Conservatives are peddling misinformation about Michelle Obama’s recent European vacation. They have even taken to comparing her to Marie Antoinette. Ponder that one for a moment. If taken literally, this label would insinuate that the First Lady is promiscuous and sympathizes with our enemies. Are Republicans suggesting that the First Lady has been found guilty of treason and thus will soon be executed by guillotine? Probably not (though Bradley Blakeman does evoke Antoinette’s beheading as he insists “heads will roll”).

I’m inclined to believe that the right does not mean this comparison literally. We must therefore understand their name calling to suggest that Michelle Obama is a member of the tone-deaf elite who cares nothing for the poor. You know, of “let them eat cake” fame. Clearly her career choices have shown her to be the exact opposite. Not that conservatives of late are apt to let facts get in the way of their arguments. A young Michelle Obama left corporate law to work as an assistant to the chief-of-staff to Mayor Daley, and from there helped young people get into public service at Public Allies. Later, she worked her way up at the University of Chicago Hospitals, all the while working closely with the community around her.

If we want to make Marie Antoinette comparisons based in facts, let’s go:

Currently, Republicans are working hard to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, even though it’s clear that this is not the best solution for stimulating the economy and getting jobs to the other 98%. Look at this graph and help me understand how Republicans plan to get elected as they lie through their teeth about caring about lowering the deficit.

Conservatives are piling on the ‘unemployed people are lazy‘ meme. Talk about tone deaf.

Republicans belief in deregulation and corporations-as-king helped get us to a place in history where the only entity with the technology to police BP was BP. They peddled conspiracies that the spill was an inside job, while continuing to stick up for big oil. One member of the GOP even thought BP deserved an apology for the way it was treated during the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history.

And as our country is literally falling apart, Republicans continue the lie that the stimulus hasn’t created any jobs and that the recession is Obama’s fault. Check out this graph and tell me which administration should take the blame for this recession.

If you want to call names like a child on the playground, go right ahead. But when the name you’re calling an opponent can be shown to apply much more readily to you, you might want to be careful that the “takes one to know one” comeback doesn’t stick.

Also, your racism is showing.

Now that’s equality!

Just a taste…

Michelle Obama’s European Outfits: Which did she wear best?

Michelle Obama Makes a Fashion Statement in London

Michelle Obama: Fashion icon?

Michelle Obama: Fashion diva or disaster?

There was also the contrived media drama over Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s “fashion faceoff,” about which Melissa McEwan noted:

Why is it, when any two powerful womenespecially beautiful powerful womenare in the same place at the same time, the media has to treat it like a grudge match?!

Not surprisingly, there was little mention of the male G-20 spouses’ fashion choices. They didn’t even bother to show up for the G-20 spouses dinner (or at least, they missed the photo). I mean, who could blame them?

Yesterday was so clearly a day for the history books. It was evident in all the exchanges I had with people yesterday. There was an underlying understanding that we were living through a great “where were you when…” moment.

Some of my hopefulness is dashed as I read headline after headline about yesterday’s events in which the only mention of Michelle Obama deals with her outfits. Really? As the headline over at Feministing so accurately summed up my frustration,

Historic Moment! Michelle Obama Wears a Dress

The historical significance of yesterday’s events somehow exaggerates the offensiveness of reducing this woman to her clothing. Reports could have asked her how it feels to be First Lady, what her plan is for how she will fill this role, or even what she thought of the inauguration events. Instead, we get this:

Who Made Michelle Obama’s Dresses? (ChicagoTribune)

Michelle Obama Wears it Well (BostonGlobe)

First Lady Passes Fashionista Test (ABC)

Michelle Obama Makes Important Statement with Fashion Choice (Bloomberg)

The First Lady Tells a Story with Fashion (NYTimes)

So on a day in which reporters gushed about how we can now tell our children that they can truly be anything they want to be, the message to little girls continues to be: what matters most is how you look.

The AP reports that according to their poll, Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama having similar “favorability” ratings, but that Michelle Obama’s “unfavorable” ratings are about twice as high as Cindy McCain. Part of the negative perception apparently comes from the fact that Michelle Obama (unlike Cindy McCain?) has been using her brain too much.

According to a woman quoted in the article:

“Cindy seems like she’s laid back and not trying to run her husband,” said Linda Kaiser, 60, a Republican and church secretary from Clairton, Pa. “It’s nice to have a brain, but they should let their husband be president.”

It’s also interesting to note that the less we know of a candidate’s wife, the more we seem to like her. Perhaps this is an innocent until proven guilty approach, or maybe more of a “seen but not heard” preference.

Cindy McCain is also more of a mystery. Nearly six in 10, or 56 percent, said they know too little to say much about her — exceeding the 34 percent clueless about Michelle Obama. Half of Republicans say they don’t know Cindy McCain, while three in 10 Democrats say that about Michelle Obama.

Take note political wives: silence and mystery = good, using your brain = bad.

In case you thought it was just “US Weekly” and “The View” hyping up Michelle Obama’s clothes and motherhood in attempt to de-emphasize her successful career and intelligence, think again.

In “Michelle Obama Highlights Her Warmer Side” in The New York Times Thursday, TV critic Alessandra Stanley wrote that “Mrs. Obama distanced herself from that model [of the assertive career woman] on The View, describing herself as a mother and not mentioning her law career or her views on policy.” (The Candidates’ Wives Face Media Sexism by Lisa Witter)

Witter points out how quickly we have shifted focus from seriously considering our first female President to wondering what kind of “seen but not heard” First Ladies the candidates’ wives will be.

Media coverage everywhere is “Michelle vs. Cindy.” Where do they buy their dresses? Do they make bacon for breakfast? And, of course, which one can we compare to Jackie O?

Is anyone else as appalled as I am at how quickly we have gone back to thinking of women in the oldest of stereotypes — as only wives and mothers?

I’m a wife. I’m a mother. I love my family. But I’m other things, too. We all know that the presidents’ wives play an important role in policy and diplomacy in one way or another. Just look at the publicly recognized legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt, which proves how a strong first spouse (it just happens to be that they’ve all been first “ladies” so far) makes a country stronger.

So why do we hide it by focusing on hair, clothes and what’s on the breakfast table? Isn’t this part of the mostly unspoken sexism that Sen. Hillary Clinton and even the media have highlighted all along? (The Candidates’ Wives Face Media Sexism)

Eliza in Hollywood notes the contrast between Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama.

Cindy McCain doesn’t threaten the status quo. Michelle Obama does. Barbara Bush didn’t threaten the status quo. Hillary Clinton did. Laura Bush didn’t. Therese Heinz (Kerry) did. When it comes to political wives, outspoken is out. Soft-spoken is in. Making policy is out. Baking cookies is in. Ambition is definitely out. (The Castration of Michelle Obama)

Canadian Gal also points out the emphasis on Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama as “Soft, Cuddly, Wives and Mothers.”

What has been disgusting is that we have reverted into the oldest stereotypes – namely that women should ONLY depicted as wives or mothers.

The responsibility doesn’t just rest on the media, which I’ll get to in a minute. The campaigns themselves deserve some of the blame as well. Do the Obama’s and the McCain’s want to play into the stereotypes of first ladies that are only sweet and cuddly? Is Michelle going to quit giving her husband the fist-bump because it comes across as too strong? Does Cindy have to submit any more of ‘her’ cookie recipes so people can relate to her?

Media stories breathlessly ask:

‘Where do they buy their clothes?’

‘What types of food do they cook?’

‘Which one can be compared to Jackie O?’

WE GET IT. They are wives and mothers. But guess what? Both are highly accomplished and intelligent women and are other things too.

Honestly. What year is this? We are moving backward faster than we are progressing. Michelle Obama can be an accomplished, intelligent woman and still have the “softer side” that the media seeks; she shouldn’t have to apologize for the former in order to highlight the latter. We must value both equally.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.