New book reveals the Obamas’ private world of drug-fueled orgies, weekend crack binges, and transvestite prostitutes

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 · 176 Comments »

Not really. The new celebritrash book on the First Couple is out on the shelves today, and based on the reports I’m seeing there’s not a whole hell of a lot there. The most interesting revelation is that it was Michelle who nixed the idea of Hillary for VP:

“Do you really want Bill and Hillary just down the hall from you in the White House?” she reportedly told her husband. “Could you live with that?”

There’s also some stuff about women grabbing Barack’s ass (words fail me on that one, chum) and Michelle getting annoyed:

The book relates, “Michelle knew that all the unseemly fawning nourished Barack’s admittedly already oversize ego. ‘He’s loving it,’ she muttered at one point. ‘He’s a man, isn’t he?’ Once again, she resorted to giving him the silent treatment.”

And then some extremely vague reported rumors that, reportedly, were rumored:

Andersen cites rumors “that it was more than just the random flirting from strangers that was getting to Michelle. Her husband, it would later be reported, had grown close to an attractive young African-American woman [working for the Obama campaign] named Vera Baker.

“When Baker suddenly and inexplicably vanished from the campaign and resurfaced on the Caribbean island of Martinique, tongues reportedly began wagging. A jealous Michelle, it was suggested, had engineered Baker’s departure.”

Fashion icon Michelle Obama fearlessly teams Kurt Cobain's green cardigan with the engine drive belt from the USS Enterprise and the black-and-white skirt off a Madame Alexander doll.

Fashion icon Michelle Obama fearlessly teams Kurt Cobain's green cardigan with the engine drive belt from the USS Enterprise and the black-and-white skirt off a Madame Alexander doll.

It might also be suggested — in a reported, rumored kind of way — that this whole fucking book is full of shit. The author, Christopher Andersen, is a hack who specializes in treacly biographies of people he likes (especially the Kennedys) and mudslinging hit jobs on people he doesn’t (particularly Hillary Clinton). This is the guy who wrote American Evita: Hillary Clinton’s Path to Power, in which Hillary’s man-eating vagina killed Vince Foster and then masterminded the September 11 attacks. Or something like that.

The flip side of Andersen’s oeuvre is glossy, gauzy celebrity tripe:

  • Sweet Caroline: Last Child of Camelot
  • Jack and Jackie: Portrait of an American Marriage
  • Jackie After Jack: Portrait of the Lady
  • The Day John Died (about John-John Kennedy, not John Lennon)
  • George and Laura : Portrait of an American Marriage
  • Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve
  • An Affair to Remember: The Remarkable Love Story Of Katharine Hepburn And Spencer Tracy
  • After Diana: William, Harry, Charles, and the Royal House of Windsor

Ew. The new Obama book is another entry in the “portrait of an American marriage” series (though not, I note, in the crucially different “remarkable love story” series), so I think it’s safe to place it firmly in the category of airbrushed bullshit. As opposed to bitter vicious slander, Andersen’s other strength as a writer. Ignore.

Coincidentally, since we’re marinating here in pure celebritrash effluvia, it turns out that Michelle Obama has just been named to the tippy top of People’s Best Dressed List. That’s why I’m decorating the post with photographs of Ms. Obama displaying her stunning fashion sense. And I’m not going to say one more fucking word about it.

Tired of your old shower curtain?  Sew it into a top instead!  First Lady Michelle Obama shows how you can recycle old vinyl shower curtains and plastic non-skid daisies into a fashion-forward outfit that will stun your entourage.

Tired of your old shower curtain? Sew it into a top instead! Michelle Obama shows how you can recycle old vinyl shower curtains and plastic non-skid daisies into a fashion-forward outfit that will stun your entourage.

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176 Responses to “New book reveals the Obamas’ private world of drug-fueled orgies, weekend crack binges, and transvestite prostitutes”

  1. octogalore says:

    Nicely done. Would try that multiple horizontal belty-thing look, only it might be too, ah, fearless for me.

    I agree with the multiple grains of salt. Only, regarding MO’s choice of Obama’s running mate, I think there may be some truth there. Still recall the “can’t run you’re own house, can’t run the White House” comment.

  2. Violet says:

    I keep chafing against my own determination not to comment on Michelle’s fashion choices. I don’t want to contribute to the patriarchal conception of First Ladies as Stepford Wives and clotheshorses, nor to the general excess of focus on women’s appearance in this godforsaken culture. So I try very hard to keep my mouth shut.

    But I dearly wish sometimes that we didn’t live in a patriarchy and that I could freely indulge my appreciation for Michelle’s hilarious clown outfits. She is the most entertaining First Lady of my lifetime! She’s certainly the only First Lady who’s ever been able to make me burst out laughing just with her clothes. God knows what she’s thinking.

  3. Keri says:

    I have to bite my tongue as well not to make a snarky comment as well. Hey, here’s one that isn’t sexist- her fashion sense slightly better than ManFaye’s- a notoriously bad male cosplayer who dressed as Faye from Cowboy Bebop at anime cons. If you google it be prepared for images that will haunt your nightmares. The antiRaoul.

  4. Northwest rain says:

    She must be color blind — or she only looks at the sucker price tag and that’s how she chooses her clothes???

    If the very first thing we notice is her lack of grace in her choice of clothes — then she has zero fashion sense. She is an ugly person from the inside.

    She IS wearing the damned curtains!!

  5. simply wondered says:

    ‘If the very first thing we notice is her lack of grace in her choice of clothes — then she has zero fashion sense. She is an ugly person from the inside.’

    isn’t that the kind of comment we’re trying to avoid?

    the fact that the dialogue is about michelle as ‘fashion icon’ and the definition of her ‘fearlessness’ is how she matches a skirt to a top (forgive my use of technical fashion language here) says everything for us about the system’s ruthless diminution of every woman. and nothing at all about any qualities she may have.

    but no, i’m not wild on the shower curtain look – but i have no taste, so it might be really cool. a bit like dungarees and hairy armpits – no not the dexy’s thing again!!!!!!!

  6. gxm17 says:

    I dunno. Does being a feminist really mean we have to like all women?

    Pointing out the empress has no clothes (sense) in the face of the patriarchy screaming to the world that she is a “fashion icon” (because she’s a good little girl and plays along with their program) is more of a political statement than a “catty” one. Again, just another way of keeping us down when we can’t call them out on their lies because then we’re being “bitchy.” Personally, I could care less what silly outfit MO wears but I sure as hell resent being told she’s an icon of anything other than a caged reduction of female power.

  7. votermom says:

    About her appearance, the one thing I will say is I do not like how she let herself be posed on the
    Vogue cover. The slinky come-hither pose is, in my opinion, totally inappropriate for a FL.
    I cut her slack because it is Vogue which does horrible photoshopping and posing anyway, but she ought to have a better pr person to nix it.

    pic
    http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/MSNBC/Sections/TVNews/Today%20show/Today%20SPECIAL%20SERIES/2009/WhiteHouse/Pics/Vogue_ObamaCover.widec.jpg

  8. RKMK says:

    I dunno. Does being a feminist really mean we have to like all women?

    No, it just means we avoid criticizing them in sexist or misogynist frames, and take the time to examine our own kneejerk like/dislike reactions to make sure they’re not being subconsciously influenced by patriarchy.

    (For example, in January/February 2008, I was thrilled that either Hillary or Obama would be the next president – the ‘choosing between two kittens’ paradigm. They both seemed great! Equally matched! Both with their plusses and minuses! And then I remembered that a woman has to be twice as good as a man to seem his equal, and I stopped myself, rejected the sexist crap I’d internalized about Hillary in the 90s, stopped listening to pundits and took a long hard look at their histories and what they were saying, and all of a sudden, the differences couldn’t have been more stark and startling. I was a Hillary girl from then on.

    A few months later, after being traumatized by the Democratic party and being a bit more highly sensitive to this stuff, Sarah Palin came on the scene. I admit it – I had a kneejerk reaction to her. A woman on their side! And she’s no Hillary, what a stup- And then I stopped myself again, and tried to be conscious of what was a sexist attack and what wasn’t.

    With Michelle, I’m personally not thrilled with a a number of things she’s said, but I do wish people would take a step back from their reaction to her, because (IMO) a lot of the negative feelings directed her way are transference from people’s (righteous) anger at Barack, like there’s just so much anger at him and the Democrats and the whole primary issues that it spills over and people start targeting her, as well.

    IMO.)

  9. TheOtherDelphyne says:

    Violet, I love the fashion descriptions of Michelle’s outfits! They are hilarious…

  10. votermom says:

    a lot of the negative feelings directed her way are transference from people’s (righteous) anger at Barack, like there’s just so much anger at him and the Democrats and the whole primary issues that it spills over and people start targeting her, as well.

    It’s not just spill-over. As The Wife, she is being offered as the hate receptacle for BO fans, so their admiration for BO may remain pure. Witness how it is no longer BO’s fault that he did not pick Hillary, it is all that evil MO’s fault.

    Not that I like MO. I think her last job was despicable, clearly a means of funneling bribe money. But I dislike her for what she does & says, not for what her husband does.

  11. Helen Huntingdon says:

    The thing that jumps out at me about the outfits pictured is that she’s not even trying to look small. Most of women’s fashion seems to be about trying to look smaller than we actually are, or smaller than the men around us, or physically restrained somehow. “Attractiveness” for women is most often defined around looking smaller in some way than men, being careful not to take up too much space.

    Whenever I see women not even bothering with that but going ahead and looking large and taking up space, I want to cheer.

  12. RKMK says:

    It’s not just spill-over. As The Wife, she is being offered as the hate receptacle for BO fans, so their admiration for BO may remain pure. Witness how it is no longer BO’s fault that he did not pick Hillary, it is all that evil MO’s fault.

    That’s quite likely true, though I don’t hang out at pro-BO sites enough to testify to that – I thought they all idolized her as the second-coming of Jackie O. ;)

    Because my feminism is non-partisan, and the Ground Zero of my political framework, I try to be very careful not to join in on the bashing of Bad Women in politics, which are invariably the women on the Other side, who have the audacity to support your enemies. Whether it’s the creep who threatened all Hillary-supporting women with shaving their heads, or the jerkwad who hung Palin in effigy, or the asshats who slut-shamed and sniggered at the woman who dated Jon Favreau (like she didn’t have enough problems, poor thing!), we have a cultural tendency to vent our frustrations by taking aim at the women and tear them down, and frankly, that’s why women have such a hard time gaining political power – there’s always someone on the Other Side only to willing to snigger at them viciously.

    As Violet said here:

    “It’s not Clinton Derangement Syndrome or even Palin Derangement Syndrome, but Woman Derangement Syndrome. Any woman who reaches for that brass ring is going to be crucified. And, sad to say, there is a subset of self-described feminists who will help drive the nails.”

  13. RKMK says:

    *flails* I’m in moderation! It was likely all the links. Goddamn me and my natural inclination to source.)

  14. DancingOpossum says:

    This reminds me of the constant haranguing assurances from the Celeb Press that Chloe Sevigny was the most stunningly, amazingly chic dresser the world had ever seen. Over and over I was told this and yet over and over Chloe seemed to appear in public in some horrifying combo like torn leggings plus a hairball-and-barbed-wire skirt with a knitted baby cap fished out of a dumpster on her head that made me and every other right-thinking person go “WTF???”

    I didn’t buy it about Chloe and I don’t buy it about Michelle either. Who am I to believe, fawning publicists or my own lying eyes?

  15. yttik says:

    I criticize high fashion constantly. I mean really, this year, one model was dressed as an artichoke, another had a pancake on her head and a fried egg on her dress. I’m all for art and constuming, but this is antifeminist. The goal is to put women in such ridiculous outfits, they won’t be taken seriously. It sets us apart. Can you imagine walking into congress, here are dozens of men in power suits and you’re wrapped in a shower curtain?

    The FL has missed an opportunity to lead, to set an example for women. Of course she’s more than her clothes, but she herself has to break out of that role and show us what she can do instead of simply perpetuating a trend that helps to make women hard to take seriously.

  16. Helen Huntingdon says:

    Here’s my favorite rundown on what strikes me as the crux of discussions like this: https://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/tannend/nyt062093.htm

    As Tannen explains in that article and elsewhere, “THE TERM “MARKED” IS a staple of linguistic theory. It refers to the way language alters the base meaning of a word by adding a linguistic particle that has no meaning on its own. The unmarked form of a word carries the meaning that goes without saying — what you think of when you’re not thinking anything special.”

    Tannen goes on to note that when it comes to apparel, men always have an unmarked option. Women never do. That’s why it moves into a sexist frame to say that a woman’s fashion is wrong somehow — she has no option to be right=unmarked.

  17. m Andrea says:

    Helen Huntington made a most excellent point. And I just to have to add that some of MO’s outfits *are* quite nice and really do push some fashion boundaries, in a good way. Can’t be helped if some of those attempts result in total flops. Go MO! Now if only she could get BO to wear pink and fuschia… I saw a man wearing the most incredible blue suit the other day, with a pink shirt and an art nouvau peacock tie — he looked amazingly cool, and self-confident to boot.

  18. yttik says:

    Did anyone see congress, Hillary and Pelosi, in bright red suits amidst a sea of dark power suits? The contrast was dramatic and somewhat disturbing. I don’t know WTH they are supposed to wear given our cultural parameters and I’m certainly not suggesting they should have worn something else. It’s just that to see women dressed in red, while everyone else is dressed in dark blue or black, conjured up memories of the Scarlet Letter, the Handmaid’s Tale. It’s like they must be marked with hunters orange so you can see them coming a mile away. It’s as if there are “real” congressmen and these are their uniforms, and then there are a couple of women who we don’t really want to admit into our group. They’re different, they’re apart from “us”, and we make sure everyone knows it.

