It does my heart good to see women of all races embrace Michelle Obama. It is too rare indeed for a brown-skinned woman, a descendant of slaves, a product of Chicago’s South Side to be lauded on an international stage. Considering the heavy burden of stereotype still faced by black women, I cheer a little each time the First Lady gets some shine for her strength and smarts. But I note that in their eagerness to identify with Obama and make her emblematic of modern woman, some mainstream feminists unwittingly erase a key part of her identity–her blackness.–and deny the experiences and histories of many African American women in the process.

In her much-talked-about speech, last Wednesday, at the Democratic National Convention, Obama said her most important role is “mom-in-chief.” In analysis, this pronouncement along with the fact that Obama declined to talk about her own impressive career, was found disappointing by many in the white feminist chattering class.

Lisa Belkin wrote at the Huffington Post:

 Maybe that is why it was so jarring to hear again last night. So much about the context has changed — the Republicans are being accused of launching a “war on women”; the word “mom” is being used as shorthand for a sweet lady who knows her place; Michelle Obama has spent four years showing us that she is a mother, yes, but also a force of nature. All this makes the phrase feels loaded and out of place.

Jessica Valenti tweeted: “I long for the day when powerful women don’t need to assure Americans that they’re moms above all else.”

Slate’s Hanna Rosin tweeted: “ok “mom in chief” is not where i thought that sentence was headed. it was so soaring just before that.” Rosin went on to voice her discomfort with the phrase and Obama’s speech that seemed to put her own accomplishments on the back burner during Slate’s “Double X Gabfest,” where she was joined by Noreen Malone, who wrote about Obama’s speech for The New Republic:

 It’s a true and universally resonant sentiment. After all, Mrs. Obama is far more in the thick of raising kids than is Mrs. Romney. But I can’t help thinking of the martial roots of that “-in-chief” designation: the “mommy wars” that have been battled in the press over the last decades take as their baseline assumption that working moms and stay-at-home moms see their choices as in opposition. Generals Ann and Michelle want to broker a peace—one that’s awfully helpful politically; both need all the women—but it’s a little depressing that both see fit to do so by whitewashing out their own experiences for the sake of bland universality. After all, way back in 1996, even after taking a beating in the press for being a little too careerist, Hillary Clinton didn’t shy away from making a direct plea on behalf of working parents, and
talking about how that experience informed her husband’s platform.

Rosin wasn’t the only Slate writer unimpressed by Michelle Obama’s “mom-in-chief” line. In an article on Slate’s XX women’s blog, Libby Copeland ponders: Why Are Presidential Candidates’ Wives All theSame?”

The would-be first lady is self-sacrificing, and for years she has managed to somehow keep a household running with her husband off in Washington or wherever, and even though it’s nearly impossible, she doesn’t complain too much. The candidate’s job, in turn, is to give her all the credit for raising the kids and opening the mail, and occasionally to say (as Mitt did in his convention speech) that her job was even harder than his. (“She was heroic,” Mitt said of Ann. “Cindy will get her reward in heaven,” John McCain said in 2007.) Perhaps, like Michelle Obama, she complained a little, leaving Post-it reminders for himto pick his underwear up off the floor. But ultimately, she bravely goes along with his ambitious schemes.

Copeland’s analysis of what the public will accept from political wives has merit, but it is impossible for Michelle Obama to occupy the same space in this discussion as her forebears. She is a black woman. While white women have historically been thought, by default, to be possessed of ideal femininity, (sexistly) defined as demure, sacrificing, quietly strong, beautiful and maternal. Black women have not. The picture of black woman as Sapphire; welfare queen; baby mama; ball-buster; unmarriageable harpy who is too black, too fat and too nappy can be seen lurking behind much of the right’s–and some of the left’s–criticism of Michelle Obama. (Not only that, but Sapphire qualities are already being thrust upon the Obama’s youngest daughter, Sasha, who the media is fond of imbuing with a sort of two-snaps-up-in-a-circle sassiness.)

White feminists who acknowledge Obama’s blackness, and the stereotypes attached to it, believe her “momification” is a shrewdly calculated answer to attacks on her as “Stokely Carmichael in a dress.” In her article, Malone endorses a similar analysis by Rebecca Traister in Salon. It is as if, even these smart women cannot believe that, alongside strong, black womanhood, Michelle Obama might have a nurturing, maternal side that is not politically manufactured but a part of who she is.

Black women in the public eye, including Michelle Obama, may not see the need to distance themselves from traditional roles, as Hillary Clinton once did, famously saying, “I am not some Tammy Wynette standing by my man.” and “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.” Cooking-baking, devoted wife and mother has never been a stereotype about us.

In “Aint I a Mommy?,” writer Deesha Philyaw discussed the absence of black women in national conversations about parenting.

Low-income and working-class women, black women, and other women of color don’t see their mothering experiences and concerns reflected in the mommy media machine, and we get the cultural message loud and clear: Affluent white women are the only mothers who really matter. Further, media overexposure of these women bolsters the perception of them as self-absorbed brewers of tempests in teapots.

Philyaw writes that historically, black women have rarely had the privilege to choose motherhood over career. Black women have always worked outside of the home–have almost always had to–even when society forbade “good” white women from leaving their pedestals. We have ploughed the fields and raised other folks babies, as well as our own. And as for many black women of my generation–women whose parents kicked down a host of racial barriers during the Civil Rights era and worked tirelessly to provide opportunity for their children–many of us were raised to do our family (and our race) proud through scholastic and professional achievement more than marriage and children. (I am glad of that, by the way.)

