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Chelsea’s Wedding “Most Important Thing” in Hillary’s Life Right Now July 5, 2010

Posted by Onely in As If!.
Tags: , , ,

Oh no she didn’t! Oh yes she did. According to BBC, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Polish television reporters that her daughter Chelsea’s wedding

Truly is the most important thing in my life right now.

Oh good, because that pesky Armenian-Azeri conflict was getting old.

Don’t worry, America–despite being on a whirlwind diplomatic mission to Eastern Europe, Clinton says she has “been able to fit in tastings and dress selections and all the other things the mother of the bride has to do”.

I would expect someone who put eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling to be imaginative and open-minded about the meaning of a wedding, not to parrot traditional roles rooted in sexism and materialism.

And regardless of whether Chelsea’s ceremony is tacky or tasteful, it should still not be a priority for Clinton. She has a responsibility to the people of the U.S. and the world to prioritize her political obligations and power, for which she fought so hard and for which so many people supported her.

I realize we all have things in our lives to which we attribute unreasonable importance.  For me, my persistent oily scalp  often seems far more important and devastating than, say, Hezbollah‘s latest hijinks.  But here’s the thing–I would never say so out loud.  The fact that Clinton can get away with declaring the wedding to be a priority, in the midst of all the real madness going on in the world, reveals just how much our society idealizes marriage (especially the ceremony), places it on a pedestal, surrounds it with an (almost) impenetrable mystical aura, and generally accepts without question that it’s an overall awesome concept.

Even the BBC in effect puts flower arrangements on the same level as missile defense, without a trace of irony or self-consciousness:

She said her roles as the leading US diplomat and the bride’s mother were “serious, important and stressful”, but manageable thanks to e-mail.

Hillary, honey, I’m hoping that was an out-of-context misquote.  Here’s the thing: your duties as the bride’s mother are not serious. They are not important. And they are only stressful because you have been culturized to believe that dresses and tastings are serious and important.

As Lisa said after I instant-messaged her the link to the BBC article, “Matrimania = easier via email”.


P.S. I suspect there will be trolls out there who come out of their holes and say that of course Hilary should prioritize “family over her job”. For those who would make that argument, I suggest you take off your conventionality hat and read the post again, more carefully.

Photo credit: Jay Cables


1. Alan - July 5, 2010

Perhaps what Clinton meant to say was that the wedding was the thing most important to her in a personal sense, as opposed to a more global view.

It’s possible to view something as important to you in your personal life even if it’s not as important in an absolute sense as other things. Kind of like Christina’s oily scalp.

Onely - July 5, 2010

Yup I already acknowledged both those possibilities in the post

2. Rem Anon - July 5, 2010

Sorry, but this post struck me as being unreasonably harsh. You seem to be suggesting that Hilary Clinton should completely forsake her personal life for the sake of her job. Yes, there are important issues in the world, and yes, they need dealing with, but Hilary Clinton is human too. Would you rant if the “most important thing” was something like a close family member dying? Or a grandchild being born? A wedding is extremely important to the people getting married – and it is serious business to the people involved. It’s a formal decision of two people to spend their lives together.

Is she neglecting her duties to prepare for the wedding? I don’t pretend to know much about this situation, but you’ve given me the impression that she’s not. She’s managing her ‘duties’ as mother of the bride around her job.

I believe matrimania is an issue, but I don’t think this is necessarily an example of it. And even if it is, it’s not a good example.

And as for this: “I would expect someone who put eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling to be imaginative and open-minded about the meaning of a wedding, not to parrot traditional roles rooted in sexism and materialism.”
Do you expect everyone to be bra-burners? I’m sorry, but bras serve a useful function. Tradition is not inherently evil, and weddings aren’t inherently sexist or materialist. “Matrimania is bad” does not equal “Marriage is bad”. Just because marriage isn’t for everyone doesn’t mean it’s not important for anyone.

Also, I agree with Alan’s statements.

I understand where you’re coming from with this, but I think you’re overreacting.

Onely - July 5, 2010

Thanks for your comments! You raised some important issues I want to clarify on. . .

I wouldn’t care if the most important thing were death of a family member, because that is inherently important, whereas planning a wedding is an artificial construct–at least the parts of the wedding that Clinton and the BBC stress (flowers, dress, etc). My beef is with the overblown focus on the ceremony and the moment, vice the upcoming twenty, thirty, or however many years of those two peoples’ joined lives. I don’t have a problem if the couple and their family regard the decision as one of many important things in the world and in their family. But it does sound as if the flowers and dresses are distracting Clinton–after all, she says the event is ‘the most important thing’ and follows it up with these superficial examples. I find it offensive that she can call the event and all its trappings the “most” important thing.

One needn’t be a “bra-burner” to recognize that certain (I don’t mean to say all) wedding traditions are rooted in the idea of women-as-property, including the concept of the bride’s family paying for the wedding/dowry (and hence the high involvement of the bride’s mother cited by Clinton) because the husband is expected to own/support the woman during the marriage. That was the sexism I was thinking of. The materialism is so blatant I don’t even need to list examples.

Rem Anon - July 6, 2010

Thank you so much for responding reasonably! (Too often I try to object to something and I just get flamed back… although I do sometimes have a problem with being too forward, and get misinterpreted…) I love a lot of the posts on this blog, so I’m glad I got the kind of response that I did. You have my respect for the kind of blog you write.

