Monday, June 23, 2008

Feminists for Michelle O?

I like Michelle Obama. I always have. I can't pinpoint one exact reason why, but maybe part of her appeal lies in the fact that it can't be whittled down to one specific reason. I like the way she dresses. I like the way she presents herself. She is a very, very smart person who can talk to many different types of people without making them feel stupid. That is some hard shit to pull off.

She is a black woman in America, which is (I'm sure) a very hard thing to be, regardless of how many degrees she has, how much money she has, and how many bedrooms are in her house. Many people can't remember this far back, but there was a time before all of the race-bating and smears of the later primary season when people wondered if Barack Obama was "black enough" to connect with African-Americans due to his differences in experience and upbringing. Michelle is the one that was able to assuage these concerns and to help Barack connect with blacks on a real level. She is real, she is honest, she is, well, a Strong Black Woman.

I have heard and read the sentiment from black females that Michelle is "one of us", and yes indeed she is. She was "one of us" in a way that most blacks didn't see Barack before the Clinton campaign tried to put him in a racial box (ironically failing at doing so with most whites and simultaneously endearing him to blacks who were apprehensive of his candidacy before). I have so much respect for (and maybe a little hetero-crush on) this woman that it makes me nervous to think about what the GOP will try to do to her. In a country where a disturbing percentage of people still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 and Faux Noise (Fox News) generates some of the highest basic-cable ratings for cable news, there will be rampant opportunities to try to paint the eloquent, classy, and intelligent and, yes, articulate Mrs. Obama as angry, out of touch, and elitist.

The question I have is that will the old-school feminists that were such die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters in the primary election stick up for Michelle Obama? In some strange way, Mrs. Clinton's campaign strategy seemed to anoint her as the new face of feminism when, in reality she acted as anything but (more on that another time). In Michelle Obama, we have the real thing, and the attacks have been, ironically, similar to those leveled at Mrs. Clinton so many years ago. The difference here is that Obama will be hit with the double-whammy of sexism and racism (Obama's Baby Mama? Really, Fox News?) and she will need all the support she can get. I suspect that the generational divide between the old-school (read: heterosexual white middle-class) feminists and the new wave of feminism that is more inclusive of different races and sexualities will only get larger, and nowhere will that divide be more pronounced than in their defense of Michelle Obama, or the lack thereof. I'll be watching this one with bated breath, but I certainly won't hold it waiting for statements of outrage from the likes of Geraldine Ferraro. That's okay. I'm sure the new kids will have Obama's back.

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