Who Wants To Be A Professional Wife?

06/06/2011 10:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

In the last couple of weeks we've seen an awful lot of Samantha Cameron. First we saw her serving salad at a BBQ with Michelle Obama at her side, then we got a good look at her kitchen, and next we were treated to a picture of her wearing a bikini on holiday in Ibiza.

We've also seen a lot of the Duchess of Cambridge. Weeks after the royal wedding Kate's weight, wardrobe choices and supermarket shopping habits are still making headlines. And when it was announced that she's taking two years off to focus on being a housewife before she takes on more public engagements noone was really surprised. After all, Kate has never really had a career apart from the role of Royal Girlfriend. Now she's had a well-deserved promotion to Royal Wife and, credit where credit's due, she's slotted perfectly into her new position and is playing it with natural grace and poise that most twenty-somethings would struggle to muster.

Now I'm not saying that I have a problem with the global fixation on Kate's wardrobe; given that the Reiss bandage dress she wore to meet the Obama's sold out within hours, and the same happened with the Whistles blouse that she wore for her official engagement photograph, there's no doubt that she's in a position to give the British fashion industry a much-needed boost.

And I'm sure that once she's learned the ropes, Kate will throw herself into charity work with enthusiasm and dedication to match Diana's. But unfortunately, even when that happens, we'll still be talking about her weight – just like we did with Diana – what she's wearing, what she buys in Waitrose and whether she's still doing all the cooking.
Because, right now, it seems that no matter what else women achieve, nothing is celebrated as much as their wifely, domestic role – and their willingness to stand by their man.
Take Samantha Cameron. Until her husband became prime minister, she was creative director of Smythson of Bond Street. She has been credited with turning the company around and turning it into a fashionable brand and has won a British Glamour Magazine Award for Best Accessory Designer for her trouble. She continues to work for the company two days a week in a consultancy role, but we seldom hear anything about that.

Instead, she's photographed enjoying a girlie chat on her sofa with Michelle Obama. What next? Should we expect to see images of them sharing a bottle of wine and giving each other a pedicure?

As for Michelle Obama, here's a woman who is seriously inspiring. She's the first African-American First Lady of the United States, a graduate of Harvard Law School and an advocate for poverty awareness and healthy eating. She's statuesque, not a stick insect, has her own unshakeable sense of style and is vocal about the importance of keeping fit not staying skinny.
Yes, she campaigned on behalf of her husband and ultimately gave up her dream job when he became President, but both she and her husband leave the world in little doubt that Michelle is a force to be reckoned with and she's already said that she hopes her campaign against child obesity will be her legacy.

So why, oh why, is it impossible to find a newspaper or magazine article that doesn't mention her super-toned arms?
Yes, Michelle has amazing arms. But evidence suggests that she also has an amazing brain and an amazing sphere of influence, so why don't we hear more about that instead?

When I was growing up in the 80s, girls were taught that it was important to be independent and ambitious. We had role models like Madonna and Demi Moore who demanded respect, earned serious money and refused to be reduced to a sum of their body parts. Television characters like Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan (to use all her married names) taught us to stick on some shoulder pads, slip into some court shoes and play men at their own game. We even had a female Prime Minister. Admittedly, she wasn't popular, but what greater symbol of female empowerment? Think about it: no one ever commented on the Iron Lady's dress size. They wouldn't have dared.

So why are today's women of influence only getting supporting roles while those who aren't prepared to put on a pretty dress and share cupcake recipes – think Cherie Blair and Hilary Clinton – get a rough ride from the press?
Wouldn't it be more inspiring to hear about what Samantha Cameron, Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton think rather than what they look like?

And do we really want our daughters to grow up believing that it's a woman's job to stay at home, fit into a size eight and look pretty?

I know that I don't.


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