Christmas 2012: It's Not Sexist for the First Lady to Decorate the White House

Christmas at the White House is the first lady’s domain. A recent CBS special showed that the first lady has always been very involved in decorating for the holiday. (Watch it below if you’re a sucker for presidential trivia, Christmas kitsch, or both.)

At first viewing, the special looked like a record of institutionalized national sexism and gender role propaganda. But really, it’s less about putting the first lady in her domestic place, and more about promoting the idea of the White House as a real home and the first family as a relatable one that celebrates holidays like everyone else. As for why it’s the first lady’s responsibility specifically, think about how else the presidential Christmas could go. 

The options:

The president takes the lead on the White House Christmas: There’s no way he could get away with this, when there’s still no fiscal cliff deal, the country is divided and angry about gun control, and he’s supposedly preparing a major push for immigration reform to be presented in just a few weeks. The president wasn’t elected to hang wreaths, but to lead the country, and if he focused on Christmas and not crises, he’d get flack for it from every direction.

A staffer does it: Outsourcing the presidential holiday festivities to an employee would send the message that the Obamas don’t care about Christmas. It would undermine the whole point of showing America the first family celebrating along with them, and would, in fact, distance them from the American family.

The first lady does it: This is the only viable option. The sexism here isn’t in the fact that the Christmas celebration falls to the president’s spouse, but in the fact that, so far, that’s always meant the woman. As long as the first female president’s husband takes on the Christmas decorating role, the current system is fine. 

Just imagine how great an addition Bill Clinton would make to the CBS retrospective on first ladies and their Christmases (hint, hint, Hillary).


How much do you trust the information in this article?

Lilly O'Donnell

Lilly O'Donnell is a freelance writer, currently working on her first book.

MORE FROM

Sam Brownback: 3 things to know about Trump’s nominee for ambassador-at-large for religious freedom

Brownback was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which created the job he's now nominated for.

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

Sam Brownback: 3 things to know about Trump’s nominee for ambassador-at-large for religious freedom

Brownback was a key sponsor of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which created the job he's now nominated for.

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.