Michelle Obama: The Best Black Female Role Model Since Claire Huxtable?

Illustration for article titled Michelle Obama: The Best Black Female Role Model Since Claire Huxtable?

Michelle Obama: What's not to love? She's smart, accomplished, funny, a great mother and a snazzy dresser. But as Newsweek's Allison Samuels points out, compared to other black women in the media, there's something different about Michelle Obama. For instance: Why don't we see Michelle snappin' her neck and waggin' her finger when she's "keepin' it real"? Why don't we see Michelle shake her booty and drop it like it's hot when she dances? Why haven't we heard any sassy one-liners or seen any displays of an easily-provoked temper?Also, why haven't we seen Michelle raise her voice above an "appropriate" decibel level? Michelle Obama doesn't seem to be anything like the image of black women that we see on TV and in films. Who is the real Michelle Obama? Get ready for it: Michelle Obama is totally normal. A normal, well-educated wife of a politician and mother of two. Samuels points out that Michelle is a type of black woman that many Americans don't get to see, since mostly, black women are portrayed in the media as either sassy, abrasive and angry or drug-addicted, poverty-stricken and AIDS-infected. But there are many different types of black women out there in the world. Some of whom — gasp — have a college education (complete with gender/race related undergraduate thesis), a good job and generally fit into the "normal" idea of upper-middle-class Americans. You just rarely see them on TV:

Usually, the lives of black women go largely unexamined. The prevailing theory seems to be that we're all hot-tempered single mothers who can't keep a man and, according to CNN's "Black in America," documentary, those of us who aren't street-walking crack addicts are on the verge of dying from AIDS. As writer Rebecca Walker put it on her Facebook page: "CNN should call me next time they really want to show diversity and meet real black women that nobody seems to talk about.'' Like Walker, I too know more than my share of black women who have little in common with the black female images I see in the media. My "sistafriends" are mostly college educated, in healthy, productive relationships and have a major aversion to sassy one-liners. They are teachers, doctors and business owners. Of course, there are those of us who never get the chance to pull it together. And we accept and embrace them-but their stories can't and shouldn't be the only ones told.


Like the fictional Huxtables before them, Samuels sees the Obamas serving as an example to both blacks and non-blacks through their upper-middle-class regular-ness. Perhaps Michelle has "softened" her image throughout the campaign, but if she becomes the First Lady she'll have to figure out her role in the White House amid criticisms much in the same way that Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton did before her. And even though Michelle will probably never gain acceptance from some of her critics, Samuels still sees her life in the spotlight as a way for Americans to see a "regular African-American woman" in action, showing "what we think and what we face on a regular basis." Some may argue that Michelle doesn't need to "teach" Americans about what it's like to be a black woman, but Michelle's prominent position in the public eye will invariably shape both black and non-black American's perceptions of what a black woman is, and can be. What Michelle Obama Can Teach Us About Black Women [Newsweek] Barack Obama Again Dances In A Slightly Embarrassing Manner On 'Ellen' [Wonkette] Earlier: Following Criticism, 'Mom In Chief' Michelle Obama Charms Americans



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