Friday, September 19, 2008

Michelle Obama: Angry Woman or Woman Who Gets Angry

Women are conditioned to be pleasant. Don't believe me? Check out this thread on Feministing called "Ten Things I Could Do Without", and count how many women bring up being commanded to "smile" (I've personally never experienced that, but that's because I'm unnaturally smiley). And it bothers me. It bothers me when women speakers tend to sound and look like Tour Guide Barbie. There is a time and a place to be peppy, but I really think that political rallies and national conventions and, well, life should allow for a bigger range of emotions than just that one, outwardly pleasant, wholly  unthreatening one; Senator Claire McCaskill demonstrated that Barbie-esque way of speaking at the DNC, and although I like both Senator McCaskill and her speech, her delivery was less than impressive because she did not display that range of emotion -because she had that permasmile attached to her face:

Hillary Clinton doesn't have a permasmile. That sometimes leads to unfortunate photo ops, but it also is an attribute that I like about her. It is also what I like about Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama has a very nice smile. But Michelle Obama also has a right to be serious, and to get angry, and get upset. She has the right to not have Bill O'Reilly (or Fox News in general) say outright that "She looks like an angry woman":

I don't know Michelle Obama personally; but I know people and I know that people -those of us in the human race- tend to experience a range of emotions. I know that calling Michelle Obama an "angry woman" is different than saying she is a "woman who is angry". One recalls a perpetual, generally irrational state. And one allows that Michelle Obama isn't stuck on one emotion or in one drive, and that she may, in actuality, have reason to be irate. I've read elsewhere that this is a racist driven remark; and I don't doubt that Michelle Obama's race plays some part in all of this, but I think what really drives people is the fact that she is a woman. And though the easiest way to discredit a woman has always been to bring up her sexual proclivity (oh, wait, Fox News did that too!), the second easiest way is to declare that the woman in question is "hysterical", "emotional", and "irrational". And that is what saying Michelle Obama is an angry woman does. It makes her emotions tantamount while ignoring the reasons behind them. It makes her concerns easier to dismiss, and makes her easier to dismiss, because as an "angry woman", she is just looking for something to rail against. She could not possibly be passionate and reasoned and right, because she is an "angry woman". We should not want this woman as our First Lady, because she is angry, and without purpose or cause. And it is an argument that has been making the rounds for some time, and it is ridiculous each and every time it is uttered.

Michelle Obama, like every other person on the planet, could very well be a person who gets angry when she sees injustice, about the state of our economy, about the state of inner city schools, and the state of inner cities in general. And the fact that Bill O'Reilly and Fox News -and even the woman who was on the program defending Michelle Obama- never thought of that is aggravating. And it necessitates that we continue to question how we examine women in society, and how we allow women to express their emotions and their concerns.

1 comment:

John said...

I enjoy the fact that neither woman was willing to agree with Bill O'Reilly on his "angry woman" remark in those interviews. If you pay attention to his word choices and phrase placement, he's trying very hard to lead the viewer into accepting that the "angry woman" idea is a disputed fact rather than a personal opinion. While the two women in the interview don't really step up to bat for Michelle Obama, they also did their best not to feed into his assertion. I was amused to hear the comparison to Sarah Palin, who apparently did overtly try to "win her over" with a transparent facade. The fact that Michelle Obama doesn't bother to care what a magazine writer thinks of her personally is a ringing endorsement in my book, but I'm hardly the O'Reilly Factor's target audience.