Dr. Jill Biden to women: ‘You have to be able to stand on your own two feet’

There are certain magazines which are deemed “appropriate” for a FLOTUS to appear on. A First Lady can appear on Vogue, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, People Magazine and… that’s usually the end of the list. Michelle and Barack Obama posed for Ebony and Essence a few times. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a sitting president or First Lady on the cover of The Advocate. So it’s a nice surprise to see Dr. Jill Biden on the cover of another fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar. She covers the June/July issue and it seems to have a stars-and-stripes/Independence Day theme. This is the first time a FLOTUS has appeared on the cover of Bazaar. I’ll say this as well… I think Dr. Biden is an attractive woman, but Bazaar overdid the Photoshop. In a couple of their photos, she’s barely recognizable. Anyway, you can read the full profile here. Some highlights:

Her life in the White House: Tthe rigorous slate of meetings and teaching, the barre classes she likes to attend, dinner with her husband, the exams she marks up before bed. (Twice a week, she commutes from the White House to Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria, where she teaches three classes and has been a professor since 2009.)

She’s always working: “Even as a Senate spouse, I was working, going to grad school, doing campaign events, raising kids,” she remembers. The pace is intense but not new. “Showing up matters. That’s the feeling I get. You’re exhausted. You just do it.” At the White House, she will set her alarm for sunrise just to steal back a few minutes of alone time. “The first thing I do is open the blinds and look out.”

Her first marriage, which ended in divorce: “I believed so much in the institution of marriage. When the marriage fell apart, I fell hard because of that. And for him to turn out to be who he was …” The divorce was emotional torment, but it had practical consequences too. She needed a place to live. She had no income. Her parents offered to let her move back home, but she refused. She scraped up enough to rent a one-bedroom town house in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, just over the Delaware state line, while she finished the courses she needed to graduate. “I knew I would never, ever put myself in that position again—where I didn’t feel like I had the finances to be on my own, that I had to get the money through a divorce settlement. I drummed that into [my daughter], Ashley: Be independent, be independent. And my granddaughters—you have to be able to stand on your own two feet.”

Work as a safety net: “I am a woman who loves to work.” She likes how her career has challenged her and what she’s learned from her students. With the exception of the few years she took off to be at home with her children, she has always had a job that paid. After a failed relationship, after she married again and her husband became a bigger and bigger force in American politics, her work remained the thing that was just her own: a safety net, a bit of personal freedom. It’s the reason Dr. Biden fumes when she thinks about the enduring inequalities that have kept women out of the workforce or from reaching their full potential. “I understand a woman’s need to have something for herself,” she says.

On her husband: “I try to be a support for Joe, because I don’t know how many people are saying to him, ‘That was great. That was brilliant.’ I try to be that person for him. Some days, I see Joe and I’m just like, ‘I don’t know how you’re doing it.’ It’s the pandemic and then it’s the war and then it’s the economy and then it’s the gas prices. You feel like you’re being slammed.”

[From Harper’s Bazaar]

It is a generational thing for Dr. Biden, and it’s a lesson so many women her age and my mother’s age learned the hard way: have a job with a paycheck, have something for yourself, don’t be financially dependent on a man, have the money to walk away from bad situations. My mom drilled that into me too, and I’m close in age to Ashley Biden. That’s one of the things I love most about Dr. Biden, because I feel like younger women need to hear that sh-t and they need to see a role model like Dr. Biden. I love that she’s talking about it.

Covers and photos courtesy of Harper’s Bazaar.

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18 Responses to “Dr. Jill Biden to women: ‘You have to be able to stand on your own two feet’”

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  1. Desdemona says:

    I remember my last year at uni and my boyfriend asking me to marry him. I told him I was too young and that I didn’t even know if or when I’d get a job. I wanted to have a job first. He turned to me and told me “I’ll pay for the bills, you don’t have to worry” and my immediate reaction was “I’m not taking a degree at university to have a man paying for everything and me just being the housewife… ” … Never married him of course…
    The freedom one has from having your own income is priceless….

  2. goofpuff says:

    Same here. Watching my mom and dad, along with the other marriages of their and our generation. it made me realized that I always want to be able to be independent enough to walk away if I need to. To never feel trapped in a bad situation.

    Everyone who I saw had a marriage or relationship turn sideways never thought it would happen to them until it did. Every time. As women we are told to martyr ourselves for our family and demonized when we do self care. Men are praised both ways.

