When I read First Lady Melania Trump was booed at a youth opioid awareness event, I was sick.
As a journalist, I refuse – and rightly so – to voice my political opinions; however, I bristle when our FLOTUS is disrespected. Many of these women didn’t sign up for or even want to become First Lady. Some of them take to the position like a duck to water, while others flounder. Either way, these women have become lightning rods for political frustration when, in reality, their voices are used for social issues. “Be best.” “Say no to drugs.”
Generally these women take on such forms of activism. Disagree with a president you might, but booing or berating someone because they’re simply “guilty” by association is unfair. As defined, being a first lady does not necessarily entail being an extension of presidential intent. Maybe they agree with their husbands, maybe they don’t. Maybe they want to get political, or they avoid it. As attorney, author, activist and feminist Karen DeCrow said:
“First lady has been a thankless position. [Eleanor] Roosevelt was attacked for being too involved in politics. Bess Truman was criticized for being uninvolved in politics.”
Some First Ladies have chosen causes that draw ire – think Michelle Obama’s school lunch reform efforts. President Obama was controversial, which begs the question: if the former First Lady wasn’t married to whom she was married, would anyone have cared? She wasn’t advocating putting arsenic in mystery meat, or anthrax in tapioca pudding.
Young and not-so-young, believe what you want to about presidential policy. Elected officials throw their hat into the ring knowing full well they’re in for a mental beating. First ladies don’t necessarily have that choice.
As former first lady Pat Nixon lamented:
“Being first lady is the hardest unpaid job in the world.”