  19. LV says:

    Helen (at 15), I remember reading that article back in the early 90s; I’ve never forgotten it. Thanks for the link.

  20. octogalore says:

    I’m not sure the negative feelings about Michelle Obama are just transference. I have both positive and negative feelings. In her early campaigning, she had some worthwhile and mold-breaking things to say, she’s had some impressive academic and career accomplishments, and she’s brought up two smart, beautiful kids.

    But on the negative side, I’m uncomfortable with her lecturing low-income women on going right into public service, when she didn’t take that route, and in so doing slam Hillary and Chelsea. Those women didn’t have the chance to get their salary tripled when their husband got into a state government post in which he could imfluence their employer, as happened with Michelle. As well as her linking having an imperfect marriage to being incompetent (links here). The latter must, or should, have been especially galling to poor women of color and other women whose lack of privilege makes it more likely, through no fault of their own, that they will be single moms.

  21. Helen Huntingdon says:

    That’s just it. They don’t have an unmarked option.

    I’m in a field where blending in simply isn’t an option, because women are very rare, and pasty-white women with American accents are so unusual as to be stared at constantly. Like other women I’ve seen in similar situations, I’ve taken appearance approaches that have gone in all different directions, and they all come out more or less the same: No matter what I do, I will stand out simply because of how I look, and no matter what I do, someone will disapprove along the lines of, “Well I certainly wouldn’t choose *that* option.” There is no out.

    So to my mind, “If this is the shit coming my way, I’m going to get whimsical on your ass,” is a perfectly valid response. So is, “Can’t blend in, so let’s go for the primary colors and REALLY not blend in.” So is, “Meh, if I wear only dark colors it makes laundry and coordinating outfits less work.”

    So yeah, I agree that the one top looks like she killed a shower curtain or three. It still looks to me like a perfectly valid response to not being able to blend in / have an unmarked option no matter what you do.

  22. monchichipox says:

    “can’t run you’re own house, can’t run the White House”

    Exactly. In my opinion she fired the first shot that signaled the use of sexism against Hillary, and later Sarah Palin, would be allowed within the Democratic party. I’d like to see how fashionable she would look with her head shaved as a collaborator.

    The quote I love to use about her I read on this website: “I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid and I’m not eating the cookies.”

    Though I’m loathe to speak about her clothes it soothes my bitterness a bit to say she looked like a reupholstered couch circa 1952 on inauguration day.

  23. Bella Donna says:

    I think that you can be disgusted with the patriarchy’s different treatment of women without being sexist. Because that is what this is all about. Be married to a charismatic leader that the MSM loves, and you can wear a shower curtain to work and be fashionable, be a leader in your own right and they will tear you down no matter what you wear. You outfits are either “dowdy” or “slutty”

  24. janicen says:

    I agree with those commenters who dislike Michelle, and Barack, for that matter, because of their personal hypocrisy. I am sick of the two of them going around telling everyone we should be out volunteering when their own tax returns indicate that they rarely even bothered to write a check. I have seen no evidence of volunteerism in either of their pasts. Sure, they do some photo-ops now, but then hop into the limo I pay for and go home to dine at the White House.

    Helen Huntingdon, Thank you for the insights into the fashion discussion. I’ve avoided discussing Michelle’s choices because I hate that women are held to a different standard than men in this regard, but I’ve privately cringed a little, especially when she wore a sweater to meet the queen. Now, however, I love what she wears. I’ll look at it as a giant “F-you!” from Michelle to those who judge her according to sexist parameters.

  25. Kali says:

    Tannen goes on to note that when it comes to apparel, men always have an unmarked option. Women never do.

    True. And it probably is the reason why the list of best dressed people had both men and women, but the list for worst dressed was only women (from the news clip I saw on TV).

  26. votermom says:

    I’m under the impression that women in the Victorian era had unmarked day clothing. That pseudo-mourning look, you know?

  27. Gayle says:

    I like the first outfit, radial tire belt and all. It flatters her figure.

    And this is, hopefully, my last fashion critique on this blog!

  28. gxm17 says:

    yttik said: I criticize high fashion constantly. I mean really, this year, one model was dressed as an artichoke, another had a pancake on her head and a fried egg on her dress. I’m all for art and constuming, but this is antifeminist. The goal is to put women in such ridiculous outfits, they won’t be taken seriously. It sets us apart. Can you imagine walking into congress, here are dozens of men in power suits and you’re wrapped in a shower curtain?

    I honestly believe that the “fashion” industry’s greatest purpose is to demean and hobble women and secure women’s diminished place in society. It’s the western equivalent of the hijab.

  29. Violet says:

    I love it when the commenters say all the things I ought to say. Excellent discussion about fashion and feminism.

    Re Michelle Obama, I don’t really dislike her. I think her comment about Hillary was mean and wrong and antifeminist, but I don’t feel any kind of strong personal animosity towards the woman. My reaction to her clothes is apolitical. I have a whole background in art and theatre that you guys don’t know about, and I’m interested in costume and fashion on an aesthetic level. A few times Michelle has looked good, but often she shows up in things that make my brain go “MISTAKE! MISTAKE! MISTAKE!”

    But, as you all are explaining so clearly that I don’t have to, it’s impossible to discuss this as if a woman’s clothes exist in a vacuum. They don’t.

  30. Violet says:

    By the way, can anyone explain to me what is going on in the 3 inches below the drive belt and before the Madame Alexander skirt starts? Because I can’t sort out what that is.

  31. Honora says:

    A bit off-topic, but can I ask why Pelosi always wears her suit jackets two sizes too small? I remember when Clinton was attacked for showing cleavage, Pelosi always reminds me of a German beer garden waitress. Or maybe the Saint Pauli Girl??

  32. octogalore says:

    “Tannen goes on to note that when it comes to apparel, men always have an unmarked option. Women never do. That’s why it moves into a sexist frame to say that a woman’s fashion is wrong somehow — she has no option to be right=unmarked.”

    Helen — interesting analysis. It’s true, it’s so much more difficult for women’s clothing choices to pass muster.

    I am not sure I agree that there’s no option to be right, although I do agree there’s no option to be unmarked. That is to say: I think there is a very fine line for women to be neutral in dress — eg, a dull-colored, professional-but-not-sexy-fit suit or pants suit. Even there, a nonconforming figure can push it into the “marked” category. BUT: I think “marked” can be an advantage for a women if it’s just sexy enough while being totally professional. Some will carp, but it will be a net positive:

    Example: Condi’s look here. Tailored, but with oomph.

    Also, I think 90% of Condi’s looks and about 75% of Michelle’s looks here net positive — professional, not likely to be called out as “slutty,” but a combination of commanding and distinctive that male wardrobe options might not so easily allow. Note: some of my grading may be based on my own biases towards preferring Condi’s figure and subsequent belief that it enables her to get away with more — although of course, Michelle has a nice figure too.

    Not to discount that when adding it all up, women have substantially less playing room, much more room for societally perceived error, and the entrance ticket to a net-positive marked appearance is a great figure, which isn’t universally available.

  33. gxm17 says:

    I am probably the lone dissenter here but, much as I enjoyed the link, Tannen’s observation, at best, only holds up in certain segments of the business world. Clothing and hairstyles mark everyone, men, women and children. As Frank Zappa is famously attributed to saying when his audience began heckling a serviceman: “Don’t fool yourselves, everyone here is wearing a uniform.” IMO Zappa was a sexist pig, but every now and then he was right.

  34. gxm17 says:

    Violet, I think you’re looking at either the second belt or the top tier of her skirt. Only her dresser knows for sure.

  35. votermom says:

    The double belt thing reminds me of a sealed bottle top.

  36. tinfoil hattie says:

    What does John McCain wear? Joe Biden? Newt Gingrich? How do Barney Frank’s jackets hang on him? What is John Edwards’s “signature” shirt color? How is Bill Clinton dressing these days? John Stewart? Rahm Emmanuel? Tom DeLay? (Well, never mind. I take that one back.) Arlen Specter? Arnold Schwarzenegger? What about Rep. Wiener? Bill O’Reilly? Keith Olbermann?

    Nobody knows, because nobody cares. Or if we do know, it’s because the answer is almost always, “a dark suit.”

    Women can’t win. Who cares what Michelle Obama wears? She has exactly ZERO duty to meet anyone’s desires, expectations, or stereotypes through her outfits.

    I hate the patriarchy.

  37. Honora says:

    You know I really never did know what Laura Bush wore, because she wore the uniform. Michele could wear the uniform, but she chooses not to. I think that opens her up to having her clothes discussed. While I can not direct you to confirmation, it is my understanding that the names of the designers for her clothes and her daughters clothes are provided to the media.

    I agree that it is harder and more boring, but professional women can and do dress so that attention is not drawn to them. That is not what Michelle chooses to do.

  38. quixote says:

    I do agree with yttik (#15) about the idiocy of women’s fashions as a method of branding. Just today, though, I saw the most un-effing-believable High(?) Fashion(??) thing over at the BBC. Go to the third image in this group: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8271312.stm . Machismo taken so far beyond the limit, I’m helpless with insane laughter.

  39. quixote says:

    Just sayin: I think MO’s clothes can be commented on because she has invited comments. She didn’t have to pose for Vogue. If she sets herself as a kewl kid, then the rest of us can comment on it.

    I do have to admit I get heaps of schadenfreude out of how bad she is at it. I haven’t been able to stand her ever since her Hillary comment and finding out about her bribery-job.

  40. tinfoil hattie says:

    I agree that it is harder and more boring, but professional women can and do dress so that attention is not drawn to them. That is not what Michelle chooses to do.

    And exactly why should any woman dress so that attention is not drawn to her? And is Michelle Obama (last names, please) a “professional,” or a person in a lose/lose situation stuck in the spotlight ALL THE TIME? Do you think she chooses to have her clothing designers listed in the media?

    Repeat: She has NO OBLIGATION to fulfill regarding her clothing. Any “obligations” are constructed by the patriarchy, and are therefore bullshit.

  41. RKMK says:

    You know I really never did know what Laura Bush wore, because she wore the uniform. Michele could wear the uniform, but she chooses not to. I think that opens her up to having her clothes discussed. While I can not direct you to confirmation, it is my understanding that the names of the designers for her clothes and her daughters clothes are provided to the media.

    I agree that it is harder and more boring, but professional women can and do dress so that attention is not drawn to them. That is not what Michelle chooses to do.

    Horseshit. If Michelle wore nothing but dark, conservative suits, she’d be criticized for being dowdy and unfashionable. The woman got criticized for wearing cotton shorts in the Grand Canyon while she was on vacation, for fuck’s sake. And the names of her designers are provided to the media because the stupid reporters ASK, because as a society we are obsessed with evaluating a woman by her looks and what she wears.

    What does John McCain wear? Joe Biden? Newt Gingrich? How do Barney Frank’s jackets hang on him? What is John Edwards’s “signature” shirt color? How is Bill Clinton dressing these days? John Stewart? Rahm Emmanuel? Tom DeLay? (Well, never mind. I take that one back.) Arlen Specter? Arnold Schwarzenegger? What about Rep. Wiener? Bill O’Reilly? Keith Olbermann?

    Nobody knows, because nobody cares.

    Ding, ding, ding. Thanks, TFH.

  42. RKMK says:

    Just sayin: I think MO’s clothes can be commented on because she has invited comments. She didn’t have to pose for Vogue.

    Oh! Oooooh! “The [woman I don't personally like] asked for it [by doing something completely legal and commonplace in public]!”

  43. gxm17 says:

    Actually when I think of Keith Olberpigg I think of helmet hair and too much make up. I have opinions about the way most of the men on that list look and/or dress but didn’t want to bore anyone with it. But I will say this, Schwarzenegger looks better without his clothes on (at least in his Terminator days).

  44. yttik says:

    “She has NO OBLIGATION to fulfill regarding her clothing.”

    Perhaps she doesn’t have an “obligation” to fulfill, but what she does have is a missed opportunity to stand up for women and to lead. She’s the first lady, her position puts her as a role model for women.

  45. RKMK says:

    Perhaps she doesn’t have an “obligation” to fulfill, but what she does have is a missed opportunity to stand up for women and to lead. She’s the first lady, her position puts her as a role model for women.

    She needs to dress better to set an example for other woman to dress better… why? Because women’s entire purpose is to be decorative?

    Are you even trying to make sense anymore? Or are you simply relishing any opportunity to criticize Michelle Obama and rationalizing it to yourself any way you can?

  46. Honora says:

    Tinfoil Hattie- If I wish to refer to Michelle as Michelle on a post in which the majority of posters are referring to her as Michelle I will. Got it. I do feel like she wishes to have her clothing choices discussed, you are free to disagree with me.

  47. orlando says:

    Octogalore brought up a key point that we’ve skimmed over so far in this discussion. That is, a woman can have a “non-conforming figure”, which will “mark” her regardless of how conformist she tries to make her clothing choices. Got breasts? Better strap them down (and get accused of trying to be a man) or you look “unprofessional”. And lord forfend you have hips, or a tummy.

  48. votermom says:

    I thought we were discussing her fashion choices because People Mag put her on their best-dressed list. Which to me shows how much People’s best-dressed list is all about them sucking up to the “in” crowd.

