Michelle Obama And The Place Of A First Lady

Illustration for article titled 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



Here's the deal. No matter how far any of us want to live up the Obama's asses because they are, in fact, fabulous people, I think it's important to NEVER EVER EVER FORGET THAT THEY ARE POLITICIANS. Politicians make a living catering to what people want. If American in all her trashtastic glory says they want a more demure first lady, the Obamas will work to make it appear as if we DO have a demure first lady. I agree with some of the statements above, however, that no matter what goes on during the campaign, Michelle will be back to her fabulous self when she gets to the White House.