her husband.

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