Wednesday, March 11, 2009


So, today I want to talk about Michelle Obama and two unsettling portrayals that I saw of her in the media last night. The first was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. They were doing a segment on Michelle Obama's fashion, and how the media is obsessed with the fact that she is always showing her arms. My opinion on the matter is that it may have been a little out of place at the speech President Obama made to Congress last month, but every other time it has seemed appropriate. Besides, she is a grown woman and can wear what she wants. I also recognize that critiquing what First Ladies wear is pretty standard, because a significant number of the judgments we make about women are based on how they look.

No, I am concerned with a little fashion show piece that they did to tie into the story. They were talking about how Mrs. Obama could use her fashion choices to champion causes she is interested in. One of the things they said was that Mrs. Obama was concerned with transparency and then they preceded to show her in a dress with a front but no back and so her entire butt was exposed, and blurred out like they do on tv when nudity is shown. I tried to find a picture on google images to describe what I am talking about--and I'll spare you the disturbing details of the stuff I had to look at along the way. But, I couldn't find one, so just imagine Michelle Obama with her back to you, and her naked butt blurred out.

The second instance occurred when I was watching Nightline. After sitting through an interview with Jeff Bezos (that was really just 10 minute long advertisement for the Kindle, ) they run a story about how Michelle Obama is a big celebrity and on the covers of a bunch of magazines. They interview this woman named Sally Quinn. I'd never heard of her before, but after reading her Wikipedia entry, I think I understand a little more where this comment I'm about to describe came from.

Ms. Quinn and the interviewer are sitting around a coffee table that is filled with magazines that have done stories on Mrs. Obama, and the interviewer asks something like, "What do you think this coverage says about Mrs. Obama?" Ms. Quinn's response:

"I think it means she's a sexual person."

Um, what?

Please tell me how one looks at photos like this:

and the first word that comes to mind is, "sexual." Does she look like she's trying to seduce you with her eyes? Is what she is wearing super revealing? I don't think so.

Which brings me to my point: I don't think the graphic that was shown on The Daily Show, or the comment that Ms. Quinn made would have happened if Michelle Obama had been white. The fact that when I type the words "First Lady," they are supposed to be capitalized shows that we are supposed to treat the person who holds that title with a certain amount of respect. Have you ever heard/seen any other First Lady portrayed in or talked about in such a way? I've had a pretty good grasp of what was going on with Presidential wives since Nancy Reagan, and I can't recall anything like this.

Let me be clear that I am in no way saying that President and Mrs. Obama can't be criticized or made fun of, and that anyone who says anything negative about them is a racist. That's not what I'm saying at all.

What I am saying is that black women have a long history in this country of being portrayed as sexually promiscuous. While white First Ladies in the past have had their fair share of jabs taken at them, as soon as we have a black First Lady--I see two overt references to her sexuality in the same night. From both liberal and conservative source.

What's up with that?

As always, I welcome your comments.


  1. I think it's because she's a very attractive woman, not really because she's black. I mean let's face it, most of the first ladies in the past haven't been as beautiful as Michele Obama. Who would ever talk about Laura Bush like that? She looks like a house wife on steroids.

  2. Anonymous12:56 PM

    I agree with Meagan. She is just plain hot.