According to Dan Kennedy, Ms. Obama went on a mentoring of young-girls style blitz across D.C., and brought along a number of “representatives” to show the girls that she met that they can be anything that they want to be when they grow up.
If all the national and local D.C. media coverage of this I saw and read is accurate, Michelle, judging by the stars she presented as role models, wants the young women to aspire to be singers and actresses, athletes, 4-star generals and astronauts. There was only one woman CEO or entrepreneur mentioned by media – Debra Lee, the CEO of the Black Entertainment Network; no women small business owners, no top women sales professionals – not even difference-makers like school teachers or nurses and caregivers or stay-at-home moms raising successful families.
Or even political leaders, like, say the successful governor of a fiscally stable state. Like, say, Governor Sarah Palin. She was one of only two women ever to run for vice-president on either of the two major parties’ tickets, and a mom. And unlike, say, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, she hasn’t run her state into the ground.
No, Michelle presented Alicia Keyes and Sheryl Crow, actresses Fran Drescher and Phylicia Rashad; a couple of athletes; the first black woman to travel in space; and a celebrity make-up artist.
What is so significant here is that nearly all the examples-to-aspire-to presented are primarily supported by the economy; not supporters of the economy. Not creators of innovative products, of companies, of jobs. Not women who started some sort of enterprises from scratch and built them into successful businesses. Heaven forbid we should encourage these girls to grow up to be business owners. Better for them to hope for a spin of the wheel of celebrity via American Idol. Particularly appropriate given our celebrity-president.
Now, a few (minor) issues with Mr. Kennedy’s statements: First, he wasn’t there, so he doesn’t know for sure that more productive women weren’t included who just somehow escaped media attention (far-fetched, I’m sure); second, I’m not sure that “the first black woman in space” is that minor a role- becoming an astronaut is pretty impressive; I would assume that she is a scientist, so hopefully she’s contributing something in terms of research.
But the boat that I think Kennedy misses is that this is not a problem with the Obamas, not by a long shot. This is a problem with the whole women’s power movement in general. Women are so used to being told how fantastic they are and how much they can accomplish that they a) think that it’s perfectly rational that they should become famous actresses/singers/athletes; and b) that the world owes it to them to make it so.
The result: so many gals out there never put any thought into what they produce and what they offer- it’s all what I want, what the world should give me, and what fulfills me- never are they to consider finding a need and fulfilling it.