Philyaw adds:

Of course, black mothers are not endless founts of strength. Nor do we live charmed, guilt-free lives. Some black at-home mothers are asked by family and friends to justify the decision to “waste” their educations. Professional black mothers may have to forego material comforts and greater financial security in exchange for more flexibility and time at home with their kids. But all this struggling and striving happens in the context of our history. If a black mother’s household income is such that she can afford to stay at home with her kids or opt to pursue a career full-time instead—either way, we’ve arrived at a profound historical moment. Either way, she is living a life her foremothers could only dream about.

In contrast to some of the mainstream feminist analysis of Michelle Obama and her role in the White House, I have heard from many black women, including feminist ones, who are delighted to see an African American woman publicly celebrated in ways that we commonly are not. Michelle Obama is–refreshingly for many of us–lauded for being nurturing, beautiful and stylish as well as whip smart, athletic and strong. And we imagine that Obama has the strength to make her needs known and that if she has, for now, chosen motherhood, that it is the role she wants. She is a black woman free to make that choice. These things are revolutionary for black women, even if some white women see business as usual.

Feminists who wish that Obama would strike a blow for feminism and against stereotyped roles of women, too easily forget that all women are not burdened by the same stereotypes. The way sexism visits white women and women of color, including black women, is similar in its devastation but often unique in its practice.

  • @ifeedemlead

    That last paragraph is crucial!!
    @ifeedemlead

  • http://valsotherblog.wordpress.com Val

    I really think the key to the criticism is that Black women are routinely portrayed as bad mothers. So for many of these White women, who criticize the First Lady, it is just so outside the norm in their brainwashed minds for a Black woman to express her devotion to her children outside of the over-seen media portrayals of the grieving Black mother who has lost a child to violence or prison or foster care.

    If the First Lady had touted her academic and career prowess in her speech surely those same women would be attacking her and accusing her of being less than feminine and a bad mother for not putting the girls first.

  • Rakel

    Great article. “The way sexism visits white women and women of color, including black women, is similar in its devastation but often unique in its practice.” And they often miss the point on this. And will continue to miss the point when they don’t acknowledge women of color have different lives and experiences.

  • SS25

    White women in general don’t understand nor do they care about the lives of black women. The media has put them pedal stools and told the world that they’re better than everyone else. The crazy thing is black women have been raising white children(nannies, live-in maids, etc.) since the founding of this country.

  • lynn

    There was a Clutch article recently about stay-at-home moms and many of the comments here reflected the same derisive attitudes regarding black at-home moms, saying that what they do isn’t really work, that they’re parasites off their husbands, etc.

  • African Mami

    Let me break it down to these white feminists, who choose to be willfully ignorant!

    “it’s a little depressing that both see fit to do so by whitewashing out their own experiences for the sake of bland universality.”

    From the onset, Michelle Obama has ALWAYS stated that her most important role, is Mom In Chief, to mean that motherhood takes precedence over anything else in her life. Which I thoroughly applaud! Motherhood, is very much an integral part of that “experience” they were looking for Michelle to speak on. Furthermore, a truth that is IGNORED is, say if she were to go a different route than the universally accepted one, as a black woman, it would be a death nail to her husband’s political career. It is what is. Take it or leave it! Mitchell is already, as noted in the article, seen as a militant black woman! What does that mean?! It means, such an image has no place in center stage American politics. Therefore her speech, was a strategically orchestrated move to soften her image in the public eye, and make her relatable!
    White feminists need to walk a mile in the shoes of women of color and experience what we go through, before they open their mouths to yarn over something that although would be welcome, it is not practical, as it pertains to MO, or any other black woman. Hillary Clinton is white, she is IDEAL.

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    This article is great! You really opened my eyes to the double standard in the black/white mom phenomenon. That’s the problem with a lot of white folk. They want to be “post-racial” in a sense by trying to look at black women as just people, but in doing so, and rejecting the context, they actually reduce the person that they are trying to fully envision. Nothing, in a larger sense, will ever be post-racial because the historical and present day context that we black women live in is crucial to our development and if people ignore that then they choose to ignore who we really are.

  • Zan

    Agreed. I really got the essence of the article in the last 2 paragraphs.

  • Rosey

    Wonderful article and kudos to the author. I never gave much thought about the intersection between black woman and the “Mommy Wars”. This is why I love this blog.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    Word, word and WORD! This is why I would never join forces with mainstream feminists. They only care about their own issues and overlook anything that differs from their single-visioned agenda.

  • LaNubiana

    Very good article indeed. But as an outsider (non American) I have noticed a few things during the 2008 elections as well as this years primary.

    1. It’s damn if you do and damn if you don’t when it comes to the Obama’s. I was young but I don’t remember much out cry on any issue of any significance that was said/achieved by Laura Bush. Hell I can’t even recall what she did for 8 years. But somehow Michelle Obama needs to fit in the Superwoman’s suite? There is a visible different standards since Barack announced running for office.

    2. Even with a great deal of progress made since the Civil Right movement, there is still a unfathomable level of avoidance from White America when it comes to black people. I think this also is the case with racism. It’s almost as if they would like to pretend that all the negative history or outlook towards African Americans permanently changed in one day. If you avoide it may go away sort of thing.

    3) White America (including the feminists) fail to recognize that the President and First Lady while sharing similar nationality with their predecessors, have different cultures (recognize that African Americans have their own culture). There is also an immense level of expectations placed on the first family from both ends.

    So I guess my point is that unless these so called feminists and critics walk a mile in Mrs. O’s shoes, their point is pure rubbish. In my honest opinion Michelle is in fact one of, if not the most highly educated, articulate, beautiful, and elegant women that graced the American Presidency as a first lady.

