Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let's talk about what's really important: curtains!

by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux

The NYT Home and Garden section has done it again. Finally, something for the ladies who are tired of all that headachy politics business. I don't know how many times I've opened the paper to see boring, downer news. We're in a recession? What? We're bailing out the domestic car industry? I don't want to hear about that! I want to see pictures of Michelle Obama choosing upholstery.

Luckily, an article from the December 18th New York Times delivers all that, and more. It deals with the ever-so-crucial issue of presidential decor, one which is (obviously) the sole responsibility of the president's wife. Her task is to preside, much like her husband, over a team of top-notch professionals who will be there to guide her at every turn. And really, what says more about a presidential agenda than the carpeting on the White House stairs? Forget changing early education when we can make the Blue Room - gasp - green! Now that's real power, and it affects real people.

So ok, I'm being just a little sarcastic. But really, don't we have better things to worry about than what Michelle Obama's going to do with the White House china? And isn't it a little insulting to relegate this incredibly successful woman to choosing decor - or, really, to do so with any of the first ladies? The NYT deals with the issue mostly with humor, but sometimes takes it devastatingly seriously:

"Decorating the White House is the first lady’s job; she presides over the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, a board of appointees that includes her decorator and the White House curator, as well as art historians, furniture and decorative art experts and other advisers on historic preservation."

Is this really what we're teaching our daughters? Go to Princeton, get a law degree from Harvard, help the first black president ascend to office, and then pick the lamps for the Oval Office, and smile really nice for the cameras while you do it? Please explain to me why I don't feel empowered.


At December 20, 2008 at 2:32 PM , Anonymous CristinaL said...

I think you’re overreacting some. If you’re reading the Home and Garden section of the NYT, then clearly you’re looking for something other than politics. The tone of the article was light, and in dreary times such as these, it can be comforting to read a fluff piece.

Also, there’s nothing inherently anti-feminist about interior decorating; it has traditionally been the duty of the first lady. I don’t think it’s sexist to assume that the president is too busy to carefully consider paint samples and therefore must delegate the task. Should we have a women president, I would hope the first gentleman (term to be decided?), would likewise assume the burden.

Is this the most challenging task Michelle Obama has ever tackled? No, of course not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. One can graduate from Princeton and Harvard and still enjoy decorating a new home.

Plus, I think the article raises a good point about presidential frugality in times of recession. The Obamas’ choice of decor is important now more than ever insofar as what it represents to the public.

At December 20, 2008 at 2:49 PM , Anonymous CristinaL said...

On another note, though, one might argue that with Michelle Obama’s education and skill set (i.e., law), it would be a misuse of human resources to assign her automatically the task of presiding interior decorator. If Michelle were to dislike decorating and/or feel that her talents would be better used elsewhere in the administrative preparation, she should indeed have the freedom to delegate the task. With her host of appointees and curators, however, it does seem like she has that freedom. Still, I suspect that like many people – men and women – she would want considerable say in the decor of what will be her family home for the next four to eight years.


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