  49. Violet says:

    I thought we were discussing her fashion choices because People Mag put her on their best-dressed list.

    Yeah, and I thought this might be an opportunity for me to get away with commenting on how hilarious her clothes are to me. I usually refrain because of all the things that are being discussed in this thread. But to me, even if we lived in a feminist world where women’s clothes and appearance were no more “marked” than men’s, Michelle Obama would still make me laugh. Because she dresses like a clown.

  50. Alison says:

    I like the way Michelle dresses and I like the shower curtain skirt that reminds me of my art school days.

    But her clothing is relevant because the patriarchy has pretty much insisted that she shut her mouth, look pretty and stand by her husband’s side. Lately I’ve been looking at 50′s female imagery and it seems Michelle has been instructed to embrace the 50′s. Fashion and gardening and being “Mom-In-Chief” has become her focus.

    I don’t think this is really who she is.

    I remember before I even was considered who I would be voting for, Michelle introduced herself to the public as someone who dresses in very ordinary clothing, does not wear a lot of make up and that the public had better get used to looking at her like that. I had thought she was very refreshing and real at that point.

    So she has been Stepford Wife-ized. Okay, how predictable.

    But interesting that Liberal Dude Nation and their female accolades aren’t talking about the $$$ spent on Michelle’s clothing and whether it reflects the Obama administration’s values? Like they did with Palin.

    Hypocracy again.

  51. votermom says:

    Lately I’ve been looking at 50’s female imagery and it seems Michelle has been instructed to embrace the 50’s. Fashion and gardening and being “Mom-In-Chief” has become her focus.

    I think it is part of the “Camelot returns” branding. Jackie was a fashion icon, so Michelle must become one also. I hope she doesn’t start wearing little hats.

  52. Violet says:

    tinfoil hattie says:

    Do you think she chooses to have her clothing designers listed in the media?

    Actually, yes, I do. But of course that’s a highly constrained choice, since she’s functioning within a patriarchal paradigm. In essence I think she’s playing along with a predetermined script about the black Ozzie and Harriet in the White House.

    Here’s what I think about the Obamas (a comment I wrote a few months ago):

    My personal belief is that the Obama team made a calculated decision that the American public could only handle one revolutionary change at a time, and that was electing the first African-American president. They decided that in all other respects, the Obama candidacy and presidency would be soothing and completely in line with traditional Americana, hence the Ozzie-and-Harriet stuff. Michelle is supposed to be a Jackie Kennedy type in terms of fashion, a Mamie Eisenhower type in terms of being domestic, they have the happy family thing going (two kids and a dog, even), Obama talks about religion and praying and all that stuff. I think his whole deal is to be as close as possible to a Norman Rockwell painting — except that the family is black. I believe his team decided that this would be the best way to make the racial change acceptable to the broadest number of people.

    As a matter of fact, the celebritrash book that prompted this post is very much part of the whole shtick. This is the publisher’s blurb:

    “They exploded onto the world scene and within a matter of a few short years captured the ultimate political prize…By the time they claimed the White House in one of the most hotly contested presidential races in modern history, Barack and Michelle Obama were seen by millions around the world as the new Jack and Jackie Kennedy—brilliant, attractive, elegant, youthful, exciting. Accompanied by their two young daughters, Malia and Sasha, the Obamas would arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the promise of a new Camelot all but assured.”

    To me, the Obama phenomenon has always seemed completely scripted. He’s supposed to be the new Jack Kennedy, eloquent and inspiring. His speeches make people swoon; he inspires millions. Except his speeches are full of air and empty phrases, like his campaign — yet somehow people swooned anyway.

    And Michelle Obama is supposed to be the new Jackie — elegant, stylish. Except that she’s really not. But everyone swoons anyway, right on cue.

  53. RKMK says:

    Re Michelle Obama, I don’t really dislike her. I think her comment about Hillary was mean and wrong and antifeminist, but I don’t feel any kind of strong personal animosity towards the woman. My reaction to her clothes is apolitical.

    Violet, I just caught this, and I didn’t want you to think I was talking about you. I was pontificating on general trends in pockets of the internet where the only unifying political “philosophy” is “I hate Barack Obama and everything he says and everyone associated with him, forever and ever, so there” and I don’t consider you – or this blog – to represent that at all.

  54. Violet says:

    I didn’t think that, RKMK. But you put your finger on a core problem with discussing Michelle Obama. The flip side to the “I hate Barack Obama and everything he says and everyone associated with him” contingent is the “I love Barack Obama and everything about him and therefore I think Michelle’s clothes are wonderful.”

    My mother falls into the latter category. Conversation with my mother a few months ago:

    Me: Jesus Christ, Mom, did you see what Michelle was wearing? It was like a cross between an 80s bridesmaid dress and a slipcover.
    Mom: I think she looks great!
    Me: You lie.
    Mom: I do! I think Mrs. Obama looks wonderful.
    Me: You cannot possibly think that. Just because you like the Obamas doesn’t mean you have to pretend to like her clothes.
    Mom: I do like her clothes! She’s very stylish.
    Me: Mom, I know you! You’re my mother! If you and I were out shopping and I tried on a dress like that, you would not say ‘oh honey, you look so stylish.’
    Mom: Well.
    Me: Admit it! You wouldn’t let me be seen in public in a thing like that!
    Mom: Okay, perhaps not every outfit she wears is something I would wear myself-
    Me: Not every outfit? Name one thing of hers you would wear. Name one thing you would let ME wear without a shitload of aggro. Aside from that black dress with the pearls. Name ONE THING.

    And on and on.

  55. RKMK says:

    Me: Mom, I know you! You’re my mother! If you and I were out shopping and I tried on a dress like that, you would not say ‘oh honey, you look so stylish.’
    Mom: Well.

    Ha! Moms.

  56. gxm17 says:

    “Octogalore brought up a key point that we’ve skimmed over so far in this discussion. That is, a woman can have a “non-conforming figure”, which will “mark” her regardless of how conformist she tries to make her clothing choices. Got breasts? Better strap them down (and get accused of trying to be a man) or you look “unprofessional”. And lord forfend you have hips, or a tummy.

    Admittedly I work in an “unconventional” industry (graphic arts) but the CEO of my company, the woman who made it the award-winning, industry-acknowledged success that it is, is a curvaceous woman who dresses beautifully and has a very unique and expressive personal style without “hiding” herself. If you don’t buy into the BS, you may be “marked” but it’s with your own mark. MO is NOT making her own mark. And she’s not just buying into the BS, she’s selling it too. That’s the issue, to my mind.

  57. Astraea the Acrimonious says:

    Wow, I can’t figure out from this thread whether people expect Michelle Obama to be more conservative with her clothes, or be more “original”. But I know one thing… she’d be criticized either way. Women can’t win.

  58. octogalore says:

    “What does John McCain wear? …What about Rep. Wiener? Bill O’Reilly? Keith Olbermann?

    Nobody knows, because nobody cares.”

    Well — not quite. The spotlight on women is much, much harsher. But people do notice these things. Bill Clinton’s weight was under a microscope. People do comment on Anderson Cooper’s stylishness and John McCain’s shlumpy appearance, which had something to do with age and his disability. People have commented that Michael Steele dresses well and that Rush Limbaugh, until recently, was fat and a lot of stuff less nice about his appearance than that. As a woman, I notice a male politician’s appearance and sartorial gifts or lack thereof.

    It’s MUCH less of a story or a scrutinized factor in the mainstream press. But it’s not invisible. There’s a reason Biden got botox and hair implants before the debates (and, from the looks of it, hasn’t gone back under the needle recently — see, I’m an equal opportunity bitch).

  59. Violet says:

    Wow, I can’t figure out from this thread whether people expect Michelle Obama to be more conservative with her clothes, or be more “original”.

    For me, it has nothing to do with being more or less conservative. Her clothes are just ugly to me. Bad combinations of colors and textures, bad lines, things that don’t look good on a human body.

  60. Astraea the Acrimonious says:

    Violet, I was lazy and too quick to generalize. You’ve been consistent about your intent and meaning, and even though I do question the choice of targets for ridicule, I should clarify that I’m referring to the people like gxm17, quixote, yttik and others who have claimed that it’s okay to project all kinds of meaning on Michelle Obama’s choice of clothes and that it’s not sexist because she’s asking for it.

  61. Aspen says:

    I was trying to make a post about how black women are dealing with different stereotypes than white women are, and that Michelle Obama’s choices may reflect a deliberate attempt to model a counter-image to some stereotypes against black women. I read a comment on another board that said she believed white people can’t stand the fact that MO is so elegant and classy, because that flies in the face of white people’s prescription for them.
    I attempted to write a more descriptive post about this, but I just couldn’t make it sound right. I was about to do a google search on the phrase _Michelle Obama is a_ and I typed in the words and before hitting search, I saw the search suggestions given by google in their pull-down menu. I think these terms represent the most commonly searched phrases. Seeing what they are is very telling as to what black women are up against. Note that _Hillary Clinton is a_ and _Sarah Palin is a_ did not return very flattering search suggestions either. Obviously there is plenty of sexism to go around for all women. I want to keep in mind it can take different forms for different women, so we may deal with it in different ways.

  62. Aspen says:

    I remember back to the 2004 presidential campaign, and seeing the interview with then-candidate Howard Dean’s wife Judy. She was my kind of pol wife. Did not care about his candidacy, did not care about makeup or clothes or superficial image. She was totally into her own career and her life and was reluctant to be involved in his campaign at all. Had no interest in first lady stuff. That would be my kind of first lady. But that’s just me.

  63. octogalore says:

    “I do question the choice of targets for ridicule”

    I don’t find the choice suspect, personally. The First Couple are kind of the thinking person’s choice of imagery to discuss, as opposed to Best Actor/Actress or Hot Star Male/Female (although as a not-always-thinking person, I’m happy to critique those folks as well). When it was Bill/Hillary or Ron/Nancy in those roles, they were good choices as well. Personally, I found both Bush and Laura kind of boring in the sartorial dept and not really interesting to discuss, but otherwise, it’s a natural.

    Especially here, where you have the First Lady making People’s top 50 beautiful people list and Vanity Fair’s and People’s best dressed lists, it seems like fair game to discuss in the context of fashion critique, feminism, and how the two intersect.

  64. orlando says:

    My kind of first lady would be a man.

  65. Aspen says:

    Good point, Orlando. Although don’t forget about the other forms this could take: we could have both the prez and the prez’s partner be women. Or maude forbid a woman prez w/o a partner. That would also be quite rad.

  66. Violet says:

    Orlando for the win!

    Truly, though, this kind of reasoning —

    I read a comment on another board that said she believed white people can’t stand the fact that MO is so elegant and classy, because that flies in the face of white people’s prescription for them.

    is just off-base. I mean, it’s like saying that the only reason any Democrats didn’t favor Barack in the primaries is because as white people they simply couldn’t deal with how brilliant and fantastic he was, like a cross between Einstein and Jesus.

    I would love for Michelle Obama to be as stylish and elegant as she’s supposed to be. Her official White House portrait is superb (that’s the sleeveless black dress with the pearls), and if she dressed like that all the time I would be Team Michelle all the way in terms of fashion.

    But this is a woman whose dress sense is so bizarre (to my eyes) that photographs of her have actually made me laugh out loud. Literally. Some of her get ups — giant bows, silver under-bust belts, Japanese deconstructed sleeves, pleated plaid skirt, all in the same outfit — are just comedy gold.

  67. Sameol says:

    Octo, the difference though is that all those guys you mentioned are politicians, not spouses. I’m drawing a blank on this because there are very, very few female politicians where I live, but I can’t remember any of their husbands ever being subjected to any kind of scrutiny over wardrobe.

    These comments about how Michelle is asking for this kind of scrutiny is reminding me a little bit of how liberal dudes think Palin is asking to be called slutty and a tease and working the hot librarian look for existing, being female, and being attractive to them. Ask Hillary, if Michelle shirked the traditional FL role, she’d be called angry and unsporting and questioned as to why she thinks she’s too good to pick out a few china patterns, already.

  68. Aspen says:

    Violet: Well, IIRC I think the comment I had read was more directed at some of the criticism leveled at MO developing a ‘stepford wife’ role overall, and being heavily involved in the traditional role for women in her family life, as opposed to just her clothing choices.
    The context from which I read the comment wasn’t one of attack against people who don’t support O as racist, I don’t think.
    Yeah, I’m so totally not a fashion person though. I still pretty much dress the way I did 20 years ago.

  69. octogalore says:

    Sameol, the only spouses that really get attention in politics are spouses of Presidents, right? I may be missing something but it seems to me that Congressional spouses and Cabinet spouses of either male or female politicians aren’t known to the public. So since (gag) we’ve only had male Presidents, one cannot really say how a male First Spouse would be viewed.

    Personally, if it’d been Todd Palin, I think he’d have gotten some critique in both directions. I’d certainly be curious about his answer to the question Bill Clinton got years ago about boxers or briefs. Google him, you’ll see comments about his apearance and dress, both good and bad. If HRC had been president, Bill’s appearance would come back under a microscope, although since he’s not as young/dashing anymore (he never really was that attractive IMO, but for a President perhaps), less so than if it’d been 15-20 years ago.

    Although as I said earlier, the critique of a man is never close to as harsh. I think until the power and economic gap shrinks, that will continue. As evolved and enlightened as we can get, I fear that the less-powerful spouse will be culturally forced to play the role of decoration. Look at lions — the lioness does the hunting and gathering, and chooses her mate based on how luxurious his mane is.