  • XM

    That’s ignorance if I ever heard it. Part of the reason you should join forces with so-called mainstream feminists (as if feminism has ever hit the mainstream) is highlighted in the article: they don’t know what it’s like for anyone but themselves. Make your presence known. Second, this is the point of racism-to keep people divided so they don’t unite to disarm systems-in this case the patriarchy. We have our own struggles as black women but we’re not the only ones struggling and if we could pull together with other women (Indian, Mexican, Asian, etc) we could strike a far mightier blow. But this “us” v “them” thinking will keep us from ever doing that and the patriarchy will continue to win every time.

  • eshowoman

    What a bunch of ahistorical, hypocrites most white feminists are! The ennui that initiated second wave feminism was able flourish because white women has black and brown women taking care of their households. They were able to protest, raise their conciseness, protest beauty pageants and eventually hitch a ride on the civil rights legislation because of the backbreaking, low paying work their “help” did.

  • Bronze

    “Jessica Valenti tweeted: “I long for the day when powerful women don’t need to assure Americans that they’re moms above all else.”

    If re-elected, I feel Mrs. Obama will be able to excel…Oh wait. My God what must the woman do? She put obesity on the map, changed the antiquated food pyramid to reflect a modern understanding of food nutrition, all while looking J.Crew, Jason Wu Vogue Cover ready.

    She has to assure ignorant Americans that she a mom. They can’t accept that she is a lawyer, can stand on her own and more than able to fly to Mars with NASA–well Russia now–if she wanted.

    Feminist know this…I guess they are just bored and too lazy to fight the sex/slave trade going on right now.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you! I listened to that Double X Gabfest discussion and was really bothered by the tone. To me, the First Lady’s professional career was inherent to her story. Black women have always had to work. We already knew that.

  • Jennifer

    less than feminine…or uppity!

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    By all means, make your presence heard if you’re inclined to do so. As for me, I refuse to join forces with any movement led by a bunch of selfish white women with screwy priorities.

  • http://BeyondBlackWhite.com/ Jamila

    Good article.

    Several months ago when Mitt Romney was talking about how when he was governor of MA he signed a law saying that poor mothers with babies as young as 2 needed to be made to work to receive their benefits (so that they could learn the value of ‘real work’) while lauding his own white, stay-at-home wife for staying at home with their 5 kids (and never having had a paying job in her life) and claiming her job was more difficult than his…well, it just rubbed me the wrong way. A white, well-off woman who stays home with her kids is working, but a poor brown woman who wants to stay home with her kids needs to get a job so that she can learn the value of work.

    The mothering of white and/or upper-class women who ELECT to stay home is celebrated. But, for business men like Mitt and others who are more concerned with maintaining a caste of low wage labors to do the grunt work that keeps the entire system, poor women (and really, poor people in general) are seen as better fit to perform low wage labor for little benefit (no health insurance, lack of job security).

  • libpatriot

    Thank you for the concise analysis. Excellent

  • African Mami

    LOOL @screwy priorities! <——- * mmmmh!!

  • http://gravatar.com/theoverreactionary Liz

    Fantastic article. I’m really grateful that you wrote it and better off having read it.

  • Francesca Milliken

    Thank you for this article, but I guess I read the complaints about the “mom-in-chief” quote differently. As I see the issue, women are not complaining because Michelle Obama identifies herself as she does. The disappointment lies in the sense that women can *only* identify in the way that Obama did. Certainly female politicians can and should be able to identify themselves as dedicated parents and spouses, but these should not be prerequisites. Many male politicians would have been out of luck had these same standards been applied to them (e.g. JFK, MLK, Mandela, or Clinton). Women from different groups should not be lumped together as having the same experiences or expectations, but if a woman’s political success–regardless of her background–depends on her ability to fit within the narrowly defined parameters of a mostly white, male government, then I think it is fair for a woman from any group to feel restricted by the double standards that continue to exist.

  • Mel

    Thank you for this. I had not considered the historical context before groaning at the mom-in-chief role. I am wiser now.

  • Andi

    There is some mystery at times surrounding what she is sharing. There was the amazing precise strategy she planned when he was running the first time, she knew exactly what states had to be won and it wasnt just the obvious New Hampshire, way before the campaign began she had it mapped out like a puzzle. Pundits knew about it and considered it genious and stealth like most things about her, but I only heard about it 1 or 2 times buried in other topics. We didn’t hear about it much cause it didn’t go with the painting. I’m not saying she doesn’t really care about fitness, gardning, and ultimately motherhood it just seems there is a waaay more about her that is closed off from the public. We shouldn’t assume the reason(s) we need to find out the reasons this is happening now at this time right here.

    Honestly I don’t want to hear about her bicep pride anymore, and her daughters are lovely but many poor or middle average kids are amazing. The black parents I know work at raising good kids, and making sure its known always. Facebook is full of kids pictures and funny quotes. I know she loves her husband and wants us to feel he is a good man, but this is an incumbent election and everything matters right now.

  • ChillyRoad

    But that isn’t true. These feminist were largely students and academics not housewives in suburbia.

  • ChillyRoad

    “If re-elected, I feel Mrs. Obama will be able to excel…”

    Was that a Freudian slip? Mrs. Obama has never run for public office.

  • ChillyRoad

    I think Mrs. Mitt Romney had the good sense to marry someone with lots of money that could afford her that lifestyle and didn’t pull on the public strings to finance her stay-at-home status.

