Defining Michelle

Changes.  With the beginning of the general election, there must be changes, and among the many alterations that must be made, apparently there is Michelle Obama’s image that must be addressed.

That is the ostensible point of this NYT piece which discusses how, just in time for the general election, Mrs. Obama is getting something of an image overhaul.  To say the least, I have mixed emotions on this.

See, I LIKE Michelle.  What progressive wouldn’t like a strong, reality based, no nonsense woman who speaks her mind, and has a history of getting results?  Indeed, much of what I read in the NYT piece only reaffirmed why I like Michelle so much, and I think that image of her is one that Americans should get used to.

Wouldn’t it be great if people could just, for once, accept a First Lady that doesn’t just smile and wave, but is proactive and forceful, and is her own presence?  Why is it that First Ladies and prospective First Ladies must fit into this cookie cutter image of June Cleaver?  Especially now, in this day and age when despite the travails of misogyny women continue to break glass ceilings all the time.

So, yeah, on that front it’s a little frustrating.

On the other hand, it has also been made exceedingly clear that Michelle Obama, perhaps more than Barack Obama, is a prime target during this election season.  Already there has been a concerted effort both among Republicans, and among the dwindling bitter ender members of Clinton Supporters, who have sought to define Michelle as an “angry black woman.”

This election will be decided, at least in part, in the ability of one side to define itself and its opponents, and while I may be a little apprehensive as to how Michelle’s image will change, I do appreciate that the Obama campaign has committed to putting Michelle more in the spotlight as opposed to trying to keep her under wraps.

Simply put, it’s going to be much more difficult to define Mrs. Obama if she’s out there every day on the stump challenging those definitions.

Personally, I don’t imagine Michelle as the type of person who is easily “handled”.  While the focal point of the image makeover is supposedly to soften her image, I find it hard to believe that Mrs. Obama is going to go out there as anyone other than herself, which is heartening.  And, honestly, slight adjustments to one’s image does not necessarily equate to a selling of one’s soul.

And I don’t think such a drastic change here is necessary.  There’s absolutely no reason for Mrs. Obama to all of a sudden turn into a saccarine sweet, fifties ideal of motherhood.  All she has to do is not embody the rightwing talking points about her that she’s an Angry Black Woman, that she’s secretly racist, or that she’s unpatriotic.  That should be an exceedingly simple job for her considering that she’s actually none of those things.

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