  70. Sameol says:

    I think it kind of depends on the media market and how high profile say, your Senator is, and if it’s an election year and if it’s an open seat and all that. The wives of other politicians don’t get as much scrutiny as the FL, but they get some, more than the husbands, anyway. Todd Palin is interesting, he did get some criticism along the lines of “he’s a shlub,” but it didn’t seem like he was getting as much as Cindy McCain, and it seemed to be a kind of runoff of hatred directed at his wife, plus classism, which is something Bill can also relate to. I’d be interested to see how an Ivy League educated upper class schlub political husband fared.

  71. myiq2xu says:

    I’m no fan of MO (or her spouse) but I think it’s really sad that she has been reduced to First Stepford Wife.

    It started during the campaign when it was decided that she was to be “not-Hillary.”

    Before she ever met Barry she was an Ivy League-educated lawyer (Princeton and Harvard.). When he got his first job after he graduated from law school she was assigned to train him.

    Now she’s supposed to shut up and look pretty.

  72. Carmonn says:

    Aspen, I personally think the Stepford Wife comments about Michelle Obama need to be understood in the context that the campaign used her sometimes to fire little salvos at both Clinton and Palin. In the context of things like “If you can’t run your own house, you can;t run the White House,” well, watching a high powered professional woman try to give the impression that her only pleasures have come from the domestic sphere, it tends to give the impression that she’s deliberately positioning herself as the anti-Hillary while collaborating with the demonization of Hillary and women like her, and combined with what we learned last year about so many Obama supporters’ retrograde ideas about women, it kind of rankles.

  73. Northwest rain says:

    This is what Mrs. 0 — should be wearing (snark)

    http://projectrungay.blogspot.com/2009/09/agatha-ruiz-de-la-prada-spring-2010.html

    Mrs.0 — owes a lot the the feminists of the 60s and 70s — because if it were not for women insisting that boys only colleges be open to women — then Mrs. 0 would NEVER have made it to the formerly all male colleges.

    Bring her out — let her open her ugly mouth — one term for Mr. 0 for sure!

    She is a self centered creep just like her husband and she is also a r@cist.

    She has no sense of style — no grace and she is an ugly person.

    In contrast Elenore Roosevelt was beautiful — from the inside out.

    I’ve gone to school with and know so many women who have more fashion sense than Mrs. 0 — some of these women just happen to be black, or Asian or Native American and white etc.

  74. Grace says:

    One thing that nobody has mentioned so far is that MO’s may have felt jealous and/or resentful of Hillary. Why? because of Hillary’s background, ample knowledge of social policy, and basically being (at the time of the primaries) a presidential candidate, as opposed to just being the wife of one. I am sorry but I never saw MO as being knowledgeable and well-rounded, but rather parroquial.Everything seems to revolve around herself and her family, and f…k the rest of the world.

    And the fact that she went to Ivy League universities, well…it doesn’t mean much. I know many people who went to Harvard or Princeton, etc., but they are not better at what they do than others who attended State Universities. And what about the fact that nobody seems to know about either hers or BO’s grades? Just saying….Is there some jealousy?

  75. tinfoil hattie says:

    This thread is just full of fail.

  76. votermom says:

    Personally, if it’d been Todd Palin, I think he’d have gotten some critique in both directions.

    Mmmm , Todd … Sorry, there is just something very hawt about him — not just looks, but they way he actually supports his wife’s career and doesn’t mind being in the background. Todd would be a great role model for boys on how to be a husband & dad.

    As far as this thread is going, I am wondering if anyone has any reactions (agree/disagree) with my comment upthread (#10) that MO is being deliberately offered up by BO’s handlers as a target for resentment of BO’s failures.

  77. RKMK says:

    This thread is just full of fail.

    So much fail.

  78. monchichipox says:

    Anyway it’s not like Mrs. Obama,as First Lady, has given us anything else to discuss besides her fashion. I mean expect imploring us to eat fresh vegetables(as if we didn’t know this already). Since arriving in Washington I haven’t heard her speak any anything substantial. However I’ll cut her some slack as it may be too soon to expect her to have found her “cause”. I will not only cut her some slack but become a huge fan should her choice of issues be violence against women.

    Speaking of Todd Palin has anyone else read Sarah Palin’s latest quote? When she was asked that age old question on how she “does it all” and asked about Todd’s help she said “I have a husband, yea, I think I coulda used a wife”

    I do remember seeing news footage about with Todd Palin at a Washington dinner. On the red carpet he was asked who he was wearing in regards to his tux. He looked like he didn’t understand the question then answered “I got in Alaksa”

  79. octogalore says:

    The thing about tsk tsking about “fail” is that it’s hard to know exactly what is being disagreed with and it comes across as a generalized sanctimonious statement rather than a thoughtful, targeted critique.

    For example, I think the insults — eg, “ugly mouth,” “creep,” “ugly person”– are out of line. And “racist,” when used against anyone, needs to be substantiated. It wasn’t here. I don’t think it’s merited. I also don’t think it’s fair to suggest MO isn’t “well rounded.” None of us know her well enough to say that, and off the top, she seeems to be a good parent, educated, and athletic.

    And there may be more that is being objected to as well, but based on simply claiming “fail,” we’re left in the dark.

  80. votermom says:

    Thanks, octogalore. It’s specially disconcerting to get a “so much fail” comment right after one’s own comment.

  81. RKMK says:

    Sorry votermom – I was referring to:

    Mrs.0 — owes a lot the the feminists of the 60s and 70s — because if it were not for women insisting that boys only colleges be open to women — then Mrs. 0 would NEVER have made it to the formerly all male colleges.

    Bring her out — let her open her ugly mouth — one term for Mr. 0 for sure!

  82. Alison says:

    I agree. People here are hitting below the belt and entering misogyny in their Michelle Obama critique. Not everyone but too many considering this is a feminist site. Just shows how if you dislike a woman it’s so easy to use misogynistic tools against her.

  83. cellocat says:

    I think it’s also easier to do that when the person in question has used those tools herself, as Michelle Obama has in reference to Hillary with the comment about how she can’t run her own house. When someone is insulting and nasty to you or someone you care about, it’s easy to flash into an equivalent response. I’m not saying “she started it”; we all have to be responsible for how we communicate, after all. But it’s really unfortunate that MO chose to speak about Hillary in the way that she did. And I personally regret that she won’t claim the feminist mantle for herself. There’s such a chance for great leadership, and from my pov, she’s blowing that chance.

  84. Alison says:

    Cellocat,

    I hear you, but… one can use that excuse with Sarah Palin. She’s anti-choice! And anti-choice is a pretty enslaving position if you ask me… Let’s call her every name in the book and let’s hang her!

    Same with Ann Coulter who is a total sexist. I hate it when Liberal Dudes get all “let’s gang rape the ugly barbie doll” on her.

    Now nothing that was said here compares to what Sarah Palin has been through but… still, it’s starting to sound a little not feminist-y here….

    A little joke about the shower curtain skirt? I can handle that. And I understand the Stepford Wife thing. But am I wrong in thinking some of the comments here are unacceptable?

  85. gxm17 says:

    I read a comment on another board that said she believed white people can’t stand the fact that MO is so elegant and classy, because that flies in the face of white people’s prescription for them.

    As long as I’m going to be accused of attacking MO’s “look,” then I might as well go there and point out that MO appears to have all the fashion sense of Edina from Ab Fab. Elegant and classy? I don’t think so. Coincidentally, just this morning one of my co-workers (a Michelle-supporting gay man) was going on about her atrocious outfits. But I was a good girl, acrimonius ones, and didn’t chime in because, honestly, I could care less what the woman wears. What I take issue with is this whole fashion icon BS. Yes, it’s laughable but it’s also disheartening because I don’t for a minute buy that MO is a manic, colorblind fashion victim. But that’s how she’s being fashioned and sold and she appears to be taking part in the entire BS process.

  86. Aspen says:

    With regard to MO and the elegant thing, the way I’m thinking about it is she’s up against sexism that says she shouldn’t be too independent or too non-”feminine” conforming, and she’s also under racism that says she can’t seem passionate or “angry” and both of these may contribute to what some feminists are disappointed in her behavior. I hardly notice clothes, not because I’m a better feminist, I think I’m just more of an introvert type in both my personality and what I notice.

    Alison, my answer to you is that my perception of this blog is it seems to be less heavily moderated than many of the other feminist or left blogs I visit, and therefore there are more of the types of comments I have to skip over. But on the other hand there may be value to the wider diversity of contributions. Sometimes I wonder about it, but I do keep coming back for the good parts.

    Votermom, to answer #76, I don’t see the MSM enough to have formed a strong opinion, but I wouldn’t put it past them.

  87. votermom says:

    I didn’t notice anything outre about MO’s outfits on the campaign trail (maybe I missed them?).
    It just occurred to me that there are two possibilities about the flamboyant and unusual fashion choices now:
    a) she is dazzled by designer labels and does not have a dresser with good sense
    b) she resents the Stepford FL role and is consciously or subconsciously rebelling by pushing the envelope on what she can get away with wearing and still be fawned over by the press (don’t we all have this kind of imp in us?)

  88. DancingOpossum says:

    “I agree that it is harder and more boring, but professional women can and do dress so that attention is not drawn to them.”

    This was the constant refrain of the author of the “Dress for Success” books. He took enormous heat for suggesting that women should dress in plain, well-cut, dark business suits–i.e., dress like men did– in order to be taken seriously in the workplace. He got much critized for this, but he was dead right. His point was that you wear the uniform because it works, because it gives people nothing to criticize or even notice about what you’re wearing–it keeps the focus on your work. His point was that this was especially important for women — remember, that book came out in the 80s when women were just entering the workplace in large numbers.

    Just look at how we all notice everything Michelle is wearing and not one word about Obama.

    I recently re-read parts of that book and was struck by a point he made, that if you took the average man on the average workday, he would look appropriately dressed for any occasion because chances were good he was wearing a suit. Look at Hillary — she always looks impeccable for every occasion because she always wears a pantsuit (albeit in bright colors, which I love her for).

    That really stuck with me — to the point where I almost always wear a suit to work now, even though I work in an office that doesn’t have a strict dress code. I feel more comfortable and more secure in a suit. I never thought I would say this because away from work, I am a fashionista but at work, I wear the uniform.

  89. quixote says:

    I think my feelings on this were expressed more clearly by cellocat (#83) than me. My problem with M0 is that she’s used the patriarchy against other women, she’s chosen to be Ms. Stepford, she’s chosen not to use her position to advocate for women, and she’s chosen to be holier-than-thou about that choice.

    Playing by an odious set of rules by what you do is very different from somebody else deciding you’re “asking for it” by who you are.

  90. Violet says:

    There are some extremely ungood comments in this thread. Dial back the personal venom on Michelle Obama. It really crosses the line into the kind of woman-bashing that we all know and loathe.

  91. Violet says:

    I would like to direct people’s attention to comment #88 by DancingOpossum. Excellent comment, and if we’re going to talk about the role of fashion in feminism, that’s a good place to start.

    I had the same experience as DancingOpossum, entering the workforce in the 80s and discovering the importance of the uniform. There was some criticism at the time that women shouldn’t have to be “little men,” and some of that came from feminists, but in fact I think the Dress for Success guy was right. At least about the importance of the uniform.

    Up until then, women’s clothing had been seen as a site for artistic expression. The fashionista wasn’t dressing for function; her body was more like an art installation or an artist’s canvas. Frederick Worth in the 19th century was the first “name” designer, and he presented himself as an artist who used women’s bodies as his canvas. And that was the thread right up to the 60s. It was especially noticeable with Dior and the New Look in the 50s, which had women in giant crinolines and picture hats and completely unpractical-but-pretty getups. It’s interesting that resistance to that trend came from female designers like Chanel, who railed constantly against that sort of dress-up doll fashion. Chanel took her ideas from menswear because menswear was functional, and to her, that was elegance.

    But anyway. In the 80s, the whole Dress for Success thing was about tearing down the woman-as-fashion-doll thing and instead giving us an “unmarked” uniform. The pushback against that, and back to a more dress-up-doll kind of fashion, seems to me part of the backlash against feminism. As someone said upthread, imagine a woman wearing a shower curtain walking into a group of men in business suits.

  92. octogalore says:

    There is definitely a tension between not being treated like a sex object (or objectified in other gendered ways) and dressing in a way that reveals more skin or is otherwised much more sexualized (eg heels over 3″) than men would. I am not defending objectification no matter what a woman is wearing, but there are ways to minimize it although not always to eliminate it.

    At a certain point, when a woman is able to gain recognition as a power unit, and is in a position of now having to get others’ approval on non-substantive grounds (eg, she doesn’t need to run for things like tenure or partnership or president, or she is an entrepreneur who has credibility with customers), she can say FY to these rules. In the legal business, I’ve seen female associates forced to wear the uniform, but female partners who are proven quantities are more free to be sexy, eccentric, nonconforming in terms of dress, femninity, etc. It’s OK for them to be “marked” because it would be too expensive to punish them for it.

    Unfortunately, a spouse of a powerful man cannot take advantage of this exception, or cannot do so with impunity.

  93. lalala says:

    I agree with Violet. MO’s clothes just look plain bad. The colors, the style, bad lines, etc. I don’t care much about fashion but I find that looking casual and keeping it simple is often the best thing most people can do to look good and classy.