    Someone has to perform low wage jobs. If you decide to go down that career route DO NOT, have a massive family you can’t afford or at least be a two income home.

  • Rue

    First off this is a thought provoking article and i like how you backed up your idea. However, I don’t think it is all about her blackness. While the “mom-in-chief” nurterer role may seem new and fresh, black women were for years stereotyped as mamies and aunt jemimas as well. While I loathe most and want to give white feminists a kick in the non-existent balls, I too hate the ol’ stand-by-my-man-i’m-just-a-mommy role that political wives have to play. I mean: I HATE IT! Maybe it is my Frenchness, but I long for the day when only the spouse running for office, or the one that is politically relevant actually be relevant. And I hate to see them domesticized and waxing poetic about my husband is….my kids are…Which is why, for now, I like Valerie Trierweiller. Not as much as Michelle, but kinda. When asked to elaborate on her difficult childhood she said “I am not you Cinderella.” If my husband were ever to take up Public Office I think that would be my response too-”I am not yourJune Cleaver.”

  • Rue

    And before my throat is jumped into notice I said it is not ALL about her blackness. I agree with the parts that white women and black women have completely different roads to trod. i can say thet I don’t remember ever being discriminated against for my vagina (or if i did it was muy insignificant) but I can tell many a tale when i got funny treatment, presumably because i am black.

  • http://BeyondBlackWhite.com/ Jamila

    Poor women have about the same number of children as middle- and upper-class woman, which is to say that they normally have 1-2 kids. So before it gets started, lets snuff the “poor women are just having too many babies argument” out before it blows up and gains any traction in this thread.

    Furthermore, there once was a time when a person could work a minimum wage job, full-time, and be able to support themselves, a spouse, and one or two kids. But since about the ’70′s, due to increasing inequality in society as whole, fewer people in unions, and stagnant wage growth, poor people cannot support themselves as easily as they once did–and this is not their fault. The same amount of work just does not pay what it used to. So should poor people just not be allowed to have kids, to start a family, to DO ANYTHING that the rest of us do?

    Or, should we restructure our society to take better care of the people who have to work jobs at the lower rungs of the career ladder–because remember: SOMEBODY has to do these jobs–instead of acting as if these people are simply lazy or shouldn’t be able to have a family?

    I’m going to go with the latter option. Society needs to change. The exploitation of poor people as low wage laborers who make life comfortable for all of us (meanwhile, they get derided as being lazy or lacking personal responsibility for doing the jobs we need them to do) needs to stop.

  • Katie

    I agree with much of what this article is saying, specifically about the different histories of white and black women, but I feel as if the comments of other bloggers/writers are being taken differently than they are meant. I honestly don’t think Michelle’s race is at all why people were put off by the “Mom-in-chief” comment. That comment would have been disturbing coming from any political wife, no matter the race. The issue with the comment is how it makes Michelle’s many other accomplishments less important and makes it seem as if her most important place is in the home, which seems to be an overarching theme of many of the GOPs policies. I don’t think anyone was questioning whether the first lady’s race prevents her from being a great mother; I think everyone believes she is one. I agree it’s important to take history into account, and in the current political climate, with women’s rights suddenly at risk again, spotlighting her role as a mother seemed out of place.

    This got a little rambling: Mainly, I think the first lady is great and she does a great job. It never occurred to me to question her abilities to mother, and so when she named that as her key duty, I was taken aback.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Bingo! But sadly most will never acknowledge it because as long as they feel that they remain on the pedestal or are the default woman for womanhood, motherhood and sisterhood then they have no reason to see other women’s plight. Sure women face common hardships but we will never have mirror experience as them. It may sound harsh but it’s the truth.

  • ChillyRoad

    Jamila

    If you have a low wage job, perhaps one child is one child too many. This can be alleviated by having a second income in the home.

  • Danielle

    You make a good point, but I think the larger critique the article is making is that feminism can often be blind to the impact of race (as well as sexuality, able-bodiedness, class, etc.) on women. The ostensibly universal “woman” is a false idea that, when examined closely, is not neutral nor universal, but rather tends to be white, middle-class, straight, and able-bodied. The experiences of women can be drastically different than this “norm” would make it seem, and the article uses white feminists immediate horror at Michelle Obama’s “mom-in-chief” to illustrate that point: if feminism is truly going to support and advocate for women, it must be inclusive of and sensitive to the variety of female experiences being lived. Why have feminism if it’s only interested in white, middle-class, able-bodied women?

  • http://www.whattamisaid.com Tami (Writer)

    Thanks for your response, @katie.

    I agree that the writers I mentioned were not questioning Michelle Obama’s abilities as a mother. Nor were they taking Michelle Obama’s race into account. That is the problem. One cannot properly evaluate Michelle Obama’s actions without taking both her gender AND race into account.

    Spotlighting her role as a mother may seem out of place to you, but, for instance, consider how the GOP demonizes mothers of color in unique ways, especially poor mothers. When they allude to “welfare queens,” they aren’t talking about white mothers, but black ones. When they demean young black men like Trayvon Martin as “thugs,” they lay that at the feet of black mothers. Consider how powerful it is for a black mother to see herself in the First Lady for the first time.

  • Becca

    This is an excellently written article (I found it thanks to Jessica Valenti, who posted it on her facebook. I really appreciate that she acknowledges she may have been in fault and encourages others to learn) and addresses something that I feel hasn’t been talked about much yet in feminist circles. I think that a lot (of course not all) of the discussion surrounding how black women didn’t have the luxury to stay-at-home in the past is also applicable to women of any color in the lower classes of society. I know that in my family the women have had to work as long as anyone remembers. Regardless of anything else though Michelle Obama is a great role model for young women everywhere.

