Regina Leung is ignoring the good wife's guide (gasp)

Alice Wu says criticism of Mrs Leung's involvement in a good cause is a sad throwback to the days when wives were seen and not heard

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 November, 2012, 2:58am


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It was only a matter of time before our politicians began pounding the chief executive's wife, so we shouldn't really be surprised that Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee's "Food for Good" campaign crossed the path of what I like to call the "Leung for Lunch" political campaign.

Food for Good is a non-profit organisation she founded to tackle food waste - a problem Hong Kong's green groups have been talking about for years - and help feed the hungry. As it turns out, the rest of us get something out of it, too - food for thought when it comes to expectations for our leaders' spouses.

Traditionally, they have functioned only as a face for charity, garnish for initiatives their husbands cook up. But according to freshman lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, these women should "distance [themselves] from pushing any public policy". Really? I suppose they should just stick to homemaking, shopping and getting their hair done, since thumb-twiddling gets a little mundane after a while.

Seriously, what can Leung do that would not involve some sort of public policy? US First Lady Michelle Obama gets involved in plenty of initiatives, whether it's planting a vegetable garden to promote healthy eating, helping military families or spearheading a campaign against childhood obesity. Yet we don't hear people accusing her of leveraging her husband's influence or "undermining the government's credibility" in these areas.

As we chew on Chan's words, we can't help but wonder: which era is he from? The 1950s? Perhaps, then, Leung could take the advice of a widely circulated article purportedly from the May 13, 1955 issue of "Housekeeping Monthly": "A good wife always knows her place." So, if Leung knew her place, she should stick only to tasks at home: "arrange [C.Y.'s] pillow and offer to take off his shoes". Those type of things.

But, alas, we do not live in an era where a good wife is just a pretty homemaker who tells her children to be quiet when daddy comes home, or one who "remember[s] his topics of conversation are more important than [hers]".

Even if Chan does manage to domesticate Leung and the wives of all future chief executives, he can't outlaw pillow talk - those private moments when a wife may exert influence on her husband in a matter of importance. Or, can he? Perhaps Chan could send another letter to the Chief Executive's Office, demanding full disclosure of what the couple discusses in bed, and whether these topics point to any further abuse by the chief executive's wife in using her connections to her husband to further her own interests.

And, in order to protect Hong Kong from the undue influences of the likes of Michelle Obama, who once answered a question on what happens when her husband wants her input on policy issues with: "Do you think I would ever hold my tongue?", Chan may want to make sure that all chief executive spouses are stripped of their rights to think and talk. Why not bring back corsets? It would do more for the cause than Mitt Romney's "binders full of women".

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA