During the Democratic primary in 1992, Hillary Clinton made what could be the most famous gaffe from a would-be first lady of all time: "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. But what I decided to do was pursue my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
The quote — meant as Clinton’s defense against accusations that some of her legal work was a conflict of interest while her husband was governor — was widely interpreted as dismissive and insulting to stay-at-home moms. Clinton’s remarks caused an uproar, inspired a cookie-baking contest, and dogged and defined Clinton throughout her husband’s presidency.
By 1996, when Clinton published It Takes a Village, she was still apologizing, explaining that she meant only that she’d chosen to pursue a career rather than take up the traditional role of first lady of the state. She learned instead how quickly the public would be to judge and label her.
But at a Jay Z concert in Cleveland in support of Clinton’s campaign, her campaign reclaimed the statement. As Beyoncé performed, surrounded by backup dancers in pant suits, the “baked cookies” quote was projected onscreen, the New York Times’s Amy Chozick reports:
Major--> Hillary reclaiming her "baked cookies" line from 1992. This on screen at Beyonce concert pic.twitter.com/aYtxKJdOEv— Amy Chozick (@amychozick) November 5, 2016
The tea-and-cookies quote would probably still be controversial if Clinton had said it today — four years ago, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen sparked controversy by saying Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, a mother of five who never held a paying job, had “never worked a day in her life.” But the popularization of feminism, including through performances like Beyoncé’s, has created a context where it can be held up as proof that Clinton is a strong woman and role model who doesn’t back down.
Those same cultural shifts have led Clinton to embrace the historic nature of her candidacy in a way she never did before her nomination concession speech in 2008.
But even as society has evolved to embrace Clinton’s feminism, the concert was a sign that she’s evolved as well. Back in the ’90s, she suggested that rap music was poisoning children’s minds. Today, she and one of the biggest rap power couples are embracing each other.
Make of that evolution what you will, but to some degree, it shows exactly how much times have changed.