  • http://www.whattamisaid.com Tami (Writer)

    Thanks for your comment, @Becca.

    I absolutely agree with you about poor and working class women of all races. Intersectionality is easy to forget, but so crucial in discussions like this.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    This is one of the best articles that clutch has had: very balanced and logical, and when I first read it I agreed; however, on a second read, I actually don’t agree with it for a couple of reasons.

    1)The thesis seems to be that the very fact that Michelle Obama has “decided” to be at home is revolutionary for Black women in general, because Black women have never had the economic option in the past. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of Black women STILL don’t have the option. What would be truly revolutionary is if large segments of the population did

    There’s no statistical way you could slice it to make the case that we do. Also, Michelle Obama is not really a housewife or SAHM: she has a staff that is probably responsible for a very large part of raising her kids and “running” her household. I can’t believe any of us believes that Michelle Obama is largely responsible for the running of the White House.

    2) Which brings me to my second problem: the author is assuming that Michelle Obama’s statements are her own, crafted by her, and fully reflective of her opinions. In modern politics I’d say this is truly impossible.

    There are consultants and politicos who tell first ladies how to dress, how to wear their hair, how to walk, how to stare, and most importantly, what to say — it is deliberate and sometimes they actually RESEARCH how people perceive things. IMO, they need Michelle Obama to emphasize supposed femininity and vulnerability because of the white supremacist smears that have completely distorted her public image. Also, the idea that Black woman have not been hit with the “selfless giver”/martyr identity simply isn’t true — I’d go so far as to say that Black women have been made even MORE invisible non-entities to obligations of family and Black men than White women because there are quite literally no other domains over which we have any influence or representation.

    3). My third problem: the issues and triumphs that Michelle Obama faced as a working Black woman are more statistically significant than the fact that she is ostensibly a SAHM (although she really isn’t). The most dramatic differences between White and Black women is the fact that Black women are almost always placed in positions where we will have to struggle to get access to institutions (university, work, etc) where we have no visibility or support and where we are NOT easily welcomed; we are not economically supported by men or families and they may actually earn less than we do as we become upwardly mobile; and then, we are often the breadwinners or only parents of our families or completely reliant on our own ability to earn a wage for the rest of our lives. IMO, these are the most significant issues facing Black women and it makes our lives and issues dramatically different from White women. Further, these issues are never dealt with from our perspective in the media or respected or even understood by the larger society.

    So, why wasn’t that in Michelle Obama’s speech, when it’s really the most “revolutionary” issue facing Black women? Because consultants and managers in Obama’s campaign — or any campaign — would never, EVER allow her to air these issues from the perspective of a Black woman in order to give greater visibility to our issues: they know they are trying to cater to “mainstream” (White) voters.

    Essentially, the White feminists are right.

  • http://Www.Tamarawinfreyharris.com TamI (Writer)

    Thanks for your comments.

    A couple things:

    - I am not saying that it is revolutionary that Obama chose to be a SAHM. Indeed, I agree that she isn’t one in any traditional sense. It IS revolutionary for a black woman to be revered on the national stage as a dedicated and caring mother. That is a rarity, as is having a black family so appreciated in the public eye.

    - No doubt there are a team of people working on Pres. Obama’s campaign. But it has been widely reported that Michelle Obama wrote this speech. That was a big part of the praise she received for it.

  • http://Www.Tamarawinfreyharris.com Tami (Writer)

    One other thing: Again, I agree about the unique challenges black women face in gaining education and how we can lack the options of our white counterparts. But, in her speech, Michelle Obama was sharing her truth and her story. And I think she did talk about her challenges and those of her family, which is illustrative of many black women’s experience. (Not all, of course.)

  • http://raisahabersham.wordpress.com Child, Please

    Her “mom-in-chief” statement bothered me not for the reasons in this article (though I don’t agree with most of it), but because it’s become a cliched term and is something I liken to a hackneyed plot on a television show. It’s over use belittled her speech and didn’t bring home what the essence of the speech is about and makes me wonder if she even meant it (the phrasing). It’s also unfortunate that I expected it to happen (hence it reminding me of overused lines and scenes in movies or TV).

    While I get that the author was highlighting the notion that someone like Michelle Obama (or any black woman) can be a mom without living up to stereotypical feminist standards, it’s worth mentioning that before Mrs. Obama, Hillary Clinton was often thrown under the bus for not being the stereotypical stay-at-home mom and she received it waaaaay worst than Michelle (which I don’t think received as much criticism as those commenting think. I’m not saying she doesn’t get criticized, but this particular area isn’t one most highlight to belittle her).

    That said, feminists come in all forms. The ones supposedly critiquing Mrs. Obama aren’t necessarily denying that she can’t be a black mother, but rather saying that in a day in age where we’re often told we are bad mothers if we choose to work instead of staying at home, showing how she balances the second shift (or rather redefines) alongside her husband would have allowed her to appeal to two of the most talked about types of feminists.

    As someone who’s heard enough about her duties as a wife, a mom, her arms, her physique, her hair, her clothes, and everything that doesn’t involve her brain, it would have been refreshing to hear more about her (though admittedly her speech wasn’t supposed to be about her; her ending just made it seem like it was) accomplishments she made using her noggin.

