The Criticism Of Malia & Sasha Obama Is Rooted In Decades Of Judging Presidential Daughters
Over the weekend, a 16-year-old girl attended the Lollapalooza music festival in her hometown of Chicago. While there, she was filmed on Snapchat kissing a boy who appeared to be around her age. Meanwhile, her 19-year-old sister lost her iPhone. These stories likely wouldn't sound like a big deal — in fact, they wouldn't even really be stories — if the girls weren't Sasha and Malia Obama. After photos of the former president's teenage daughters at Lollapalooza circulated online, criticism ensued, showing the intense, unfair scrutiny that Sasha and Malia Obama and all recent first daughters have faced.
The backlash from Sasha and Malia's weekend at Lollapalooza included digs at their parents' parenting skills and the young girls' own behavior. It was eerily reminiscent of Malia's Lollapalooza experience the year before. Last year, then-18-year-old Malia was accused of smoking a joint at the popular music festival (which takes place annually in a city that has decriminalized marijuana).
It seems that every time the Obama girls do something considered normal for most teenagers, they get mercilessly shamed online, no matter the facts of the rest of their lives, like that Malia is Harvard-bound and Sasha once missed a presidential event to prepare for an exam.
No, it seems not even their departure from the White House can keep Malia and Sasha from the harsh criticism that has followed them since 2008.
It's not just the Obama daughters. Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush (now Jenna Bush Hager) were just 19 when their father was elected president. While their father led the free world, the Bush girls attended college — Jenna at the University of Texas at Austin and Barbara at Yale University.
For first daughters, it seems, it's scrutiny that's the norm.
During her freshman year, Jenna raised eyebrows after receiving a citation for possession of alcohol as a minor. Jenna was also cited for using a fake ID, and Barbara received her own citation for possession of alcohol. Again, when the young girls partook in activities considered commonplace for millions their peers, Jenna and Barbara Bush made headlines.
When Chelsea Clinton began college at Stanford University, great effort reportedly went into keeping her out of the press. News reports about Chelsea's arrival to campus were based largely on rumors, with one rumor saying that it was difficult for the university to find someone who wanted to room with the first daughter.
For first daughters, it seems, it's scrutiny that's the norm. In fact, the scrutiny of first daughters is so widely accepted that it even has its place in Hollywood: I can't be the only one who remembers My Date With The President's Daughter. The 1998 movie came out while Clinton was attending Stanford.
If there's any silver lining to the microscope that first daughters find themselves under, perhaps it's that they're part of an exclusive-but-fierce support system. In 2014, after the Obama daughters were criticized for their outfits at an official event, Jenna Bush Hager defended the sisters, saying, "I'm fiercely protective of them." The Bush daughters even wrote a letter to the Obama daughters earlier this year, as the latter two prepared for life outside the White House.
Now you are about to join another rarified club, one of former first children — a position you didn’t seek and one with no guidelines. But you have so much to look forward to. You will be writing the story of your lives, beyond the shadow of your famous parents, yet you will always carry with you the experiences of the past eight years.
Perhaps the Bushes' letter wasn't just meant for the Obama girls, but also to send a message to the American people: As Malia, Sasha, and the young first daughters that will inevitably come after them grow up, let them all write the story of their lives on their own.