In general, relationships have their pros and cons, but being a partner of a prominent political figure has its own set of pros and cons. It can be a blessing and a curse, as goes the old adage. Although being married to a political figure might be a good thing in terms of getting more respect and praise, political wifery is gendered work. The term “First Lady” is a gender construction. You will find yourself fulfilling the typical gender roles in the public sphere, especially the traditional feminine attitude.
You will be expected to support and defend your partner, but you will neither get credit for who you are nor for what you do. You are obliged to attend important events and to follow the guidelines imposed on you.
“They have put these women through so much already – it just seems to be a second level of humiliation,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
You are not appreciated for who you are. Instead, you will be praised and respected because you are married to an important political figure. On top of that, things could become worse, particularly if you are married to a political figure as infamous as Donald Trump.
“I could say, I am the most bullied person in the world,” said Melania Trump in an interview with ABC.
Wife of the former American president, Melania Trump was a victim of online bullying. Despite being married to one of the most well-known political figures, no one knows anything about Melania, or how she perceives world politics.
“Until this past year, voters in the U.S. were used to seeing women in the presidential campaign mainly as spouses of male candidates, the supporting actress role,” said Journalist Scarlet Neath.
You have definitely watched Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah. Despite being married to a former member of the British royal family, she never felt as happy as she is in the present time. While it seemed a perfect life, Meghan admitted that she had thoughts of taking her own life.
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey and in regards to her wedding day, Meghan said, “I think we were both really aware [that] this wasn’t our day — this was the day that was planned for the world.”
In fact, Meghan Markle is not an exception. Chloe Angyal, the girlfriend of an Iowa state senator, explores her new role in her article written for Marie Claire magazine, “When your spouse is a politician, what happens to you?”
Angyal explains in the article that, while she appreciates being in a relationship with a senator, she feels that her life is put under someone else’s control.
“What if I write (or have already written) something that will make it harder for my partner to do his job?” she writes. “What if I fail at being unfailingly supportive the way political wives are expected to be? What if my life, and my career, get swallowed by his?” writes Angyal.
Nevertheless, we can not assess the whole situation from a negative perspective only. Michelle Obama, the wife of former president Barack Obama, broke the rules and the norms. She had a profound impact on the political and social sphere. Instead of simply being the wife of a president, she advocated relentlessly for education, health care, and poverty awareness.
The title “First Lady” should either be altered to better fit the times or, at least, there should be given more freedom to political wives to choose the roles that they like, rather than imposing guidelines on them.
Partnerships are important, so we need to move beyond the typical role assigned to the so-called “First Lady.” These women need the space to use their platform to improve the situation of ordinary women and others in the United States.