Like Cindy McCain did before her, Laura Bush came out on Larry King Live in favor of gay marriage and reproductive choice. My immediate reaction was, "Cool! Another conservative's wife has come over to the Dark Side." That is until I found out she has always had this stance. cris_nicewelts (I love you, dear) made a good point about this...WHERE WERE FOLKS LIKE LAURA BUSH AND CINDY MCCAIN WHEN THEIR HUSBANDS WERE IN THE SPOTLIGHT????
As you've probably surmised, this post has nothing to do with gay marriage or reproductive choice. It has to do with a human being's right to her own goddamn opinion.
I used to disparagingly refer to Laura Bush as Doormat In Chief due to her conspicuous silence on almost all issues during her husband's tenure in the Oval Office as compared to her predecessors - Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt come to mind. Laura Bush isn't alone, though. I have a couple of theories as to why the inevitable, even if only occasional, disagreements that all married couples have to face are conspicuously absent from the President/First Lady dynamic - or that of any prominent man and his spouse.
First of all, society is uncomfortable with their leaders and idols being too connected with reality. We hold our prominent politicians, celebrities, and other public figures to a ridiculous standard, as if they're superhuman. Reality TV and tabloid shows are so popular because we have an obsession with watching those figures fall from grace and show a human side - as if there is some shock value to seeing a human being behave like her/is own species. It's a fascinating dichotomy. Still, the most idealistic part of us is disappointed to see the fall. That's probably why so many people who are in the spotlight are so private. I don't know how well we could handle knowing that Barack and Michelle got into a marital spat, but we all know damn will it happens to any couple that stays together long enough. There will invariably be disagreements and mis-communications between two human beings living close to each other. We need to accept that and apply it universally - and stop being so shocked by it - because it really isn't that big of a deal. We'll save ourselves a lot of disappointment in the long run, and we'll put the purveyors of reality TV out of business.
Secondly, our patriarchal society cannot cope with women having their own opinions in the first place, let alone the wife of as prominent a politician as a U.S. President having opinions that are not in lockstep with her husband's. Something tells me that the First Husband wouldn't have to deal with bullshit like this. I mean, it is 2011 and all. When do we stop pretending that women don't have minds of their own? Think about how much grief did Hillary Clinton get when she presented her health plan back in the early 1990's. She was vilified and presented as this ball-buster wife with whom Dirty Willy just couldn't cope in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal. All this for daring to have an opinion. The reality is nothing was wrong with the now very dashing and Presidential Secretary of State. She wasn't a ball-busting nag. She was, and still is, a competent adult (link). Many of her male counterparts find that threatening. I say if their manhood and egos are that fragile, perhaps they should spend less time criticizing Clinton and more time looking in the mirror.
While it's good that Laura Bush and Cindy McCain are speaking out now - it's too little, too late. Society needs to get a damn grip and accept that women have their own opinions and ideas and that sometimes...*GASP* they may not only differ from those of their husbands but may even be completely independent of them. We need to accept that couples, even those in the spotlight, will not always agree.