How much has changed in terms of presentation and obligatory roles for the First Lady? From Marsha Washington to Michelle Obama, their actions demonstrate certain spheres in which their image is constructed for a viewing audience. How does the American publics expectations and interpretation of the First Ladies position play into their performance
In my paper, I argue that be it 1886 or 1996, over the course of American history, the First Lady continuously emulates the spectatorship roles dictated by her predecessors. Her performance is regulated by boundaries that are confined to those duties and actions most associated under the umbrella of domesticity.
Concepts to address:
*Spectatorship and performance must be viewed in a historical perspective and related to the discourses of social power of that time frame. Has the role of the first lady reflected significant changes in the social relations between the observer and her role as the one being observed?
*Investigate the connections between spectatorship and the power relations imbedded in process of identification of the roles and significance of the performance of the first lady. How has her representation evolved over the centuries?
*How are dominant ideologies constructed and distributed in the process of constructing and observing the image of the first Lady as a representative of American women/culture?
*As spectators, how do we understand and interpret the performing body that is the First Lady (past and present).
* What do the text (old newspaper articles) reveal about the spectator role of the First Lady in relation to the viewing/judging American public?
Wekin,G. (2000). Role constraints and first ladies. The Social Science Journal, 37(4), 601- 610.
This article serves to systematically breakdown the different roles that the first ladies fall under in terms of performance and how their actions are perceived for the American public audience. As spectators, the audience attempts to prescribe roles and place each first lady into defined categories. I will utilize the defined categories to interpret how different first ladies have fallen into these prescribed roles and performed their roles within the acceptable boundaries.
Parry-Giles, S.& Blair, D. (2002). The rise of the first lady: politics, gender ideology, and women’s voice, 1789-2002.
Journal of Rhetoric and Public Affairs, 5(4), 565-600.
This article explores the gender ideologies that contribute to the performance factor of the different first ladies and the evolutionary role it has taken on (or lack there of) over different periods. By getting insight on their actions as first lady in comparison to their predecessors, it also allows for sight on how the duties and responsibilities have domestic undertones. What happens when these women attempt to use their power to navigate outside the expected realms? How then are her actions perceived and interpreted?
Kohrs Campbell, K. (1998). The discursive performance of femininity: hating Hillary. Journal of Rhetoric and Public
Affairs, 1(1), 1- 19.
This expands on the gender performance but focusing primarily on former First Lady, Hillary Clinton. Again, this piece can be utilized to provide some discursion on how the fulfilling of performance norms but also insight into the consequences of moving a away from the “traditional roles” typically portrayed by the First Lady. What happens when a woman in an obligatory position that answers to an interactive audience, deviates away from prescribed roles and challenges the boundary of gender performance?
Jackson, Shannon. (2003). Partial publicity and gendered remembering: figuring women in culture and
performance. Journal of Studies, 17(5), 691-712.
Three newspaper articles (two from the New York Times predating 1900 and recent Washington Post piece) serve as supplemental texts that have to be analyzed in regards to spectator/performance roles or the First Lady. The articles serve to question how much (and the answer is little) has changed for the First Lady. Her image has been distorted to continue to provide a spectatorship role in a modern fashion but still within certain boundaries.
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