    I do have to wonder: would we be having this conversation had say this were Herman Cain’s wife and he were president (allegations aside)? Michelle Obama fits the ideal of what’s expected to be perfect in a society where we’re Keeping Up with The Kardashians, trying to “pat our weave,” be America’s Next Top Model all while having Good Hair, befriend botox and butt injections and be – as Pink put it – effing perfect. It makes me wonder how many would focus on her intellectual thought as opposed to look if she looked like say Gabourey Sidibe (who catches all kind of hell for her looks regardless of the few that may genuinely care about her health.) It also makes me wonder what percentages of articles actually focus on her intelligence and those that focus on her looks.

  • http://gravatar.com/lellep007 LelleP

    It’s hard to agree with you, because several of the issues you raise were not central to, or even tangentially, the point of her speech.  At the DNC, her role is to, clearly, be of support to her husband, however the brilliance of Michelle Obama is that, unlike the Ann Romneys of the world, she can humanize and advocate for her husband, a black man, in ways that resonate with all Americans– who are not all black, or white, but varied in race and experiences that keep us Americans all the same. 

    She is not now, nor has she ever been a stay at home mom. It would be nonsensical to think that on the biggest stage and roles in both of the Obama’s careers that she would deign to become one.  It is evident that as the ultimate working parents they still rear their children, and in bringing her mother, Mrs. Robinson, to the White House, it shows that the care of the Obama children is not something to be outsourced.

    Michelle Obama is an iconoclastic First Lady, who possesses style, substance, as well as a serious professional pedigree. She is supremely stylish and intelligent and its unfortunate that you think she would abandon those attributes as First Lady– clearly she dresses and speaks for herself (but not in ways that detract from what the president is trying to do). As they are all publicly documented, she does not have to tout her accomplishments ad nauseum, because she is not the president– her HUSBAND is. She has masterfully selected a platform of addressing childhood obesity and care of military families in a way that enhance what her husband, the president, is trying to do for the nation overall.  Their relationship is truly a partnership, where I don’t believe she subsumes her talents, but uses them to their collective advantage. In contrast to her predecessors, she isn’t just a pretty face to sit behind the podium while her husband makes a speech, she is on the ground putting his words in action in ways only a wife and mother can–supportive, substantive, and unpolarized along party lines.

    I greatly admire the First Lady, and love that, as an African American woman, she can completely deflect criticism and upend stereotypes with class, eloquence and grace.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    I do agree that we need the visibility of Michelle Obama, including in the role of mother, because of the impact of the invisibility of Black people who are fully human: there are deluges of dehumanizing images, ideas, vitriol, writing… We could go on and on…

    Again, this was a brilliant article primarily because it did expose a colossal rift between the lived experiences of Black and White women…

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    While I still don’t like the mommy in chief emphasis, I was telling people that this is a rare instance where I felt that the appearance of the First Lady was needed (although I think their role should be irrelevant, in my opinion) because of the incredible vehemence of the White Supremacist onslaught against Obama. It has been so extreme these 4 years that I’m wondering if the significance of that onslaught will be the most important impact of his presidency (essentially,we are learning that White supremacy in America may be the most pathological and relentless in the world).

    I was watching James Baldwin, the other day, and one of the significant points he addressed was that Whites have been so steeped in racism they essentially do not “see” Black people — I’d go so far as to say that we may not even be fully human, from their perspective. The right wing have escalated a deliberate campaign to dehumanize Obama and use him as a living symbol of threatening, corrupting Blackness.

    It’s possible that the convention polling bump had to do with Whites humanizing him in speeches, but also Michelle Obama doing the same. I’m glad it was effective but depressed that White Supremacy is so powerful in this country that a Black person can be completely dehumanized and villified by Whites and suffer all the consequences, and need actual help in getting the good graces of White people.

  • Tristen Warner

    What kills me is yet again all the concern about being “More than a mom”. Yes she has an amazing career, she is extremely smart, talented, advanced in her career. The first lady has fought through alot of adversity to be were she is. It drives me crazy though when people have to take apart a speech and focus on the “mom first and fore most” as a mom myself that will always be number 1. Regardless of my career, my relationship, or what designer I wear.
    I dont see being a parent as secondary, raising intelligent, creative, happy kids is important.
    Our first Lady is intelligent, and accomplished, an amazing mom. I see her accomplishments marked on her and dont need people to reiterate what she has done non stop. I never look at her and assume that she is “Just some important guys wife”.

  • paul

    Right

    so after googling for tips on how two stop the gag reflex, taking some insulin suppression tablets, putting on my tin foil hat, my anti bull s hit ray sunglasses and a biohazard suit –

    I watched the speeches by both “first lady” contenders.

    Now let’s go over the differences between the two.

    They say Michelle Obama is the black one right?

    smirks

  • SpunkyBug

    I found this article very interesting and enlightening, and the comments have also been eye-opening. However, I am saddened by the number of comments that generalize about white feminists. I wonder how anyone could speak for all or most people of any group. I have worked in the feminist movement for almost two decades, and I have to strongly disagree that we are all selfish and stubbornly narrow-minded.

    I think it’s common for human beings, at least initially, to have a hard time identifying with people outside their immediate circle of reference. But we humans also have tremendous capacity for empathy and understanding — when we set our minds to it. I have found feminists of all races to be more open-minded than your average person. I have known many women who have set a strong example for my own behavior by being willing to challenge their own thinking and that of their sisters, to look at something a new way and to adjust their thinking upon learning about others’ experiences.

    I think it is entirely possible to talk about how far we still have to go in achieving equal rights for all and to be rigorous with ourselves without passing down blanket condemnations of entire groups of potential allies.