    • taylor says:

      Same – I saw my mom stuck in a bad marriage and knew that would never be me. I’ve had multiple ex’s tell me I’m too independent to plan a future with – and that’s why they’re ex’s.

  3. Bobbie says:

    She’s right. And be able to support yourself and any children you have, fully, even if you are married. Just in case if he walks out and fails to pay support or it takes eons of time to go to court.

  4. Hic says:

    Society does not value women who are single the same way they do married women with children. I see a third path that many women take.. they get married but are essentially single parents because they take care of the home and children by themselves and holding down a job. The husband is there but mostly decorative and occasionally functional. It’s these women who seldom get married after they divorce the husband after 20+ years or they die.

    • cdnKitty says:

      I’m one of these women. After a horrific marriage, I’ll never cohabitate or marry again. I have a wonderful relationship, and I want to be with him forever, but not living together or married.

      • minnieder says:

        Me too cdnkitty!
        Happily free for 6 years and loving being single. I’m happy you found someone that makes YOU happy! 🙂

  5. Lizzie Bathory says:

    My mom taught me this, too. Another piece of advice I saw from some ladies on Twitter: if you can, pay for nice “firsts” for the young women in your life (in my case, my niece). First piece of nice jewelry, dinners at nice restaurants, trips if you can afford it. It’s not only nice to do, but it makes it less dazzling if a future romantic partner tries to overwhelm them with gifts as a way of breaking down healthy boundaries.

  6. tamsin says:

    I didn’t realize that first ladies had never covered for Harper’s. Good for Jill. I hope we see more outstanding women on their covers. I used to buy Harper’s over Vogue. I know it has different objectives from Vogue, but I preferred its a less pretentious tone. Great interview. I admire that Jill continues to teach. She is a great role model.

  7. Honey says:

    Moma may have and Poppa may have but God blesses the child who’s got it’s own. Independence is everything. As a woman, having your own financial resources or being able to take care of yourself doesn’t mean that you don’t love or trust your spouse or mate.

  8. RMS says:

    Not that my parents weren’t happy; but I watched my Mom’s needs and wants always being put into second place. When I cleaned out her closet after she died, I wept over the crappy underwear she had. While my Dad wouldn’t think twice over going out and dropping 6 figures on a new sail boat. You need to put your energies towards nurturing and supporting and uplifting YOUR dreams, not always someone else’s. I am the only non-married, child free ‘aunt’ in my family and I make sure to pamper and inspire and uplift each of my nieces. As I come into the last decade of my life, I am wildly grateful I have been able to support myself and follow my desires through my whole life. Go ahead and call me selfish; small price to pay for happiness and security and a complete picture of my real self worth. I complete me.

    • Sera Quill says:

      @RMS – “When I cleaned out her closet after she died, I wept over the crappy underwear she had”, oh my heart breaks for you, I’m sorry that happened. After an abusive marriage where I put myself second and then being forced into a divorce I didn’t want, I’m currently learning self-care and putting myself first. So your life-story is inspiring and beautiful to me. Ps. My ex forcing a divorce upon me was one of the best things to have ever happened in my life. Working on myself, but more at peace now, and I laugh and smile more, and rarely cry; it was all the other way around when I was married to him. I wish you an ongoing very happy and completely ‘selfish’ (and I mean that it a beautiful way) life!

  9. Kristin says:

    My mom is one of the smartest people I know, but she grew up pretty poor and with 4 other sisters and there just wasn’t money for her to go to college. She spent most of her life working as a secretary for men, eventually working her way up to handling bookkeeping/accounts for local farmers. She always drilled in me that I was going to college, and that I was going to get a practical degree, not a degree in something like art history (no offence to art history majors!), because I needed to be able to support myself and never have to depend on a man to fulfill my dreams. She pushed me towards becoming a lawyer or engineer because she didn’t want me to have to do what she did, which involved spending most of her career answering to and waiting on men.

  10. Myeh says:

    Now imagine being a woman of color, an immigrant, a religious minority and having gone to college to learn you will do 5 white men’s job for a third of one of their salaries while getting passed up for promotions everytime. Then imagine starting your own business and thinking finally I’ll be able to make a dollar on the dollar only to realize now you’re earning a fourth of what the white man earns in the same industry. Financial independence is more doable if you’re a white woman. Let’s make it more doable for the rest of us. Solidarity shouldn’t only be for white feminists. It should be accessible for all of us.

  11. Paige says:

    I read every wonderful comment above mine..How much women have learned and grown certainly in my lifetime (born in 63)…And all I could think with every comment is how much more difficult life will be for women in this country NOW…. 🙁