    I am not one of those people who think women need to adhere to a certain dress code to avoid looking “slutty” but there is a place and time for everything. Sometimes MO wears things that are extremely inappropriate for the occasion. For example, you wouldn’t expect a guy to wear a Hawaiian shirt or a woman to wear a red mini dress to a funeral. But look at what MO decided to wear at a Medal of Honor ceremony for a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan. It makes me go, huh?

    http://mrs-o.org/newdata/2009/9/17/bold-and-beautiful-update.html

    Would she have considered wearing that to Ted Kennedy’s funeral? If not, then why would she find this acceptable to wear at a ceremony honoring a fallen soldier?

  94. orlando says:

    Ah! Small lightbulb moment there, thanks Violet. I do remember 80s feminism being characterized as women trying to be “like men”, and while I was uncomfortable with the criticism, I never thought to respond “no, they’re trying to be unmarked”. A bit like when people from various Asian regions are accused of becoming “Westernized”. Again, just choosing to be unmarked. Which in itself shows how much the white man remains the default.

  95. tinfoil hattie says:

    Here’s some fail:

    If the very first thing we notice is her lack of grace in her choice of clothes — then she has zero fashion sense. She is an ugly person from the inside.

    and

    I’d like to see how fashionable she would look with her head shaved as a collaborator.

    and

    I agree that it is harder and more boring, but professional women can and do dress so that attention is not drawn to them. That is not what Michelle chooses to do.

    and

    I think MO’s clothes can be commented on because she has invited comments. She didn’t have to pose for Vogue.

    and

    Bring her out — let her open her ugly mouth — one term for Mr. 0 for sure!

    and

    Anyway it’s not like Mrs. Obama,as First Lady, has given us anything else to discuss besides her fashion.

    I’m surprised that on a feminist blog, I had to actually call out examples. Guess it’s not obvious to everyone here, most of whom read post after post about NOT trashing Sarah Palin because she’s a woman, that doing the same thing to Michelle Obama is just as unacceptable.

  96. RKMK says:

    I’m surprised that on a feminist blog, I had to actually call out examples.

    Especially from people who apparently supported Hillary Clinton, who has gone through a few decades of the same bullshit, from a different side. “She’s choosing to wear those pantsuits, and she’s such an feminist – how embarrassing. If she’d just be more like a traditional first lady, we’d just like her so much more. She’s asking for it, really. It’s her choice to behave this way. Doesn’t she realize she’s not an elected official? How dare she work on health care? A proper woman knows her place!”

    Please. Exercise a little self-awareness.

  97. Violet says:

    Tinfoil hattie, I rarely call out people. I usually just put people on moderation if they make creepy comments and I try to turn the discussion into a more productive/feminist direction.

    Otherwise, every thread will turn into an exercise in meta-blogging, in which the original topic is lost and all the commenters do is criticize how unfeminist the other commenters in the thread are. That’s one reason I almost never read other feminist blogs. Every thread stops being about feminism and devolves into navel-gazing and shaming.

    Yep, some people in this thread Don’t Get It feminism-wise. Let’s move on.

  98. Grace says:

    My question is: Why are people talking about MO’s clothes?? It sounds so superficial, bourgeois, and mundane when we are facing an economic and social crisis. Someboby said in this thread that it’s unfair to say that MO isn’t “well-rounded” because “we don’t know her.” It’s true that we don’t know her deep thoughts.It is just an assessment of her level of knowledge based on her speeches, answers to questions during the campaign last year, comments she’s made, etc. the same way that we can assess anybody’level of “well-roundness”and knowdledge. I don’t think that this is a mysoginistic comment at all. I would have made the same comment about men who aren’t “well-rounded.” I refuse to suppress dissent, no matter what the majority’s opinions are. I don’t do the “group think;” I try to keep my own indiviuality.

  99. Violet says:

    My question is: Why are people talking about MO’s clothes??

    Because I started it with a couple of jokes about Michelle’s hilarious (to me) clothes, prompted by her being named to the top of the Best Dressed List. It just cracks me up from an aesthetic standpoint.

    As I’ve said several times, I usually stay away from the topic because I don’t want to contribute to the whole Fashion Icon/Stepford Wife thing.

  100. Honora says:

    Violet- I guess I am not sure if #97 is your subtle way of telling Tinfoil Hattie that her comment was over the top or not. I may not be feminist enough for Tinfoil Hattie (remembering to refer to her by both her names.), but I find her comments and the ‘me too’ by RKMK to be obnoxious. Guess I will just move along because I can not for the life of me see how what you are saying is all goodness and light, yet my comment is beyond the pale. (“I agree that it is harder and more boring, but professional women can and do dress so that attention is not drawn to them. That is not what Michelle chooses to do.”)

    Good night.

  101. votermom says:

    Every thread stops being about feminism and devolves into navel-gazing and shaming.

    Thank you!
    I really appreciate the freedom here to make mistakes and learn by example. Other sites one is liable to get piled on for a no-no.

  102. Violet says:

    I really appreciate the freedom here to make mistakes and learn by example.

    Well, that’s the ideal anyway. Even when people are assholes, I rarely contribute to a pile-on because the commenters have already made the points that need to be made. (That isn’t always true, and many of you could point to threads where I lost my temper and started flipping people off.)

    At any rate, yeah, let’s see if we can learn from each other. I agree with those who are pointing out that some of the anti-Michelle venom is just the mirror image of the anti-Palin and anti-Hillary venom. There’s a tendency to dig into the bag of woman-hating tricks we’ve all been taught since childhood. Really, people, Michelle Obama didn’t invent the patriarchy and she’s not single-handedly upholding it. At the very worst she’s just playing along — which is what all of us do to one extent or another.

    Being a woman is not easy, and being First Lady is really not easy. If I can’t even make a simple joke about shower curtains without it turning into a massive thread on First Ladyhood vis-a-vis the patriarchy and the extent to which Michelle Obama may or may not be complicit in her own oppression and, by extension, other women’s — well, what does that tell you?

    By the same token, it is true (I think) that the Obamas have deliberately opted for this style of presidency, with Michelle being heavily promoted as the new Jackie. This is not the same as saying “she asked for it”; it’s just an acknowledgment that this is how the Obamas have chosen to roll. It ought to be possible to discuss that without it devolving into an attack on Michelle Obama; she is, after all, just playing along with a very old script, and it’s not like there are any other models of First Ladyhood she could adopt without criticism. She’s pretty much going to be a target no matter what.

    Though really, all I wanted to talk about was how funny a radial tire tread looks with a fluffy ruffled skirt.

  103. lalala says:

    “Anyway it’s not like Mrs. Obama,as First Lady, has given us anything else to discuss besides her fashion.”

    I have to agree that MO advanced the stereotype that the modern first lady should fit a certain standard to get positive media coverage. Please don’t pretend that MO is innocent in all of this. I think there is some truth to that statement and I find it very unfortunate.

    MO has been molded into a first lady a la Jackie O. I respect Jackie O. and her sense of style but she is a woman of the 60s when women were restricted in their roles compared to a first lady of the modern age like Hillary Clinton. MO has fully embraced the title of fashionista and wears popular and new designers so that she ends up on fashion blogs and lists like People’s best dressed. No she did not invent the patriarchy but as first lady she sure does have a lot more influence and power to fight against it than we do. Does anyone here think it is a coincidence that MO’s main topics of conversation when interviewed are: fashion, shopping, motherhood, eating healthy, and keeping fit?

  104. RKMK says:

    No she did not invent the patriarchy but as first lady she sure does have a lot more influence and power to fight against it than we do. Does anyone here think it is a coincidence that MO’s main topics of conversation when interviewed are: fashion, shopping, motherhood, eating healthy, and keeping fit?

    Hillary Clinton was the out-and-out feminist First Lady; she broke the mold, and was vilified for it. Clinton Derangement Syndrome was really Hillary Derangement Syndrome: she was “shrill,” she was a “harpy,” she didn’t “know her place,” why was Bill married to such an ugly, opinionated obnoxious woman, etc. (When John Kerry was running, incidentally, Theresa Heinz-Kerry got a lot of this same crap from the media. She was loud, she was smart, she had an accent, and the media whipped up a bunch of anti-Theresa sentiment that hurt Kerry quite a bit.) Democrats wives tend to be a more feminist, non-traditional bunch (see: Howard Dean’s wife), and the media wastes absolutely no time targeting them, and helping other people target them, for going against the mold.

    Republican “Stepford”-type wives apparently go over far better with Republicans (and Democratic men who won’t admit that they find feminists unpleasing to their patriarchal fantasies), so from the primary season on, the Obama handlers have been quite clearly and consciously trying to distance themselves from that kind of target by shaping Michelle into a more traditional, subservient “lady-like” type of First Lady.

    Yes, I think it’s horseshit. I hate the anti-feminist sentiment that targets bright, capable women in the first place, I hate the advisors that tell Presidential candidates that they need to tone down the fact that his wife is so bright and capable and makes more than he does so they don’t see him as “weak” and “hen picked” and they don’t see her as some uppity shrill harridan, and I hate that MO had to take that shit sandwich and eat it with a smile to support her husband in his bid for President, and has to continue doing it so she doesn’t fuck up re-election. What I don’t do, is hate her for it.

  105. octogalore says:

    “Again, just choosing to be unmarked. Which in itself shows how much the white man remains the default.”

    I’m not sure this is quite accurate. In America, the American man is the default. Black and Asian professional men in this country wear the “uniform” as well. Saying it is “owned” by the white man is not quite fair to these other man who “own” it just as much. White, black, and Asian men need to keep their hair short and get punished for it when they don’t. The assumption that Asian men or black men might want to wear some kind of nonconforming business wear (such as what?) more than white men do, for example, is odd. White men can be just as rebellious — my husband, for example, would like to dress like a rock star with impunity at his boring corporate job.

    Now, I can see the argument with women more because the whole issue of hair comes in, and white hair is the default which black women are pressured to conform to. But I’m not sure the same kind of pressure applies to black men. I could be missing something here…

  106. Violet says:

    Republican “Stepford”-type wives apparently go over far better with Republicans (and Democratic men who won’t admit that they find feminists unpleasing to their patriarchal fantasies), so from the primary season on, the Obama handlers have been quite clearly and consciously trying to distance themselves from that kind of target by shaping Michelle into a more traditional, subservient “lady-like” type of First Lady.

    I think this is of a piece with the rest of Obama’s presidency. During these first months, haven’t we all seen the extent to which Obama is Mr. Don’t Rock The Boat? He seems more concerned about pleasing Republicans and Blue Dogs and making everybody like him than about actually pursuing progressive politics.

    I think the transformation of Michelle Obama into a kind of Barbie doll is the same thing; part of the overall packaging of the presidency.

  107. RKMK says:

    I think the transformation of Michelle Obama into a kind of Barbie doll is the same thing; part of the overall packaging of the presidency.

    Definitely.

  108. Sameol says:

    I think MO can be faulted for making sexist slams against Clinton and Palin (“don’t vote for cute,” etc). That went way beyond the kind of thing that is typical/accepted for candidates’ spouses, and I’m sure it was done deliberately, knowing that anything goes with female candidates, the typical rules of propriety don’t apply to them. So I understand why it’s hard for some to acknowledge that MO is in a bind without also having it acknowledged that she went a bit beyond just going along, as all candidates’ wives are forced to, into more actively trying to put other women into a bind.

    I can fully understand not liking her for that, what I don’t understand is the degree of hostility. She’s not the only woman who helps tear down other women in the US, she’s not the most powerful woman in the US. She’s not responsible for her husband and his followers being a bunch of woman hating goons anymore than HRC is responsible for Bill’s failures. Why so much focus on a generally unwelcome, undefined, unelected, powerless position? Who cares?

  109. myiq2xu says:

    The idea that it’s the patriarchy’s fault that MO is playing the role of Stepford wife robs her of agency.

    I don’t buy it. She chose to play that role. She could have said to her spouse “You want to be POTUS then you need my help. If you want my help then this is how it’s gonna be.” If a woman like MO can’t be expected to take responsibility for her own decisions then what woman can?

    I’m sure that there are at least two people here who will be outraged that a man dared to express that opinion and will condemn me for “reeking of male privilege.”

    At some point women have to take responsibility for themselves. Either that or they have to concede that they can’t defeat the patriarchy without the help of men.

    What’s ironic is that I believe women have the power to end the patriarchy, and the people that are going to offended by what I’m saying believe that women are too weak.

    But what do I know? I’m just an “asshat,” right?

  110. RKMK says:

    But what do I know? I’m just an “asshat,” right?

    Well, you got one thing right, anyway.

  111. Sameol says:

    That’s like saying Hillary Clinton should have left Bill Clinton to prove she’s a strong woman. Who are you to tell her what price she should pay? It’s not that simple. Telling BO she’s going to be herself has consequences. She’d be demonized along the lines of HRC 90′s. And for what? HRC cares about policy, maybe she felt the tradeoff was worth it. Maybe MO doesn’t care about policy or politics, maybe she’d rather live in Chicago. Maybe it would devestate her marriage. Why should she go through hell if she doesn’t want to, to prove something to you? Hillary Rodham changed her name to help her husband, should we fault her for that, too?

  112. Sameol says:

    Also, you use the word “patriarchy” a lot, but you rarely give any indication that you have the faintest idea of what it means. What does “patriarchy” mean to you, exactly?

  113. RKMK says:

    Also, you use the word “patriarchy” a lot, but you rarely give any indication that you have the faintest idea of what it means. What does “patriarchy” mean to you, exactly?

    While you’re at it, Uber Male Feminist myiq2xu, He Who Is Far More Feminist Than All of Us, what does “privilege” mean to you? (That is, in the context of “male privilege”, or “white privilege”?) Inquiring minds.

