On the cover of this month's Latin America Marie Claire cover, there are two beautiful, elegantly dressed women. No different from any other Marie Claire cover, right? Well, maybe your perspective changes when you learn Marie Claire's cover stars Mexico's First Lady Angelica Rivera de Peña and her daughter Sofia Castro. No? Well, it changes things for Washington Post style writer Robin Givhan, at least.
"From the vantage point of the United States, where some folks still disapprovingly hyperventilate over bare arms in the East Wing, the attire is startling," Givhan writes. "It’s just not what first ladies wear — certainly not one who is posing for formal pictures in the presidential residence."In her final lines, Givhan flirts with a key question that her piece doesn't answer:
Rivera indulged her personal fashion tastes. Unleashed her sex appeal. And was just a woman.
Perhaps other first ladies can find a way to do the same.
It's an unsubtle attempt to avoid confrontation. Perhaps first ladies can be sexy. Perhaps we can overcome the confines that first ladies have been placed in. But Givhan doesn't answer her own question: can first ladies embrace sexy?
But inside the 22-page story, Rivera answered that one herself. “I always ask myself why am I considered ‘The First Lady’, when in fact, all women in this country should be considered first ladies,” Rivera says. “It is a title that was established a long time ago, that is why I say that all women are important and all Mexican women are ‘a first lady.’”
Do we, as Givhan asserts in her piece, look at the body of America's First Lady as "a three-dimensional, patriotic billboard"? And as we approach an election where it is perfectly feasible that our next president won't have a first lady at all, shouldn't we rethink how we look at this antiquated gender role?
The answer is, basically, yes. If the first lady is a representation of the U.S., just as she is in any country, just as we elect our leaders to represent our best interests, then she should be able to express her sexuality. Just as every other women has the right to do so.
The greater problem, then, may lie in the prevailing attitudes that affect all women. We live in a society that both glorifies and demonizes female sexuality. At once, we must be sexy and chaste, and Rivera broke out of that box with low-backed gowns and model-esque poses. So, the final question: Is there room for sexy in the role of the first lady? If she is "every woman," I will answer that with a resounding "YES."