America’s ambivalence about the roles of women today was played out most ironically in the past presidential campaign. The Republican National Convention gave the private, family-centered woman Barbara Bush a very public and political role as a highlighted speaker, while the Democrats pressed Hillary Clinton, the assertive attorney and advocate for children’s rights, to retreat to the role of supportive wife and mother.
The right’s attempt to equate the traditional family with morality and to label alternatives as radical and destructive seized media attention—although voters wisely seemed to worry more about the economy than whether the couple in the White House should be like Ozzie and Harriet. But the many news reports and op ed pieces about whether Hillary Clinton harmed her husband’s candidacy and the polls, which consistently registered higher admiration for the whitehaired grandmotherly Mrs. Bush than for the blonde Mrs. Clinton, showed that although the public might not let “family values” decide its vote, the mythic view of the traditional division of labor in the home was still popular on Main Street....
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