Women in the Law

Despite 'Momification' - Michelle Obama's White House Role May Be a Career Plus

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Now that she is about to become First Lady, one might think from news coverage that Michelle Obama’s abilities as a mother and her fashion sense are her most noteworthy characteristics.

But despite what some are calling the “momification” of Michelle Obama, whether her new role is a career plus or a career negative for the Harvard-trained lawyer is being hotly debated, reports the New York Times.

“Let’s face it: If he serves one or two terms, when she leaves the White House, she’s going to be made a partner at any law firm in the country,” says Karen O’Connor, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University. “It’s not like the normal woman who gives up her career to follow her husband someplace. In this situation, every year in for Michelle Obama is another $100,000. This is almost an investment.”

Others, however, are decrying the emphasis that many—including Michelle Obama herself—are putting on her role as a mother, and see the situation, at least in part, as something of a sad commentary on the limitations that still apply to professional women.

“In certain critical ways, Michelle Obama will come to stand in more prominently than anyone could have imagined for the shortcomings of feminism, as described by Linda Hirshman in her 2006 book Get to Work, in which she argues that the weighting of domestic responsibilities toward the woman in a family handicaps her chances for professional and economic success,” writes Rebecca Traister in an article in Salon earlier this month.

“Obama has already said that one of the issues she plans to put front and center while in the White House is the impossible bind faced by working mothers. She knows the trade-offs and sacrifices all too well.”

Related ABAJournal.com coverage:

What Michelle Obama Didn’t Like About Working at Sidley Austin

How Michelle Obama’s ‘Savvy Sacrifice’ Helped Her Husband

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