  114. Aspen says:

    Men need to take responsibility for themselves and end patriarchy.

  115. Aspen says:

    Violet, sorry my last comment went into mod, I think because I mistyped my email addy.

    Myiq, remember that we’re talking about women as a class, not individual women, who would presumably be the women to have to overthrow patriarchy. It’s hard to know how women as a class are supposed to rise up and end a massive oppressive zillion year long social system. Would it be easier to understand it this way: why don’t working class people, as a class, just rise up and overthrow the rich? They should be able to, they have the numbers, right? But it’s just, cultural hegemony and all that. There are all kinds of power structures that prevent upheaval of oppressive systems.

  116. Violet says:

    myiq2xu, are you trying to hijack my thread?

    The idea that it’s the patriarchy’s fault that MO is playing the role of Stepford wife robs her of agency.

    “The patriarchy” is not a group of men. It’s the social system in which we all participate.

    I don’t buy it. She chose to play that role. She could have said to her spouse “You want to be POTUS then you need my help. If you want my help then this is how it’s gonna be.” If a woman like MO can’t be expected to take responsibility for her own decisions then what woman can?

    Oh for heaven’s sake. Here’s how it works: Michelle says, “if you’re going to run for President, then I’m going to be an ass-kicking radical feminist lawyer in public.” And Obama’s team says, “the hell you are because that means he won’t be president.” The choice would instantly come down to whether Michelle is going to insist on her own personal feminist fulfillment and thus rob the country of its first black president, or whether she can be “big enough” to be a team player.

    And endless variations and permutations of that theme throughout Obama’s political career.

    If all women had to do was say, “okay, I’m not going to play along anymore,” then hey, we’d all be living in feminist utopia. But women’s roles are enforced with harsher measures than you, frankly, can even imagine, precisely because of that male privilege you don’t think you have. You have no idea at all of what women are expected and pressured to do and the kind of constant blackmail to which we are subjected from every quarter. And from inside our own heads, since we’ve been inundated with this crap since childhood.

  117. RKMK says:

    Oh for heaven’s sake. Here’s how it works: Michelle says, “if you’re going to run for President, then I’m going to be an ass-kicking radical feminist lawyer in public.” And Obama’s team says, “the hell you are because that means he won’t be president.” The choice would instantly come down to whether Michelle is going to insist on her own personal feminist fulfillment and thus rob the country of its first black president, or whether she can be “big enough” to be a team player.

    Or, it would fall on her crazy radical feminist self that a Republican wins the GE, and they continue their campaign to erode women’s rights statute by statute. It’s never simple, and there are never good choices. That’s how it works.

  118. Sameol says:

    Or, Obama actually loses the election and brings it up every day for the rest of their marriage. Or, he wins and she tries to enact some kind of agenda and no matter what she does or tries to do she’s faulted for not doing enough (Hello, Hillary!). Or, she’s subjected to the Van Jones redbaiting treatment (Hillary, you still there?). Or, the Democrats go to angry anonymous lenghths to constantly blame her for being too radical, too much of a distraction, too divisive, too much of a loose cannon and dragging Obama’s administration down (sound familiar?). Or, she’s blamed for every horrible thing Obama does, because if she really opposed it, she’s morally obligated to make a dramatic televised denunciation from the Oval and then fly to Reno (I know I’ve heard that one before).

  119. tinfoil hattie says:

    I am glad myiq2xu is here (again) to explain to us little ladies just what Michelle Obama should have done, and how simple it would have been! On a thread where avowed feminists are trashing her for her looks, demeanor, and failure to/insistence upon toeing the party line.

    Remember Judith Steinberg, married to Howard Dean? She did exactly what myiq2xu says Michelle Obama should have done, and she was vilified for it, and Dean’s campaign suffered for it.

    from Salon, 1/23/04:

    … America couldn’t wait even a few more weeks to set its eyes and sink its teeth into the woman who has dared to say “No thanks” to the idea of trading her medical practice and home life for a ride on the Dean campaign bus. Steinberg Dean has staunchly refused to sacrifice her Vermont patients or the time with her 17-year-old son for the excitement of her husband’s presidential bid …

    … on television for the first time last night, Judy Steinberg Dean — forced to perform the humiliating task of introducing herself, explaining away her enthusiasm for her own career, and affirming for all of America that, yes, she does love her husband …

    myiq2xu, why not admit you DON’T know what it’s like to be a woman, stop telling women what to do, and LISTEN to women who live this every day? What is it about feminism that bugs you so much you have to pop in here with a “Yes, but … ” comment on issues about which you have no firsthand knowledge? Do you think women are stupid? Do you think we make shit up? Do you think we don’t know what we’re talking about when it comes to the crap we deal with every day?

    If it’s up to women to end patriarchy (HA! HA! Pardon me while I laugh myself SICK), then why is it necessary for you to tell us how to do it?

  120. tinfoil hattie says:

    Honora, I chafe at people’s general tendency to refer to prominent women by their first names, while men are most often referred to by their last names or by their full names. I am sorry if I angered/upset/hurt you by projecting my pushed button onto you. (I don’t want to pick YOUR feelings for you, so I am taking a stab here.)

    As for your comment about Michelle Obama’s clothing choices and how she should dress, I believe that attitude is not feminist.

    You don’t have to like my comments, either, and no, I do not think my comments are all “sweetness and light.” I do believe that I spent the first 4.5 decades of my life being quiet, polite, and deferring to the prevailing opinions about women and how we must behave and must not behave and how we must look and not look and how we must act and not act, and I am finished shutting up.

    Again, I am sorry I was rude and hurt your feelings and/or made you angry. I will try to be more aware of how my written word can come out “sounding” on the internet. I need to be more fair about that, and I was full of FAIL when I responded carelessly to you.

  121. myiq2xu says:

    “myiq2xu, are you trying to hijack my thread?”

    Nope – that already happened when two sanctimonious people announced this thread was “full of fail.” One of them called me an “asshat” before I ever commented in this thread for something that was unrelated to the topic.

    “Men need to take responsibility for themselves and end patriarchy.”

    How does attacking men who try to engage in discussions on the topic of the patriarchy encourage them to do that? How long do you plan to wait for it to happen?

    Here’s how I see it – there is:

    A. Where we are today. Call it the patriarchy or whatever you want, define it as you please.

    B. Where we ought to be – a society where people of all genders, races and sexual orientations live in co-equal harmony.

    We need a plan for how to get from A to B. If you want to exclude white, male heterosexuals from the discussion that’s your privilege, but it seems kinda short-sighted to me.

    I have more to say on the topic but I’ll say it elsewhere. However, since the two threadjackers have been banned from that place I thought I should give them the chance to explain their vision of where we ought to be and what their plans are for reaching that goal.

  122. myiq2xu says:

    I am glad myiq2xu is here (again) to explain to us little ladies just what Michelle Obama should have done, and how simple it would have been!

    I didn’t say what she should have done, I said what she could have done.

    She made her own decisions. She deserves the credit and/or blame for them.

  123. Sameol says:

    Why do you take such pride/glee in acting like an ignorant, clueless, entitled jerk and then get upset when you get called on it? Jesus Christ, own your assholishness or give it up, already. (Yes, that was a threadjack. I’m sorry).

  124. Patti says:

    Fuck you, myiq. You’re not trying to have a discussion. You’re like an Obot that tries to hijack a thread. Don’t you hate that on your blog? Think about it. I enjoy reading Violet’s blog and rarely comment but when I come across your obtuse comments about feminism, they enrage me.

    Back to the thread now. Michelle has little to no fashion sense. Neither do I, but I would never be caught dead in a shower curtain.

  125. tinfoil hattie says:

    myiq, there’s no such thing as a woman “making her own decisions” under patriarchy. Your obtuseness around patriarchy, privilege, and life as women live it does not make this any less true.

    And, we don’t actually need your “help” implementing YOUR vision of how to get from YOUR definition of “A” to YOUR definition of “B.”

    Furthermore, who are you to “give them a chance” to comment here? No one here is waiting for your permission to comment, and I think that’s part of what bugs you so much. We refuse to see how valuable your white, male, heterosexual privilege will be in dismantling a system in which white, male heterosexuals are at the top.

    Silly feminists!

  126. Helen Huntingdon says:

    I just read Violet’s remedial-Feminism-101 lesson for myiq2xu above, his sad pedantry, and got to wondering how he manages to stay so thick in the brain.

    Then I actually noticed his handle: myiq2xu. “My IQ is twice yours.” That explains everything. I’ve been running into these dimwits ever since they started chasing me for their sad little clubs when I was a kid. People who advertise their IQ to the point of putting it in handles, on Facebook pages, or pushing it irrelevantly into conversation invariably turn out to have almost no higher reasoning skills. They can do a few very narrow types of logical puzzles enough to score higher-than-average on some, but not all, IQ tests, but that’s it. That’s why they feel they have to push to tell people about their IQ; if they don’t, they worry others will correctly decide they’re stupid.

    My favorites are the ones who think MENSA membership means they’re a genius, despite the fact that MENSA sets the bar so low the term “genius” loses all meaning by that measure.

  127. votermom says:

    She could have said to her spouse “You want to be POTUS then you need my help. If you want my help then this is how it’s gonna be.”

    I don’t want to pile on myiq, but I was just looking at this and wondering Todd Palin ever said that to Sarah (re going into office). I think a marriage would be on the rocks already if lines were drawn like this.

    Clearly in most working marriages the one partner supports the other in major ventures/gambles. The bad thing about society is that it is almost always the woman who does the supporting, and is expected to subsume herself to the man’s ambition. This is why it’s sad for me to see even MO whom I dislike being swallowed alive into stepfordness. It is also annoying because it is clearly a regression in the FL role.

    (As others have pointed out, the reverse is very common — the husband saying — “Don’t you want me to be President/Senator/CEO? You’ve got to support me! Don’t be selfish by rocking the boat! Think of the children’s future!”)

    Speaking of powerful First Ladies, I was thinking of Edith Wilson, who had a large role when Wilson had a stroke (some people claimed she was calling the shots). I was just thinking that wouldn’t happen now — president gets a stroke, they wouldn’t trust the FL to interpret his decisions. They’d turn to the VP. Is that a sign of being mroe afraid of women nowadays or simply a class thing?

  128. RKMK says:

    There’s that, Helen, but also he’s one of the male “feminists” who are mostly in it to get validation cookies from women. He doesn’t actually “get it” and doesn’t want to get it, because that would involve some introspective assessment and self-awareness, and being honest with himself is just too, too hard.

    Notice how he is unable to explain what the terms “patriarchy” or “privilege” mean to him, and how he keeps throwing around the term “denial of agency” with little comprehension as to how its usually invoked? He’s picked up the lingo, but he hasn’t internalized their meaning, even though we already had a 300-comment thread trying to educate him about it.

    He doesn’t WANT to “get it.” He just wants to hate the women who support Obama because it feels good.

  129. RKMK says:

    And, we don’t actually need your “help” implementing YOUR vision of how to get from YOUR definition of “A” to YOUR definition of “B.”

    Breaking news! MAN FINALLY PUT IN CHARGE OF STRUGGLING FEMINIST MOVEMENT!

    ;)

  130. RKMK says:

    Oh, and:

    Nope – that already happened when two sanctimonious people announced this thread was “full of fail.”

    Calling out sexist behaviour is always “on topic” at a feminist blog. I have full faith that Violet would let me know if I’m stepping out of line – and I can assure you, I wouldn’t turn into a sniveling snot-nosed whiner about it either.

  131. votermom says:

    I remember that Onion article! LOL.
    Then I remembered it when MS mag put BO on the cover as “This is what a feminist looks like” and I cringed. The Onion is way too prophetic.

  132. octogalore says:

    I cannot stand pile-ons, but do agree here that in the context of MO’s decision to follow certain scripts of behavior (with the exception of her comments about HRC), she didn’t have a choice.

    I disagree, however, with “there’s no such thing as a woman ‘making her own decisions’ under patriarchy.” I think that’s an inaccurate extension of the more nuanced statement Violet made regarding “what women are expected and pressured to do and the kind of constant blackmail to which we are subjected from every quarter. And from inside our own heads, since we’ve been inundated with this crap since childhood.”

    We are beset with a systematic pressure on behavior, dress, etc. But within that, to say we have no independent decisionmaking power, irrespective of how we may face a constant inflence on that decisionmaking power, isn’t true.

    Here, the importance of ones husband getting to be President and supporting an agenda that one personally believes in, is a momentously weighty influencing factor. Of course, most of us would yield to that in making our own decisions. And of course, even where that countervailing force isn’t as powerful, we still have opposing forces on our decisions that men don’t face.

    But there remain many decisions that we have the power to make, that remain our own decisions. Feminism, to me, is about doing what it takes to get rid of the opposing forces altogether. And to do that requires that we do exercise those decisionmaking powers we do have. Denying them, in my view, isn’t helpful to the larger mission.

  133. tinfoil hattie says:

    to say we have no independent decisionmaking power, irrespective of how we may face a constant inflence on that decisionmaking power, isn’t true.

    Well, we disagree on this point. In my opinion, if there’s “constant influence on that descion making power,” then the decision can’t be made independently.

  134. RKMK says:

    The Onion is way too prophetic.

    Srsly.

  135. octogalore says:

    Maybe it’s semantics. The decision cannot be made 100% independently. But a woman can still “make her own decision” on occasion, even when battling opposing forces. There is some independent power there. It’s the situation in question — whether it’s conforming to a role to allow your husband to be Pres, or a much lesser stakes situation — that gears how much power there is. In one situation, different women may react in different ways — there’s the independence.

