Michelle Obama And The Place Of A First Lady

As we have previously noted, the Obama campaign has begun its Michelle Make-Over Tour which seems intended to inoculate her against the charges once leveled at Hillary Clinton — namely, that she is bitchy, entitled, power-mad, etc.. You know, attacks like these, which also go after stereotypes about African-Americans. And, on the one hand, I applaud the well-timed vaccination because obviously people are going to think certain things about her and say lots of crap about her and I prefer that Barack Obama win and certainly that he not lose because people think his wife's a bitch. But this Columbia Journalism Review article made me wonder: Are we and are they giving too much of what is great about Michelle Obama away in service of not losing because of it?

Because, really, let's admit it: the campaign is all about playing into the stereotypes of what people think the First Lady ought to be, and about making Michelle fit those stereotypes. She's a regular mom, she shops at Target, she has trouble wearing pantyhose like the rest of us, she was willing to give up her job to support her husband's ambitions! She wears cute dresses! The CJR's Megan Garber hits it right on the head:

Yesterday's flurry of media appearances is ostensibly about "softening" Obama — which is pretty much a euphemism for feminizing her, which is pretty much a euphemism for rendering her less problematic for the voting public and the press.

Basically, what it boils down to is that they're making her girly, more wifely and motherly and best-girlfriend-y and less lawyer-y and equal-partner-y and independent so that people won't think too much of it if she ever makes a gaffe or says something too undiplomatic because she's just a girl. Just a wife. And as much as I don't want McCain to win because she's supposedly the other half of an Obama twofer that people don't like, I guess I'm not sure I want Obama to win because his wife isn't Hillary, either. I think it would be cool to have one of us bitches as First Lady, rather than making Michelle into a prettier, better-dressed version of Laura Bush.

Michelle Obama Racism/Sexism Watch, Part 9 [Shakesville]

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantyhose [Columbia Journalism Review]

Earlier: Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama Is Going To Be In For It