For those of you who have not yet seen it, the new Michelle Obama Watch website is up and running. The site is designed to be “a repository of all of the criticism, praise, and general chicanery thrown at Michelle Obama between now and November.” And I personally think that it’s a brilliant idea.
They are looking for volunteers to help out with the documentation, and you can read more about it here at What About Our Daughters?. Interestingly enough, the Obama campaign themselves have started a Fight The Smears website, designed to combat the swiftboating of both Barack and Michelle that has already begun. Let’s hope that this is a sign of their learning a thing or two from John Kerry.
To go back to just Michelle, in the less than two weeks since Barack reached the needed number of delegates to become the presumptive nominee, a lot of shit has gone down. The “fist bump” between Michelle and Barack before he began his victory speech was referred to as a “terrorist fist jab.” (For the record, when I saw them do that for the first time, I practically melted and thought it was the cutest thing ever — much more touching, intimate and acknowledging of the other than a mere kiss would have been. I think most couples have private little things they do like that, and it came across to me as very loving. The kiss is so often for show, but you could tell that the “bump” was for them and made them look like equals. Probably part of the reason, other than the blatant racism, why the media obsessed over it.) There has been the completely shameful debacle over an alleged but nonexistent tape in which Michelle was said to have repeatedly used the term “whitey.” Of course, though the tape has failed to surface and though no one seems to have actually seen the tape, the accusers aren’t rushing to make apologies over the ridiculous, and racist, character assassination. And last but certainly not least, there’s Fox News calling Michelle “Obama’s Baby Mama,” the offensiveness, racism and misogyny of which has been explained by many.
And then you’ve just got your run of the mill, bullshit, breathless analysis of Michelle’s wardrobe choices, and the references to her “strong personality.” You know, I think that Obama looks very good in his suits, but unless I missed it, I don’t remember seeing his wardrobe profile on the New York Times Style page. And I think that by now, feminists ought to be aware that “strong personality” is another way of saying “bitch,” “nag,” “uppity” and “has opinions so is therefore a liability to her husband.” Hillary Clinton and Theresa Heinz Kerry, anyone? “Strong personality” should be a compliment. But come on, now — we know it’s not. Any candidate’s wife who doesn’t stand a polite ten paces behind her husband and keep her mouth shut except to smile gets this sexist shit. When you add race into the mix, it all gets multiplied, and we’re watching it happen right now.
Michelle Obama is an impressive and inspiring woman who consistently gets her accomplishments downplayed because of both her gender and her race. Pissed off about the media misogyny thrown at Hillary Clinton? Angry about the racism leveled at Barack Obama? None of that is right, but remember that theirs are the credentials and character that are supposed to be under scrutiny. And yeah, Michelle knew what she was getting herself into when she signed up for the presidential race. But the fact remains that if we’re upset about sexism against Hillary and racism against Barack, we should be doubly upset about the racism and sexism against Michelle — especially because in addition to beating her down, opponents are actually using her as a weapon against her husband. The implication is that they must share the same views — because women can’t come up with any on their own. (The same thing happened to Hillary whenever she was grilled on previous positions taken by Bill as though disagreeing with them was akin to contradicting herself.) And if Barack can’t even keep his wife in line, how’s he going to run the country, right?
This needs to stop, but it’s probably not going to. And so we really need to start paying attention.