For some strange reason, I never met the Huxtable family until the early 2000s, long after The Cosby Show had ended. But I quickly learned to love the show and made Claire Huxtable my role model.
As pointed out by Jezebel, Claire is the perfect human being. More specifically, she modeled feminism for the audience of The Cosby Show. As Bill Cosby's brand of comedy is family-friendly, I like to think families were able to enjoy the show together, and most importantly, see Claire as a feminist-mom-in-action. Here are just a few reasons that Claire is the ultimate feminist mom. Think I missed some? Share your favorite Claire moments in the comments!
While having a full-time job as a lawyer is difficult enough for the ordinary person, Claire is a full-time mom as well with five children. Often, the two, being a mother and having a career, are juxtaposed as separate entities. She perfectly demonstrates how neither ambition excludes the other, showing women can have families and a successful career as well. In her article, "The Cosby Show: One of the Most Feminist Shows of All Time?" Jennifer Armstrong notes that Bill Cosby avoided controversial topics in the show, "Except, it seems, the issue of where women stood in Cosby's vision of a perfect world. As a man who was preaching strong family, he wanted to make one thing clear: In his mind, 'family' was not a euphemism for patriarchy like it is for so many others."
In Armstrong's estimation, Bill Cosby's decision to portray a balanced household, one not dominated by patriarchy, helped craft a feminist vision for television.
When confronted with sexism in her dining room, Claire is quick to point it out. When Denise's current boyfriend, looking to be controversial, says "What I really don't understand is, why do you divide your time between pursuing your career and raising your family? Your husband makes a tremendous amount of money, why don't you stay home with the kids?"
Claire responds quickly, without missing a beat.
"That is a sexist statement, young man. Why didn't you ask Dr. Huxtable the same question?"
Both Claire and Cliff are successful in their careers, but both manage to balance their family life as well. By pointing of the sexism of Denise's boyfriend, she implies that it is acceptable for either parent to stay at home, or simply share duties, as they do.
As pointed out in Jennifer Armstrong's "The Cosby Show: One of the Most Feminist Shows of All Time?" the boyfriend, and eventual husband, of Sondra is a little behind the times. He espouses visions of females as "June Cleavers," but luckily, he has Claire to set him straight. In this memorable interaction, she offers coffee to Elvin and Cliff. He pauses and comments, "I didn't think you did that kind of thing ... serve ... serve him." She fires back, educating Elvin on the dynamics of a successful marriage:
"As in serve your man? Let me tell you something, Elvin, you see, I am not serving Dr. Huxtable, okay? That's the kind of thing that goes on in a restaurant. Now I'm going to bring him a cup of coffee, just like he did this morning, and that, young man, is what marriage is made of: give and take, fifty-fifty. And if you don't get it together, and drop these macho attitudes, you are never going to have anyone bring you anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace ever."
When Claire is invited to be a panelist on a morning talk show, she is quickly subjected to sexist and even racist comments. When it becomes clear she is the token minority figure for the show, she gracefully fires back, “Oh, that’s nice. I am a woman, who is black, but I am also a human being, who is an attorney, a mother of five, and somewhat knowledgeable about history, which is why I thought I was invited here. But when you look at me, this is all you see in me, a black woman?" When asked to come back on the show, politely declines, declaring that she does not need to subject herself to such treatment.
It's been established that Claire is an awesome mom, but she raised her children to love and accept themselves for who they were. Especially in regards to her daughters, she offered support for their ambitions and life choices, whether it's a change of college, an unexpected marriage, or plans to open a wilderness store. Ultimately, she wanted her children to be true to themselves. Perhaps the lesson of acceptance, support, and unconditional love is the most important lesson a feminist mom could pass onto her children, and in Claire's case, the audiences watching.