The Feminist First Lady Question Continues
obama & the first family on martin luther king day - 104

Image by Steve Rhodes via Flickr/Creative Commons

Since reading a few comments to “Michelle Obama is role model, but maybe not a feminist one,” my most recent post on National Catholic Reporter , I decided I wanted to clarify a few things:

  1. Editors and writers rarely are on one accord when it comes to headlines.
  2. The reader’s use of the word “perform” in the question that inspired the post to me implied that she believes, as do I, Michelle Obama’s supermom role isn’t entirely a choice.
  3. If it is a choice, that’s awesome, and it’s just as feminist as Hilary Clinton not wanting to stay home and bake cookies all day. Besides, I wouldn’t critique Michelle Obama, or any woman, for making a choice I’ve said I would make myself if ever given the option.
  4. The reader’s question and my response are specific to a Black woman. That’s not racist; it’s just an important factor.
  5. In the comments to the post, one reader said, “Unless you are saying that the First Lady did not understand her choices, resources, and make her own decisions, then you misunderstand feminism. I happen to think that she (and many women) are aware of their choices, resources, and are capable of making their own decisions. That’s what they do daily, just as men do. That’s what feminism is about; not following a prescriptive track.” This is where I really want to elaborate.

What upsets me as a Black feminist is that Michelle Obama’s professional life—a huge chunk of her adulthood—has been erased from her narrative and replaced with the story line, “I didn’t do anything before I became Barack’s wife and mother of his kids.” Maybe she was like the apostle Paul describing his before-Christ life (“I count it [my accomplishments, religious education, positions I held as a Pharisee, pedigree as a Hebrew, etc] all dung…”), but it’s hard for me to imagine she would have made that choice because I know the image of a Black woman with educational and professional achievements equal to or surpassing that of her Black male partner is still very threatening to the white patriarchy that tries to keep us all in our “place.”

Okay, now go read the post on NCR.

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