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Thursday
Jan122012

Michelle Obama Is So Over This Angry Black Woman Thing (Video)

Pushing back against what the White House has described as an over-dramatized portrayal in New York Times reporter Judi Kantor's new book "The Obamas," the First Lady told the CBS This Morning many have wrongly tried to paint her as an "Angry Black Woman."

In the book (which I'm patiently waiting to be delivered to my house from the publisher so I can see what all the hubbub is), Kantor highlights "incidents" where Michelle Obama appeared to be at loggerheads with her husband's staff. Mrs. Obama, who's dealt with lots of "she looks angry" and "she hates America" and "she has a fat ass" and "Marie Antoinette/Socialist Salad Eater" talk from right wingers, sat Kantor's book over in the "those things aren't me" corner, and poo-pooed on it to CBS's Gayle King.

From CBS:

In a wide-ranging interview with "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King, the first lady also said that some have tried to portray her as an "angry black woman" since Mr. Obama first announced he was seeking the presidency.

" ... I guess it's more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here and a strong woman and-- you know? But that's been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced, that I'm some angry black woman."

The attitude of the harshest First Lady critics always seems to boil down to people liking their First Ladies to be seen and not heard -- or in Mrs. Obama's case, not seen or heard. But the more laid back, low key and wallpaper-like the First Lady is, the easier the path. (Think Laura Bush. Everyone loved Laura Bush. But does anyone remember an actual thing she did? She liked books, right? Yeah. Books.)

Michelle Obama was never going to be able to pull "wallpaper" off. She's the first ever Black American First Lady. She was going to stand out whether she wanted to or not. So she committed herself to the role, diving into it with grace, aplomb and fashion sense. She chose causes that should have been insult proof (fighting childhood obesity and supporting military families), but people who despised her and her husband found ways to insult that, as if there isn't an epidemic of obesity, food poverty and malnutrition in America and all the health problems that come with that.

It's only understandable that Kantor's book and her portrayal in it would concern her as she's worked extremely hard projecting a fun, friendly and gracious First Lady. But if anyone's looking for a wilting daisy named Michelle they're just never going to get that. She can't do that. She doesn't even know what that is.

But she doesn't want her strength and confidence -- something that I'd imagine you'd develop if you were as educated and as accomplished as she is --  to be confused with "Gross Black Woman Stereotype A."

I.E., "The Angry Black Woman."

While their husbands typically don't run around advertising it, most political wives are a lot savvier than they put on. Many are accomplished in their own right, were educated at the same schools as their husbands and are co-captains of the political ship. Being in elected office isn't like your husband is a teacher or an engineer. His personal life will intertwine with his public life. A political wife has to be involved, as she too is expected to do an unpaid public service that coincides with her husband's elected position.

But it's commonly accepted for the women behind powerful men to put on a form of "Dutiful Wife Drag" and even if she's never been in a kitchen, she must pretend like she bakes cookies and mends socks all day. It's insulting. But people like the mythology of what a "wife" is, and its not a "Real Housewife," but a romanticized self-sacrificing, help-mate figure who happily follows her husband's lead. No questions. Never a harsh word is uttered. No thoughts are of her own.

Probably the best "First Lady Drag" performance I'd ever seen was that of Barbara Bush, wife of George H. W. Bush, who, in real life, is of quick temper and high passion -- the opposite of her calm and steady husband. But hell if you'd known that when Poppy Bush was in office. She put on her sweet grandmotherly act and sweetly smiled her way through that four year White House stint. But you can understand why she wrote a book about "Millie The White House Dog" rather than express her pro-choice views in an increasingly hostile political environment.

Because any First Lady who dares to remember she too has a degree from an Ivy, worked her ass off to get her husband elected and is essentially the closest adviser to him will be branded as an awful, angry, bitchy harridan.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton.

Click to enlarge.But where as white women are punished for not living up to the whole "be a doormat" sexist stereotype foisted upon them by the patriarchal views of our more conservative electorate, black women are essentially pre-labeled as angry until they prove otherwise. Black women aren't really "women" you know? Or at least that's what history taught me. Society either sees us as non-entities or black men missing our penises or something. Don't go missing, black woman. No one will look for you. And everything is your own fault.

So Michelle Obama can hug all the children in the world, play flag football, skip rope and plant veggies, but because of the pure hostility certain people have towards A) Democrats, B) Black people and C) Black Democrats in the White House, everything that she does is painted as gross, unAmerican or angry.

Essentially, for no reason of her own, some people just hate her. So it really doesn't matter what she does. She's angry! Just look at her! Sitting there! Giving an interview! That hussy.

I get it, Mrs. O. I'm sick of this mess too. But, what can you do about it? Sigh. What can you do?

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Reader Comments (5)

It has been my experience that people are uneasy with what they cannot instantly define. A lot of white have no experience with a non-angry Black woman so they have to give her the only title they know.

It actually makes me feel a tad bit (pinky toe nail amount) sorry for them that a lot of white people have this myopic vision to anything outside their ciphers.

January 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSerenity

In answer to the question "what can she do?" She can continue to be who she is. One of the most inspiring things about this presidency is to watch the partnership that Michelle and Barack have forged in action. EVERY DAY on the evening news and on the internet. They are the walking, talking example that belies the myth that Black folks cannot maintain healthy relationships and families. I believe that she is hated and dare I say it feared because she represents something that many mainstream whites in particular cannot understand. That black folks are whole people. I applaud her for being willing to work with her husband in support of the nation but make no mistake this lady is not mad she is bad! It is interesting that they are trying to manufacture conflict between Rahm and Michelle. I think that both of them are far too smart to allow themselves to be dragged down by this mess. When I think of the current situation it reminds me of the quote from Mandela that says "There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you." MIchelle is in many ways challenging the nation to see Black women for who they are and can be. It is a daunting and sometimes frustrating task but she is definitely up for it.

January 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergundam83

Serenity, I'm skeptic of that angle.

People will always meet persons who are angry or not angry. Black women have not only been stereotyped as angry (a very harsh word compared to upset or others words), but that they don't have the right to be angry, that it's misplaced or trivial. It's that everything they (Black women) do can be some how or way warped into that dismissive angry, aggressive ball-stomping fear Whites have of Black women.

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPrivilegeBingo

Angry Black woman is a title us black women are saddled with whether we are or aren't. I don't allow white folks to define who I am and I'm sure our first lady doesn't either.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFran

This reminds me of when Dihann Carroll was on Dynasty and she was just as glamorous/beautiful/rich/dolled up as her white counterparts and she took a LOT of shit from the media for it. She said that people love to label you and put you in a box to make themselves comfortable but woe is you when you dare step out of that box because the wolves will be at your door.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Beach
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