Friday, June 20, 2008

Does that mean my body must always be a source of pain? While the image of First Lady as the pinnacle of American womanhood is nothing new, this re-packaging of Michelle Obama is really pissing me off. The Obama campaign is doing an image makeover on her to make sure she doesn't appear Like Hillary. She co-hosted "The View" and graced the cover of "Us Weekly" doing her best soccer mom impression. Says a friend:

"[Michelle] is not the least bit interested in being a co-president or participating in policy decisions…Her first priority as a first lady would be that the girls are OK, and to continue to be the outstanding mother that she is."
This would be nauseating without the article's headline of "Why Barak loves her." Why? Because she shops at Target, why else? You didn't think it had to do with her accomplishments, her intelligence, or her moxie, did you?

Of course, the campaign has to wrap her up in traditional gender roles precisely because of her talent. A smart, outspoken, accomplished woman is bad enough, but one who is not only African American but who actively embraces her heritage is downright frightening. Consequently, they "soften" her, "maternalize" her, and basically white-wash her. And I do mean "white." She's coming off as a regular June Cleaver with her pearls and her carpool.

In the context of this election cycle, this development is particularly upsetting. Democratic voters were given the option of the most accomplished black presidential candidate ever to campaign or the most accomplished woman presidential candidate ever to campaign. For better or worse, the black man won. But a truckload of sexism accompanies that progressive victory. If the progress of one group of people comes at the expense of another, is it really a success?

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