Ladies First

by Jon Rodriguez

I’d like to start out by saying this post should not be considered a piece on social justice or equality. It is pure rationality.

Before women gained the right to vote in 1920, the title of First Lady was arguably the most politically powerful position a female could achieve. While some first ladies established a more influential legacy than others, the pretense of being a representative for their husband , the President, was an expectation.

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Women like Eleanor Roosevelt greatly expanded the role of First Lady by traveling the country and abroad on behalf of her husband as well as writing a syndicated column, raising the bar for those who followed her. Most recently, through her health and education initiatives, Michelle Obama has reinforced the notion of the First Lady’s traditional responsibility of serving as the national conscience.

But in today’s diverse and enlightened society there is an impending question gnawing at the moral fiber of the fundamentally conservative and planting a seed of hope in the socially progessive: What happens when we have a First Gentleman? 

A Gentleman, being the opposite of a lady, would have no historical context from which to draw responsibility or expectation. The fundamentalist American public, provided they have gotten over the initial terror of having a female President, would have no way to scrutinize their new victim. Surely the people cannot expect a man to act as his female predecessors had! Or on the contrary would progressives stick by their vision of a government where gender is eliminated and refuse to refer to her as the first female President, never admonishing her for being a woman, but rather commending her for her individual efforts?

Possibly, despite demographic data, biological differences, and pretense, it could work. Perhaps even…better than before. Not because a man would be holding the position but because there would be no expectation –none to live up to and none to surpass. Instead of saying there would be absolutely no difference between how a man and woman would hold the position or saying a man and woman would handle the position in a completely different manner, why not put the responsibility on the individual?

Nothing good would come of blaming men for a First Gentleman’s failure in the same way that blaming all women in a society for the success/failure of the first female president would result in irrational consequences.It matters little whether you believe there should be a political distinction between the sexes or not in the given situation. The emphasis should be on the individual.

Though this is a severely micro approach to gender’s role in the political process, the message only grows more poignant when applied to a larger population. When responsibility is determined on an individual basis, prejudice and collectivist pretense is eliminated. The implications quickly outgrow the political setting and take root in the foundation of societal norms. It becomes less about arguments of women being too emotional to hold office or men having made a mess of politics from the beginning, and more of a discussion about how one individual’s actions affect an immeasurable amount of other individuals –even beyond their constituents.

Ultimately discourse becomes humanitarian; a conversation not about how to reach certain demographics or shifting your platform to conforms to a group’s agenda, but how to make your actions positively influence the lives of others. It is very difficult to love and care for an entire diverse population with a single unifying characteristic, but it is easy to love and care for an individual, regardless of any characteristic.

What I’m reading about today: How war affects civilization