    My concern is that a we’re-just-cogs view doesn’t provide a path to progress. There’s a good chance it’s a wording issue, though, I think.

  136. ks says:

    “Well, we disagree on this point. In my opinion, if there’s “constant influence on that descion making power,” then the decision can’t be made independently.”

    That doesn’t make sense to me. NO decision is made 100% independent of outside factors/forces. While it’s certainly a question of degree and realtive impact, ususally based on sex, class and race, on how those forces affect somebody, overall there are always constant influences on one’s decision making power. It seems strange to me to say that unless one has 100% indpendence from those forces which frankly, is not going to happen for anybody, then one can’t make an independent decision or act in an independent fashion at all.

  137. gxm17 says:

    It’s really sad when feminism is reduced to disencumbering me of my decisions. They’re all I’ve got people. And you can’t have ‘em.

    That said, this thread had me so fashion flummoxed that I thought twice about wearing my Dead Sucker t-shirt to work today. Instead I went with Flowing Inspiration. I’m sure I made the right decision. ;)

  138. gxm17 says:

    Or, it would fall on her crazy radical feminist self that a Republican wins the GE, and they continue their campaign to erode women’s rights statute by statute. It’s never simple, and there are never good choices. That’s how it works.

    What a minute. What the hell did electing BO do for women’s rights? “They” are continuing their campaign to erode women’s rights and BO is one of “them.”

  139. gxm17 says:

    Patti said:

    Back to the thread now. Michelle has little to no fashion sense. Neither do I, but I would never be caught dead in a shower curtain.

    LOL. Me too, Patti. But I can’t promise I would never wear the shower curtain.

  140. Gayle says:

    There may be constant pressure but to say “there’s no such thing as a woman “making her own decisions” under patriarchy.” is way too simplistic and defeatist for me. It also inadvertently denies credit to all of the women who have actively fought for women, despite public censure and worse, in the past.

    Some of us have more agency and power than others. You can’t realistically equate MO’s decision making ability with that of a Slavic sex slave or compare Barbara Boxer’s agency with the woman who works at your local Walmart check out aisle.

  141. Ciccina says:

    Wow. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but I can’t follow what’s happened in the last few comments. I think myiq’s comment at 109 is perfectly sensible.

    There’s no reason to believe Michelle Obama isn’t the coauthor, if not author, of her image, and that image is tailor-made to extract maximum positive coverage from the “women’s” media. Its no accident that her favorite topics – gardening/eating healthy / keeping fit / looking good / shopping with the girls – are the perennial obsessions of newspaper style sections, lady magazines, and women’s talk shows. Add the pointed sartorial allusions to Camelot and Doris Day, and Michelle-the-image is the woman Kathie Lee Gifford (and probably Regis Philbin) desperately wishes to be – strong mom, delightful wife, dutiful consumer – the perfect conformist.

    Promoting this image was Michelle’s choice. One can argue that she needed to in order for Barack to win, but it’s still a choice she made. Hillary felt the pressured to act like Suzy Homemaker during the 92 campaign, but she chose to resist (and Bill supported her). They both paid a price. But she did it. And she’s not the only one.

    Michelle is her own person, and that person is one who puts winning above everything else – like her husband. Everything else is secondary. She’s not particularly hemmed in by patriarchy; rather, she’s harnessed some of its power to meet her own ends.

    I am totally with you Violet on the (cough) wittiness of some of Michelle’s outfits. i have a bit of a different take, though. I suspect that she’s trying to support some ‘second tier’ designers – perhaps some Chicago locals, perhaps some young African-Americans, I don’t know – who have some good stuff but aren’t always ready for prime time. It may be that her commitment to helping them has led her down a few blind alleys. I don’t follow fashion or Michelle closely enough to know – this is just a guess.

    Or – in the case of the shower curtains – perhaps there was a last minute behind the scenes catastrophe with the dress she was supposed to have worn, and in a burst of desperation and inspiration some assistant, with that Carol Burnett gleam in her eye, yanked them off the rod….

    As for whether or not men’s clothing is marked / whether they must follow dress codes – seems like two HUGE examples have been overlooked. Remember Gore getting tormented over the color of his ties, and then “earth tones” in general; and all the fuss over John Edwards’ “Breck Girl” hair. And just image a male candidate wearing a pink shirt to a debate – blasphemy. Men are marked too (especially if they seem too “feminine,” but also by signifiers of wealth or lack thereof).

  142. RKMK says:

    It’s really sad when feminism is reduced to disencumbering me of my decisions. They’re all I’ve got people. And you can’t have ‘em.

    Of course you can make decisions. The patriarchy just often interferes so that your decisions are frequently limited to “rock” and “hard place.”

  143. tinfoil hattie says:

    It’s really sad when feminism is reduced to disencumbering me of my decisions.

    I think it’s patriarchy, not feminism, which does that.

  144. lalala says:

    gxm17 says:

    Patti said:

    Speaking of shower curtains
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/globalpittsburgh/3953469354/in/set-72157622321170085/

  145. Allie says:

    MO lost any chance to earn a favorable impression from me when I found out about her positions at Treehouse Foods and Unive of Chicago Med Center. Then there is the Rezko house purchase scandal, her friendship with slumlord Valerie Jarrett, and her sexist comments about HRC during the primary. Her husband won through election fraud and race-baiting, and I warrant she knows that as well as anyone. And how about when she agreed to go on The View and be the stepford wife? Pointedly declaring she was only going to be a Mom-in-Chief! There is a long list.

    She’s every bit the opportunist her husband is and a clueless elite. She obviously doesn’t think she needs fashion advice and I believe has said so. I guess she knows better than all those stylists!

    The slobbering adulation of the press for her clothes is blatant a$$-kissing.

  146. Violet says:

    gxm17 says:

    It’s really sad when feminism is reduced to disencumbering me of my decisions. They’re all I’ve got people. And you can’t have ‘em.

    I’m not entirely sure what you mean here, but let me just address what some folks are missing:

    Feminism has to be compassionate. As women struggling for our own and other women’s liberation, we have to understand the cage we’re in. We have to understand the cage other women are in if we want to help them get out. This is why black-and-white pronouncements not only miss the mark, but actually alienate the women we’re trying to reach. As feminists we need to always function with self-awareness rather than judgmentalism. Yes, women need to liberate themselves, but we all know (if we’re honest) that the patriarchy is a matrix in which we’re all enmeshed. We’ve all worn the high heels, tilted our heads, abased ourselves for a guy, tried to fit the mold, felt the insane pressure to conform, etc., etc., etc. As feminists we need to always carry that consciousness with us, so that when we criticize other women, we do so compassionately.

    Women are not mindless automatons or slaves (well, some are, but putting that aside for the moment). Acknowledging patriarchal constraints isn’t the same as saying, “She can’t help it. She has no other choice.” What it does mean is acknowledging how complicated and just plain fucking hard it is. We are hemmed in by a billion threads, all of us.

  147. gxm17 says:

    As feminists we need to always carry that consciousness with us, so that when we criticize other women, we do so compassionately.

    Women who leave comments like “fail” in response to other women’s comments don’t strike me as fitting the compassionate bill. All I see are women who criticize other women for criticizing women.

    For those who wish to practice a fundamentalist version of feminism, fine. Have at it. All I’m saying is they can do whatever they want with their free will but, quite honestly, I’m very attached to mine and they can’t have it. I’m not pro-choice because I believe women can’t make their own decisions.

    Perhaps it is, as suggested, just semantics. There must be a better way to express the idea of working within cultural restrictions better than women have no choice.

    That said, the role of First Lady has to be one of the most difficult and constricting that a woman can be asked to play. And it’s all lived out in the public eye. Personally, I have hated the entire stage show for as long as I can remember. Then along came Hillary Clinton, a breath of fresh air. But she’s a truly singular woman and I doubt we’ll see the likes of her again, at least in my lifetime. After the eight Bush years, I’m guessing a lot of people were hoping that Michelle Obama would be another breath of fresh air. But, so far, she’s not. And that’s very, very sad. Some people are more mad than sad. Me, I’m more sad than mad.

  148. Sandra, CA says:

    If MO were a different woman, I would very likely find her lack of taste endearing.

    Violet: “But this is a woman whose dress sense is so bizarre (to my eyes) that photographs of her have actually made me laugh out loud. Literally.”

    Yes, like she’s channeling Björk. (The swan dress made me smile, in a good way.) Yet I’ve seen pictures of MO when she was working at that hospital, and she wore the suit uniform then.

    lalala: “look at what MO decided to wear at a Medal of Honor ceremony for a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan.”

    Here’s that link again: http://mrs-o.org/storage/90886947.jpg

    She’s dressed for a cocktail party, not an official ceremony. It looks like she’s being advised what to wear by some Favreau clone who flipped through some old magazines for photos of Jackie without analyzing the social context.

  149. Aspen says:

    I do believe that I spent the first 4.5 decades of my life being quiet, polite, and deferring to the prevailing opinions about women and how we must behave and must not behave and how we must look and not look and how we must act and not act, and I am finished shutting up.

    Thank you for not shutting up.

  150. Aspen says:

    “Men need to take responsibility for themselves and end patriarchy.”

    How does attacking men who try to engage in discussions on the topic of the patriarchy encourage them to do that? How long do you plan to wait for it to happen?

    FTR , I was responding to this:
    At some point women have to take responsibility for themselves. Either that or they have to concede that they can’t defeat the patriarchy without the help of men.
    When I said:
    Men need to take responsibility for themselves and end patriarchy.
    And I’m talking about men as a class.

    And I didn’t attack. I engaged you with a point to consider similarities between the working class struggle in the socioeconomic class hierarchy to women’s struggle in patriarchy. Certainly, they are not exactly the same struggle, the analogy isn’t perfect, but I think it may be one way to help you start to think about why less privileged people in society can tend to support policies that go against their own interests.

  151. Aspen says:

    [snip]I’m not pro-choice because I believe women can’t make their own decisions.

    Perhaps it is, as suggested, just semantics. There must be a better way to express the idea of working within cultural restrictions better than women have no choice.

    Yes, I think this is it. After all, we have to even be “pro-choice” at all right? That should just be the default condition.

  152. yttik says:

    It’s not quite that women have no choice. It’s often that they have two crappy choices that are circular. I imagine michelle’s choice was to sacrifice her education, her career, her job, and to conform to expectations. To chose otherwise would be to chose to destroy her husband’s political career. Hell of a choice, especially in light of the fact that to this day the only way for a woman to get into the white house is thru marriage.

    It’s really not a fully autonomous choice when the playing field is not level.

  153. gxm17 says:

    Aspen, it is the default condition. But, yes, the fact that there’s an anti-choice movement sucks.

  154. RKMK says:

    Women who leave comments like “fail” in response to other women’s comments don’t strike me as fitting the compassionate bill. All I see are women who criticize other women for criticizing women.

    That doesn’t even make any sense. Being willfully obtuse isn’t helping your argument.

  155. Swannie says:

    I think what bothers me more than the obvious lack of what is currently considered fashion sense displayed by “mom in chief” ; is the neck wrenching, brain unwrapping cognitive dissonance between what we see on her, and what is reported in the media, and even hailed as best dressed . The stunned blind leading the stunned blind seems to be, yet again ,more adherence to the current social norms of the patriarchy. Because of her position , the au courant do not dare report on how bad her choices are ,even relative to the current patriarchal positions of what is considered well dressed for women.
    I personally do not like M.O. but not for her clothing choices but her choice of words and especially regarding her sadly mistaken concept that a woman should somehow control her man and his genitalia. That spoke to me immediately, and the mindset that believes ; or that does not believe it but would use it anyway does not excite admiration or even respect from me. I could go on about why I do not respect her …
    However, as far as clothing goes ..adornment is a cultural universal , even as feminists, I dont think we can entirely abandon a species wide characteristic .It is woven too deeply into our anthropological history , and probably has implications for survival on some level. One could even think of a uniform as form of camouflage. I think that is why “fashion” continues to hold so much of our social attention. I have more thoughts on fashion and its meanings for feminists , but I want to get back to M.O.
    I have seen her in some absolutely stunning outfits . I thought this was one … so you can decide about my taste for yourselves
    http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Lifeandhealth/Pix/pictures/2009/3/4/1236162832709/Michelle-Obama-Barack-and-003.jpg

    But just like everything else fashion has certain guidleines for elegance … simplicity , form flattering , function etc etc… and frou frous and bows seem to me to be not only appropriate for a younger group, but also they detract from clean lines and and the overal impact of any outfit. So her taste is not consistent , and sometimes is absolutely garish, to my eye.
    She reminds me of a woman I once knew, an Aquarian with a soul full of rebellion and a life full of conformity , who would occasionally break out of that conformity by wearing some whacko outfit … as a symbol of rebellion . it did not help her resolve her inner conflict with the restrictions in the life she chose ,

  156. Grace says:

    I am not trying to be original here, but again nobody has mentioned the dynamic that may be playing with MO. And that is that feminism has usually been (unfair but true)seen in the U.S.as a white women’s thing. Minority women have tended to see the racial or class issues as superseding the gender issues, which I think is a big mistake. I never saw MO as a feminist by the way she portrayed herself in her speeches, answers to questions, and comments for the last 2 years.