  • Tristen Warner

    My comment is more irritation about the constant feminist push to always have to be “More” which implies that others arent enough. Our first lady is a real inspiration for many reasons any one reason is enough to inspire, together she is a powerhouse. As women whatever color we are constantly face judgement from others, men and women.
    Saying you are a mom first and fore most shouldn’t be a item to attack. Its truth. Our careers are important and part of us, worthwhile and amazing, but they are nothing compared to the children we raise.

  • Margaret

    You make an interesting observation about Hillary taking WAY mor heat than Michelle for her work outside the home. However, It may be important to note that Hillary took up some lofty causes, and was essentially getting her feet wet in serious political issues. Basically- she was playing in the Man’s world. Michelle Obama has taken up some wonderful, important, and complimentary issues that work well with her husband’s platform, but they are still “feminine” things, like taking care of the soldiers (nurture!) and getting America’s kids and families healthier (mommy/family nutritionist-in-chief!”).

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  • http://community.feministing.com/2012/09/05/where-is-feminism-in-the-democratic-family/ feministsmithie

    The crucial mistake I believe Tami Winfrey Harris makes is to premise her criticism of white feminists on a false choice. Michelle Obama had more choices than between presenting herself as a the traditional, dutiful, devoted mom (stereotype of white women to which black women are supposed to aspire?) or the welfare queen stereotype.

    The alternative I, and I imagine the white feminists to whom she refers, wished to see was an intelligent, progressive, successful individual. Yes, she’s a woman, and black, and a wife, and a mother, but why should those identities define her?

    A speech portraying Michelle Obama in such a light would have constituted a far more meaningful challenge to (intersectional) bias, allowing her to be an impressive person rather than an imitation of last century’s white female stereotypes.

  • Katie

    Your response here really demonstrated your point to me. I think the main difference we see in the first lady’s remark was that I viewed it as a sort of rebuttal to Ann Romney and the GOP convention the week before. Whereas you, and many other members of the black community took it as an example of why she is a great role model. I certainly hope it was what you see it as, because that would be better for everyone.

    Thanks for the different perspective.

  • SS25

    So Michelle Obama isn’t an intelligent, progressive, and successful women? The answer is she’s all of those plus a wife, mother, and a proud black woman. White women are intimidated by women like the First Lady. She’s intelligent, well-spoken, yet down-to-earth and that kills them deep inside.

  • http://community.feministing.com/2012/09/05/where-is-feminism-in-the-democratic-family/ feministsmithie

    I believe that Michelle Obama *is* intelligent and successful, and I hope that she is progressive as well, which is why it is so sad that the woman we saw come through in the speech was defined solely by her motherhood and marital status. The speech did not do her credit.

  • SS25

    We obviously weren’t looking at the same speech. I saw a powerful, educated, women. White women has solely defined her, black women know the difference

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  • paul

    Sheesh

    I just long for the day when BUFFER CLASS black women (as distinct from middle class, which is a seat in the hierachical order reserved for white women) are elbowed out of the dialogue on social issues by working women whose struggles are lived; not just talking points that can be misappropriated to give political gravitas to petty concerns.

    A plethora of SERIOUS issues were mentioned in the article but none as a discussion in its own right; merely as a hook to get the real message out – that BUFFER CLASS black women were delighted to see -

    “an African American woman publicly celebrated in ways that we commonly are not”.

    That’s all the BUFFIES care about -

    looking good in front of white people and not being mistaken for those “other types” of black women.

    smh

  • Eliza

    White women in general don’t understand nor do they care about the lives of black women.

    This is so damaging. Please think about what you put out into the world. How is this helping? As a white woman, I may not understand the life of a black woman–just as a black woman may not have any understanding of mine. But please don’t say white women don’t CARE about the lives of black women. That’s not true in the least and victimization has no place here. Let’s work together–as women–and take care of one another–as women. We are all in this together and pointing fingers is not the way out of this.

  • Eliza

    “Brainwashed minds”? How hurtful. How untrue. As a white woman I am careful to mince my words about race, and I can’t afford to make sweeping and biting generalizations like these. Won’t you please extend me the same courtesy?

    Also, in reference to this piece: “These things are revolutionary for black women, even if some white women see business as usual.”

    What woman, regardless of race, sees Obama’s place in the White House as ‘business as usual’? For the first time since I can remember, I feel proud of our first family: They’re loving, smart, relatable. I admire Michelle Obama immensely, and I think she’s doing an incredible thing for women of all races just by putting her image out into the world–an image of an intellectual woman, a funny, smart, warm human being who’s first priority at the moment happens to be her family. That IS revolutionary, for white women too. How many white women have publically claimed motherhood and in turn sacrificed intelligence, strength or drive?

    It’s not every day you see strength, warmth and intellect attributed to white women in the public–especially political–sphere. This is new. This is awesome. Let’s embrace it, together as women, and push it forward.

  • http://community.feministing.com/2012/09/05/where-is-feminism-in-the-democratic-family/ feministsmithie

    Womanists have long critiqued (second wave) feminism for excluding men on the grounds that men neither care about nor can understand women’s experience. Your comments are thus a bit ironic.

  • Eliza

    “But sadly most will never acknowledge it because as long as they feel that they remain on the pedestal or are the default woman for womanhood, motherhood and sisterhood then they have no reason to see other women’s plight.”

    This is so very untrue. I think that if you took the time to speak to a white woman you would understand that we’re not demons. Comments like these really underscore the need for conversation. Conversation about race BETWEEN races. That has got to be the way out of this. I’m so sorry that this is how you feel, Binks, and I hope that one day you meet a white woman who challenges this opinion, who allows you to understand that we’re human beings, too, and that we want to help ease the pain of every woman, regardless of ethinicity. At least I do.

