Monday, March 2, 2009

The Barbiefication of Michelle Obama, Part A Million, or: Kinder, Kuche, Book Deal

You know, dear Reader, I have spent the majority of the last forty-eight hours puking. Puking, losing consciousness, waking up only to realize that I am going to puke again, worrying that next time I might not wake up and might therefore die in the grossest way possible, like Jimi Hendrix: this has been my life, Reader, over the weekend. So why, you ask, did I read this article, knowing as I did that it was only going to make me puke even harder? You tell me: 
Michelle Obama was the black kid born on the wrong side of the tracks... 
WHAT. 
When she stepped down from her $273,000-a-year job with the University of Chicago Hospitals to help her husband on the campaign trail, she was earning twice as much as the man who would become America's first black President. 
Okay, so, from my admittedly groggy and nausea-encumbered perspective, I am already getting wayyyy too much of that weird, vaguely objectionable, The Obamas: Did You Know That They Are Black People? I Have Thoughts  business to even realistically parse or deal with at 2:00 in the morning. Yet it gets oh so very much worse, in 3...2...1...
Michelle Obama has no intention of resuming her career while her man is in power... She is, perhaps, the perfect example of a new kind of career woman who, instead of wanting it all for herself, wants it all for her family. 
Oh, the kind of "career woman" who doesn't have a career, you mean? Leaving Michelle Obama out of this, because she is (a) the one and only current wife of the one and only current American president, and is therefore in kind of a unique situation, and (b) Michelle Obama has never been what you are talking about you disingenuous twat (sorry; two in the morning; puking), can we just talk about the construction of the last sentence? You know, wherein if your dude wants to have a career he is providing for his family and also might be President and save the world, but if you want one you are a selfish monster who doesn't care about her family and might as well be feeding her kids drain cleaner? Because I really don't see how you can (a) appropriate a woman as a figurehead for your own regressive belief system, (b) blatantly patronize and diminish her while so doing, and (c) use her, or rather the Barbie-like figure you have created of her image, to slam every single married woman with a job, and then (d) go down from there. Can you, Amanda Platell of the Daily Mail
That point was underscored this month when she appeared in American Vogue in a soft, feminine frock, surrounded by teacups and magazines. This, the pictures told us, was a glamorous, clever woman, but not one obsessed with her own career. 

The images also served to remind millions of Americans that their new President was such a successful, handsome Alpha male that he has a wife who is also a Vogue cover girl. 
BWAAAAAAUUGHHHHHHHHHHH. 

So, anyway, this article is not actually about Michelle Obama (I told you so!) and is actually just a regurgitation of the same old thing you have read a million times about how wanting a career is selfish, and you should quit yours in order to get married to a dude and give him moral support, even if he makes less money than you do and could use your financial support, and also she has these statistics, and have you read them? You have: they are the old, weird ones that always get trotted out, about how women are more likely to get divorced if they earn as much as their husbands (um, because they can afford to?) and also about how you will have better orgasms if your husband is the primary wage-earner because women are all gold-digging whores. Fun! Also, it is a book review, of a book which makes apparently makes all of these points, but takes an entire book to do so. 

The warm, gooey center of this little turd pie - did you know, ladies, that you do not need to have accomplishments of your own to feel fulfilled? You could be doing extra chores around the house, or else "hiring help" because God knows THAT'S not an ultra-entitled, deeply problematic act that has ANYTHING to do with the history of racism, and PARTICULARLY not with the history of poor women of color having to clean up after and take care of rich white ladies so they can exemplify the Cult of True Womanhood, but whatever, because while some woman who didn't marry a rich dude is wiping feces off your adorable trust-fund baby's behind, you can also be helping your husband do his job for no pay or credit whatsoever! - is something called the "Michelangelo Phenomenon," which goes like this: 
As Basham writes: 'His genius lay in the fact that where other sculptors looked at a piece of marble and decided what to make of it, he looked at the marble and saw what it wanted to be. He saw the potential.'

The woman who stands by her man nurtures the David within him and helps him uncover the finest man he can be. 
Just so long as she does not make any actual sculptures, or demonstrate any actual talent or genius of her own, because that would be a career, and those are for dudes! 
Basham warns that wives can stall or even retard their husband's growth if they focus on his weaknesses instead of his strengths. She suggests that women have to be prepared to take risks in giving up their own career when there is no guaranteed outcome: they must become counsellors, advise their husbands from a position of knowledge in his career choices, support him while he re-trains. 
So, no, this has never been about Michelle Obama. Michelle Obama had an extremely successful career, put that on hold when it became a realistic possibility that her husband would actually become the President of the Entire United States, did actual work on his campaign, and then, when he became the President, decided that she would not be going back to work, which actually makes sense for many reasons, all of which are specific to her situation. You, on the other hand, need to quit your job, no matter what your boyfriend or husband is doing, no matter what his "weaknesses" may be, and "counsel" him in order to "make him the best man he can be" while he is, I don't know, playing the musical saw in the subway - they are really not specific here! But since they are really only addressing the concerns of middle-to-upperclass couples, wherein your choices are to have an incredibly rewarding career in the field of your choice or spend more time at your summer home in the Hamptons, I imagine they don't feel the need! - in the hopes that he will eventually make enough money to support you both, and make every conceivable sacrifice for him, up to and including letting him kill you and eat your corpse if you run out of money for food. 

Just so long as you don't get a job. Because that would be selfish. 

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