    I remember that last year her most impassioned speeches were only about race, how “she” personally felt alienated at Princeton for being a black student (like if she was the only one), how during the primaries she felt that “they keep rising the bar on Barack” (I always wondered who were “they”, racist people, the capitalist establishment, the Clintons? go figure…) She didn’t even bother to mention other minorities’s plight (or just in passing)as if we are still living in a black vs white society. And the pitiful way she tried to address the class issues, by complaining about hers and BO’s student loans debt. Again and again, the parochialism and the difficulty in analyzing social phenomena that goes beyond her own individual experiences. Just saying…

  157. Swannie says:

    yoohoo big long post in moderation :)

  158. Adrienne in CA says:

    Allie says:
    MO lost any chance to earn a favorable impression from me…Treehouse Foods…Unive of Chicago Med Center…Rezko house purchase…slumlord Valerie Jarrett…sexist comments about HRC…election fraud…race-baiting… There is a long list.

    Yeah, I can’t forget that either. Just as there’s a difference between Patriarchy and individual men, there’s a difference between Feminism (let’s not attack women for their Patriarchy-imposed choices) and individual women. Like MO, who I see as willfully complicit in teaching America that women are to be seen and not heard. It’s true, I don’t know her personally, but that’s what my gut and that long list tell me.

    Truly, I couldn’t care less about what she wears. The bizarre getups seem apiece with the in-your-face image marketing that is Obama Inc. Everything’s for sale, including the First Lady.

    What a deal: She garners gossipy, feel-good press in exchange for pumping up consumer clothing and magazine sales. Plus all the accessories she can wear. Literally. Why else would we see her in not one, but two button-down sweaters at a time? Hey, ladies, never mind those old fashioned rules about color or pattern or what goes with what. This is free market fashion. No limits! Buy two, it’s all cheap crap anyway! What matters is quantity. Nothing classic or lasting. Disposable. Perfect for a nation where we are what we buy.

    Bonus: Every women she can distract into believing the way to be powerful like MO is to have a closetful of clown outfits is one less woman who’ll be whining about reproductive healthcare.

    *****A

  159. jeannie says:

    Michelle Obama was fully into the pay-for-play Chicago politics when she got a 200k raise for her ‘job’ with the Chicago hospital when her husband became a senator, and he directed millions to where she worked. She made extra money for the hospital when she advocated patient dumping as a way to not pay for poor people at this hospital, by sending them off to other hospitals.
    The house deal was very shady, and you can bet she was deep into the Rezko deal…. I would think it was her deal rather than Barack’s – I think she is the tough cookie and he just goes along with whatever people tell him to do.
    There is no there there…..
    She has no core that wants to help people in any way. She wants to be SOMEBODY, but has no drive or talent to take her there. She has no clothes sense or class to be Jackie Kennedy, smarts or work ethic to be Hillary, the background calmness of Laura Bush, or the complete spite and power of Barbara Bush.
    Sorry – all she seems to be is a joke. The video of her meeting Queen Elizabeth in an ugly sweater and then pushing Prince Phillip out of the way so she would stand beside the Queen in the photos – this is priceless! And tells you all you need to know. I have never seen anything like this…. The cheapo gifts to the Queen and the British Prime Minister, turning down a dinner with the Sarkozy’s in Paris – all shows no manners or class.

  160. tinfoil hattie says:

    Women who leave comments like “fail” in response to other women’s comments don’t strike me as fitting the compassionate bill. All I see are women who criticize other women for criticizing women.

    I gave specific examples of things people had written on this thread to explain what I meant by “fail.” I apologized to Honora for being a jerk.

    I did not “criticize other women.” I don’t even know who here is a woman and who is not. I did not say, “You fat, ugly, slutty, badly-dressed, nasty bitches!”

    That’s an example of criticizing other women. Taking exception to what someone says, and explaining why one takes exception, is not the same thing as criticizing the person who said it.

    As for the type of feminism I practice, it’s the one that believes the radical notion that women are people, and that women especially should take care not to criticize other women for things like how they look or how they dress. We get enough of that everywhere else.

  161. RKMK says:

    Sorry – all she seems to be is a joke. The video of her meeting Queen Elizabeth in an ugly sweater and then pushing Prince Phillip out of the way so she would stand beside the Queen in the photos – this is priceless! And tells you all you need to know. I have never seen anything like this…. The cheapo gifts to the Queen and the British Prime Minister, turning down a dinner with the Sarkozy’s in Paris – all shows no manners or class.

    While your comment is an exercise in good taste and refinement?

    Have you even bothered to read this thread in its entirety? To read, and to think, and to take a moment to reflect on yourself and the discourse that surrounds Michelle Obama? Or did you just hear that people were “being mean” to your friends for criticizing Michelle Obama and you flitted over to regurgitate your bile unthinkingly?

    Hint, jeannie: my posts at 8, 12, 42, and 53 were written with people like you in mind.

  162. gxm17 says:

    That doesn’t even make any sense. Being willfully obtuse isn’t helping your argument.

    If your brand of feminism requires women to not criticize other women then perhaps you should take your own advice.

  163. RKMK says:

    If your brand of feminism requires women to not criticize other women then perhaps you should take your own advice.

    I don’t criticize other women in misogynist and/or sexist themes. Your stubborn inability to admit you were wrong or out of line is not a misogynist or sexist frame – it’s just someone unwilling to admit they lost the argument.

  164. gmanedit says:

    Michelle Obama’s dress sense is so not a feminist issue.

    I worked at a lifestyle/fashion magazine (yeah, it is all about the advertising), and our boss, the editor in chief, was just like M.O. The chief reason to go in to work every day was to see what she was wearing. No sense of silhoutte, mismatched tops and bottoms. We wondered what she saw in the mirror. She needed someone to go into her closet and organize the pieces into outfits, but she knew better.

    If you go back to the primary pictures, either M.O. knew what was called for or someone else was dressing her. Now she looks as if she thinks she’s twenty and skinny. Yes, this is the inner Michelle.

  165. gxm17 says:

    I don’t criticize other women in misogynist and/or sexist themes. Your stubborn inability to admit you were wrong or out of line is not a misogynist or sexist frame – it’s just someone unwilling to admit they lost the argument.

    If you don’t like my comments then pass over them. You are not the queen empress of all things feminist and you really need to stop attacking other women when it is supposedly something you abhor. Talk about misogynistic “themes.”

    And what argument are you talking about? The fact that I take exception with the hypocrisy of women criticizing women for criticizing women? When that’s all you’ve done for the past, what, three or four comments directed at me? Honestly, you’re doing a wonderful job of proving my point. And I sincerely thank you.

  166. gxm17 says:

    RKMK said

    While your comment is an exercise in good taste and refinement?
    Have you even bothered to read this thread in its entirety? To read, and to think, and to take a moment to reflect on yourself and the discourse that surrounds Michelle Obama? Or did you just hear that people were “being mean” to your friends for criticizing Michelle Obama and you flitted over to regurgitate your bile unthinkingly?
    Hint, jeannie: my posts at 8, 12, 42, and 53 were written with people like you in mind.

    BTW, this is the sort of comment I’m talking about. How is this any less “sexist” or “misogynist” than the comment it is attacking? I just don’t see how such a response is even remotely productive. If one takes exception with the original comment then address the ideas you find offensive. Don’t just light into the commenter.

  167. gxm17 says:

    Speaking of uniforms, what a cool project:

    http://www.theuniformproject.com/

  168. Grace says:

    I agree with what RKMK says in #166. When people start attacking the commenters instead of discussing the comments, the whole process of sharing ideas and agreeing to disagree goes down the drain. And actually it becomes meaningless when people start projecting their own personal issues and feelings on others, especially when the others are just other faceless and anonymous people.

    My take on this is that last year many people were not able to stay above the fray and keep their own capacity for critical thinking when it came to politically assessing MO and BO. The process that went on was one of idolization and demonization of whoever dared to question the Obamas; yeah, even making fun of Dennis Kucinich, because he had the nerve to talk about the real isues instead of kissing Obama’s ass. And now the same people are beginning to feel disappointed: “oh…how come that MO is not a feminist? Oh…how come that she isn’t fighting for women’s causes? And how come that she spends all this money in stupid clothes when millions of Obama’s constituents don’t have health insurance, are w/out a job, and the whole world may go down in flames within the next 30 or 40 years? Why is that many people don’t seem to be angry about this? Yeah, yeah, we can always go back to watch the last MO’s goddammed outfit and numb ourselves, or we can eat cake, as Marie Antoinette recommended.

  169. Sameol says:

    gxm17, I wish you would explain how referring to any woman as “ugly” or having “an ugly mouth” is in any way, shape, or form feminist or condoned by any theory of feminism in the universe. If trying to distinguish between sexism and feminism as if they’re not the same thing using basic common sense is too restrictive, then apparently the first time someone said “I can’t vote for anyone with nasty ass cankles,” we should have declared him or her Feminist of the Year and gone home. Either there are basic principles or not, if there are they apply across the board.

  170. octogalore says:

    Grace’s comment at #156 is interesting. I think it generalizes a bit as many minority women come at it from both lenses of gender and race, although some do prioritize race. I agree that feminism has been seen, unfairly, as a white women’s movement (thereby erasing the significant contributions of women of color).

    I personally with MO would have identified as a feminist, rather than rejecting “labels” when she was asked the question. But it’s hard to look inside her head and see where the priorities lie. Because her husband is a black man (or identifies as such), the national conversation regarding diversity since his becoming President has focused around race rather than gender. But I don’t lay that at MO’s doorstep.

    I do, however, wish the Val Jarrett-led “Council on Women and Girls” actually seemed to be doing something. Possibly it’s just not deemed newsworthy if it is, but I haven’t seen anything on the promised report mentioned here. Both Jarrett and MO seem more focused on the Chicago-Olympics project.

    I agree too that using her background to champion women going into public interest work (a speech often delivered to audiences of poor women who first need to pay the bills) was a bit off. MO went into corporate law, then a well-paid job for Jarrett, which led into (with Axelrod’s help) a six figure hospital admin job, which went right up to over 300K when her husband became a senator, as jeannie notes. That’s fine and I don’t blame her at all for taking the raise or for milking the connection, that’s how life works. But pitching it to poor women as selfless public interest work, even for campaign spin — strikes me as problematic.

  171. octogalore says:

    Second para should say “I personally wish…” — sorry for typo.

  172. Carmonn says:

    “The fact that I take exception with the hypocrisy of women criticizing women for criticizing women?”

    Oh for goodness’ sake. She’s not criticizing women for criticizing women, she’s criticizing anyone who for criticizes women in *****sexist terms, using sexist language and concepts.***** There’s nothing hypocritical about it.

    “How is this any less “sexist” or “misogynist” than the comment it is attacking?”

    Because words have meanings? There is nothing sexist about RKMK’s comment. It might be unproductive, but unproductive is not synonymous with sexist. It might be snarky or rude, but again, that’s not sexism. It doesn’t attack or criticize anyone using sexist language or concepts. What is sexist about it? Nothing. Sexism is not synonymous with criticizing a woman or disagreeing with her or telling her she’s wrong, or drawing sexist behavior to her attention, and it certainly is not synonymous with any old thing you want to define it as to try and make your argument coherent. Words have meanings.

  173. BDBlue says:

    FWIW, I have a growing suspicion that Michelle’s fashion choices, for lack of a better phrase, stem from her chafing against the traditional Ozzie-Harriet dynamic her husband’s image people have come up with.

    Her official portrait, for example, is lovely. I thought her hiking clothes looked normal. But when she’s dressing up to play first lady appendage to the President, she has all of these odd choices. I think that becomes less surprising if you see her (as I do) as someone who had her own ambitions and now he main job is to be married to the President.

  174. Grace says:

    Regarding Octogalore’s comment at #170, I agree with the fact that “it’s hard to look inside MO’s head,” or anybody’s head for that matter. We can only guide ourselves by people’s actions, what they do or don’t do. Not even words matter unless they are followed by actions. And whenever we try to read into people’s thoughts, we may easily end up projecting on them what we want to see, instead of finding out who they really are.

  175. RKMK says:

    Oy. Thanks, Carmonn.

    (Also, I’ll totally cop to the fact that I can be rude, snarky, and unproductive in the face of people who Do Not Get It and Will Not Even Try.)

  176. elaine says:

    I’m entirely too late to this comment thread but…

    I’m in complete agreement with you, Violet, in that Michelle’s fashion choices offend my aesthetic sense. Further, whenever I see someone fawning all over her fashion choices (including the ones I find completely nutty), it seems like they’re pretty much universally an Obama supporter. It’s as if the people who say she’s a fashion icon feel they must do so in order to be true in their love for Obama.

    I’ve been a fan of Tim Gunn’s for a while, but found it hard to take him seriously when he spent time on a late night talk show (Craig Ferguson’s, maybe?) telling us how smart Michelle’s choices were as opposed to how bad those of any Republican’s wife were. The images he used to illustrate his points? CHRISTMAS outfits on the Republicans. Now, honestly, is that a fair comparison? But it was the narrative which was important to him, that of establishing that Michelle is, indeed, a fashion icon, while all those evil Republican women are fashion don’ts.

    What I’m trying to say is the whole “Michelle as fashion icon” is as much a construct of her husband’s supporters as anything else. Moreover, it’s as if your good or bad reaction to her clothes serves as a litmus test for how much you adore her husband. I don’t think that’s a sign of her being used as a tool of the patriarchy so much as the rest of us simply not being allowed to point and laugh, for fear of being seen as somehow disrespectful of her husband’s position. And I think even Obama’s supporters should be free to point and laugh when michelle dresses like a clown…