Let’s take a breath, shall we? After four years of actual craziness, this incident is pretty tame. And yet, the brouhaha is not at all surprising, and, I would argue, offers an opportunity for us to examine a few things about our persistent (and, as ever, unfair) expectations about women — and the outward facing role of America’s first lady.
For one, people always have something to say about the wardrobe, and appearance in general, of any woman in the spotlight, and especially the women in this particular spotlight, with the critique inevitably — as it clearly was this time — filtered through partisan politics.
Fair or not, Biden must know this already. She spent eight years as second lady, after all, and now, in the earliest days of her husband’s presidency, she’s got to know that she’s going to be nearly as looked at as he is, and that this outfit, if not wholly inappropriate, could certainly be seen as an unconventional choice for the wife of one of the most powerful leaders in the world.
And indeed, the direction of the commentary on the outfit — be it praise or criticism — has fallen along party lines.
The truth is Biden looks good. She has great legs (we can all see that now) which is likely why a First Lady who generally dresses in classic, tailored, often colorful attire, donned — or her stylist put her in — that short leather skirt. She also has a doctorate in education, and teaches English full time to college students, where such attire might not be so out of place, all things being equal.
Let me be clear: It’s not that Jill Biden, the woman, doesn’t have the right to dress however she wants, look sexy or try something new. But Jill Biden, the first lady of the United States, has to keep in mind that she’s a model, now, to all sorts of Americans. She absolutely does have to be of the people — all the people.
Of course, we could choose to be grateful that this is news at all — that President Biden is doing, by most accounts, a very good job and leading a far saner office than his predecessor, so much so that the biggest uproar of the week has to do with his wife’s fashion choice. If this is what passes for the worst offense for these two at the moment, well, amen to that.
It’s too soon to tell if Jill Biden’s fashion choices will figure into how she navigates her First Lady role — if she (or her stylist) are thinking “fashion icon” — and what that would mean.
They want a first lady they can look up to and relate to and admire — for who she is, without distractions over what she wears.