I think there’s a great deal of conflict in our perceptions of marriage. To me, marriage has evolved over time. Although it was once more like a property transfer, where the woman was the property, I don’t see it as inherently being that. To me, marriage is somewhat analogous to religion. Take Christianity: terrible things have been done in the name of that religion (inquisition, etc), but that doesn’t mean that Christianity (as in the Bible and what the religion really teaches) actually condones those activities (in fact, it says “love thy neighbor” and “do not kill”). Just because things have been done in the name of something, doesn’t mean that something condones the activity. I think marriage can be perceived like that. Although there are materialist and sexist aspects to marriage historically, I don’t think they’re what marriage inherently is.
And of course, materialism is what our cultures are all about, yes? (Unfortunate though that may be). It can hardly be surprising that those things are what are stressed in the media.

While I still thing you have overreacted somewhat, I do understand your perspective. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my comment!

Also, I had to laugh at the Ads by Google underneath this post, since they’re touting everything this post is objecting to! They were all “Get your wedding dress here!” and stuff. XD

3. Cheryl - July 5, 2010

I agree with Rem Anon. I’m all about feminism, I’m anti-marriage, and I think politics are more important than silly ceremonies, but I also see the need to acknowledge the LOVE FOR YOUR FAMILY. Remember all those cheesy movies where a mother or father keeps putting their work before their family, but then at the “happy ending” moment, they throw away or turn off their cell phone and give their *insert family member here* a hug? Cheesy, yes, but also true. Plus, Clinton looks good talking about her commitment to her family in public (not to you, but probably to most people). And this doesn’t have anything to do with gender, either; people are also touched by men’s familial roles. Clinton’s addressing her love and commitment to her daughter and what she’s doing with her life, not being anti-feminist and overly traditionalist.

Would you stop your daughter from getting married or try to help her as she does the agonizingly stressful task of preparing a wedding? I’d help her.

4. Rachel - July 6, 2010

Thank you, Christina, for this post! I think it’s outrageous for Clinton to put her daughter’s wedding on the same level as her diplomatic work. If it is important in her private life, she should leave it there and not parade it all around for the world to see. This is one of the main problems I have with matrimania: The idea that marriage and weddings are private. They are most decidedly not! If they were, people wouldn’t talk about them in public (did we find out what classes Chelsea took and how she did in them and what her Mom thought about that?) and, most importantly, people wouldn’t expect gazillion benefits from the public. If this is something that’s important in your private life, leave it there! How would you feel if Clinton were talking about a big upcoming exam Chelsea is fretting about? Why is a wedding any different?

Onely - July 10, 2010

Yes, she could harness the power of email to reach back to the states and help Chelsea prepare for her big Calc final. . . = )

5. Lauri - July 7, 2010

Christina, I don’t think this post is over the top at all.

That quote from Hilary, the wedding is the most important thing in her life, reminds me of something that is used all over the place in popular media and I think is horrible: the sentence, “I want to be at my daughter’s wedding” or the many variations (“I want to be there to walk my daughter down the aisle”; “I want to dance at my daughter’s wedding,” etc.).

The fact that someone like Hilary Clinton, who would presumably have SO MANY important things in her life, would say that a wedding is THE most important is just like one of these instances where a person’s only reason to live or stay healthy is to witness their child’s (usually daughter’s) wedding. All of the things you mention about Hilary’s other responsibilities aside, what about all of Chelsea’s other elements of life? Did Hilary say that Chelsea’s college graduation or anything else was the most important thing in her life? I hate when I hear these comments, because it makes me feel like a failure of a daughter. I think, “gee this seeing your daughter have a wedding thing is REALLY important to parents, I must really be letting mine down!”

And all that aside, Hilary, of anyone, should realize how much of a sham weddings can be. A ceremony and party doesn’t mean squat, it’s just for appearances. Hilary knows about putting up appearances and marriage. Hell, for all Hilary has dealt with in terms of marriage, you’d think she’d be upset that her daughter is going the same route.

Onely - July 10, 2010

Lots of great points as always, Lauri–I was especially interested to hear you mention “Hilary knows about putting up appearances and marriage.” Lisa and I have an ongoing semi-debate about whether Hillary should have stayed married to that f&kb%strd I mean Bill. She says yes, I say no. Lisa makes the good argument that Hillary knew she’d never get where she wanted to be politically if she were divorced, because of the connotations that would have for so many more conservative voters. I think that she’s enough of a powerhouse that she could have used her influence to change those people’s perceptions of single women (or perhaps that’s too idealistic and not realistic enough of me; dunno). Anyway, I was thinking about this as I composed the post but decided not to mention it.


6. Sara F - October 17, 2010

Since you obviously do not have children, let me clue you in: mothers love their daughters. They really do. So what Clinton was saying, is that her daughter is the most important thing to her. Not the wedding itself, but her daughter. Get it? No, I did not think you would. You aren’t a mother and probably never will be.

Onely - October 17, 2010

Why so defensive? I never said, and I don’t doubt at all, that her daughter is the most important thing in her life. That’s fine. But she should frame that importance around her daughter as a whole, not around the wedding. See Rachel’s comment.

I’m also interested in how you worded your line “You aren’t a mother and probably never will be”. I felt a judgment there, as if “probably never will be” was meant to be disparaging. We need to remember that just because someone can’t or won’t have kids doesn’t mean they are not a caring person or don’t have a mothering instinct. Nor does it remove their right to speak an opinion about social constructs (in this case, marriage worship) that make them uncomfortable.

Thank you for your comments anyway.

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