"No Boys, Just Girls" In G20 "Spouse's Program"S

And by "girls," we mean the wives of the leaders of the free world. Obviously.

So what do the "spouses" do while their husbands are sorting out the world? Well, that's what the bizarre
"spouses program" is for, something to keep the womenfolk busy with carefully-selected activities as strictly scheduled as a preschooler's day. Laura Bush reinstated the program in 2004. As the Washington Post explains, they can't do anything too important because the focus has to be on the summits - no headline-grabbing, just a polite group photo and plenty of cozy teacup diplomacy. After all, as Fox News knows, those wives are an unpredictable and wild bunch! Much better to keep them safely occupied.

And since the location of the summits change, there are always many new and interesting things to see and do!

Over the years, the spouses have visited a high-tech incinerator in Japan, inspected an earthquake site in Italy and attended a "Harry Potter" party in London. And there has been so much lunching and dining — ravioli carbonara in Rome! — that one wonders whether all the spouses have Jenny Craig on speed dial...Yet for all the group photos, the friendly chatter among accomplished ladies and the serious conversations about women's rights, the spouses program still has the ring of a tradition that might as well date from the era of Jane Austen when, after dinner, men retired to the library for cigars and cognac and a discussion of world events — and the ladies went into the parlor to talk about needlepoint.

While some might think that an educated and sophisticated group of cosmopolitan women might have better things to do than go to a Harry Potter party, Michelle's Obama's people claim brightly that the FL is excited to "put her stamp on it."

The events Obama has announced so far reflect the topics she has focused on as first lady: healthy eating, the arts and the education and support of young people. She will host a private get-to-know-you dinner Thursday evening for the spouses at Teresa Heinz's Rosemont Farm in Fox Chapel, Pa., just outside Pittsburgh. The dinner at the farm, where workers grow fruits and vegetables, raise cows and chickens and collect fresh eggs, is intended to underscore Obama's interest in sustainable farming and her emphasis on locally grown foods. The spouses will visit the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts magnet school, which has more than 800 full-time students and is akin to the type of professional arts school that inspired the musical "Fame."They also will be given a tour of the Andy Warhol Museum — an artist symbolic of American popular culture who was born and raised in Pittsburgh. That will be followed by lunch.

Repainting the wheel, all right. Not that this doesn't sound like a pleasant weekend - just in stark contrast to the actual work of the summit. Now, obviously the Role of First Lady - and COC, for that matter - involves a lot of tradition and a lot of protocol and that's unavoidable. And yes, this is a wildly diverse group of women whose countries may not be on good terms - it's got to be a diplomatic challenge to plan. But it does seem like at an event that's tackling issues of global economy and international relationships, this makes a backhandedly strong statement. Don't worry, it says; we're not that radical! Dorm-room-approved Pop art is as controversial as it gets. (Well, depending on how much unscripted talk time Teresa Heinz gets; I'm gonna go with not much.)

What makes the whole thing especially weird is that not all the spouses are women: Joachim Sauer, the husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, wasn't apparently required to come. And Nestor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina, is now First Mate. In fact, this was a very real chance to change the face of the event organically, de-gendering the event and taking it in a new, more modern direction. (Although last I checked, guys were still allowed to watch Fame.) But, no. Although he's in Pittsburgh, Mr. Kirchner is not allowed to join the women, and will apparently be forced to watch pay-per-view in his hotel room or weep into a lonely Primanti Brothers sandwich. "No boys, just girls," Mrs. Obama's Chief of Staff, Susan Sher, says cutely. Jenny Craig, after all, doesn't take men.

The First Wives' Snub [Washington Post]
Despot Housewives [Fox]