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.
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.
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?