    E, a white woman.

  • E

    Yes, totally. Thank you for sharing that, Katie.

  • Greenfairy

    Exactly. Thank you.

  • Green Fairy

    White women are intimidated by women like the First Lady.

    Excuse me? I am in AWE of the First Lady. I am drowning in admiration for her and I proud as hell that a couple that has it so together is at the helm of this country. Don’t speak for me. I wouldn’t dream of doing that to you.

  • E

    Hillary Clinton is not my ideal.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    The fact that Michelle Obama really didn’t give voice to the lived experiences of large swathes of Black America is what made the speech status quo: if she, the most politically visible Black woman in America, cannot address the issues facing Black women, when will those issues ever be discussed? IMO, it will happen when we admit who we are and the dilemmas facing us, rather than assuming a mask of White, middle-class ideas that do not apply or serve us. Yes, we need to stop worshiping the (White) SAHM as the penultimate expression of femininity.

    Part of capitalist hegemony is lulling people to sleep in false consciousness, when people think something revolutionary has happened even though few are affected in any real ways (Egs: Obama’s election= post-racial America). Then, Black women are effectively silenced and made invisible in myriad ways, particularly by cliches and slogan use like “mom-in-chief” which obscure reality.

    If we want to address reality, look at the poverty stats that were recently released. How can anyone suggest that Black women have made the move to SAHMhood in significant numbers when the median income of Blacks is near $32,000 and quarter of Blacks live in poverty (the median income of “mainstream” America is around $52000)? In reality, can those figures support SAHMs?

  • JuTu

    Thanks for this great article! There is some really poignant insight. I agree with most, but disagree with some. I do believe that Michelle Obama’s “embrace” of motherhood serves to combat stereotypes about black women generally held by the American public – something I wish we could see a lot more often. On the other hand, I also believe that a “mother” is much more acceptable to Americans today (regardless of race) than a “career pusher”. I think Mrs. Obama would have a much more difficult time being accepted and well-favored by the general public if she pushed a more “unfeminine” agenda, and was more vocal about her career, academics and accomplishments. Her image as doting mother with Jacky O style has been carefully cultivated by political advisers who want to make sure that the Obamas remain popular. And it’s worked! If people have a beef with Mr. Obama, very few have negative things to say about Mrs. Obama. But the fact is, we have elections coming up. Today in America, being a “mom” is a vote winner.. career women aren’t as popular (unfortunately… they should be equal!). And while I’d like to think that this was Mrs. Obama’s calculated effort to combat gendered and racist stereotypes, I just don’t have that much faith in American politics. Even if she wanted to… the system is set up in such a way that it would be difficult for her to do. But like I said… regardless of the reasoning behind her image, I DO think that it IS making changes in the way Americans think of black women (and hopefully wider minority women as well). And as a side note, I quite liked her “mom-in-chief” line.. it was definitely political, but I feel like many parents feel the same way, whether they are the head of the World Bank or a SAHM.

  • SS25

    We are not all in this together. Don’t be naive. A white girl goes missing its on every channel, a black child barely any coverage at all. No one’s playing the victim I’m telling the truth and you can’t handle it.

  • paul

    @Collette

    Thanks for homing in on the reasons some of us object to this fluff.

    “Part of capitalist hegemony is lulling people to sleep in false consciousness, when people think something revolutionary has happened even though few are affected in any real ways (Egs: Obama’s election= post-racial America).”

    Then, Black women are effectively silenced and made invisible in myriad ways, particularly by cliches and slogan use like “mom-in-chief” which obscure reality.

    If we want to address reality, look at the poverty stats that were recently released.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/wilda.faye Wilda Faye

    There should be no wars at all, Michelle Obama is what the feminist movement worked so hard to achieve. She is the fruit of her parents’ and ancestors’ struggles and sacrifices. Mrs. Obama’s upbringing was much the same as many 40 somethings, especially blacks; listen to and respect your elders, study hard in school and service (church, community and family, etc), and that’s what Michelle represents. The feminist fight was to fight for the rights and equality for all women in all genres of life and that includes the choice to work, or not and be a mom at home or not. She has made her parents proud, earned her credentials, worked outside of the home, married (to the President, at that) and has her kids, and Bo. It behooves me to find where there is room for any one, especially feminist white women to spew negatives on her achievements. Michelle Obama is best example of a role model for any child, girl or boy, besides their parents.

  • http://gravatar.com/whattamisaid Tami (Clutch Contributor)

    Eliza,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I want to clarify. It is not that anyone sees Michelle Obama as First Lady as business as usual. It is the idea of a First Lady standing on a public platform talking about motherhood that some see as business as usual. And I understand why they do, because a lot of women have struggled to have their roles outside of motherhood taken seriously. My point is that white and black women have different experiences in THIS area.

  • Eliza

    You’re right, there is a bias in the media. It’s something my mother and my sisters and I talk about quite often. We live in Chicago, which I’m sure you’ve heard is quickly becoming the murder capital of the world. Every Monday morning we listen to reports of how many dozens of people were hurt by gun violence over the weekend. It’s heartbreaking, absolutely. And it’s a wonder, too, that there isn’t more media attention devoted to those individuals and their families. In relation to the warzone that’s become of Chicago, we talk often about the media uproar that resulted from a 12-year-old girl being shot in the suburbs. It’s senseless, all of it, and it’s frustrating, too, that we don’t hear more about the lives lost daily on the south side.

    I think the conversation we’re having here is really important, and I’m glad we’re having it. I think honest dialogue is the only way to even attempt to reach understanding.

    But please know that you are not speaking *my* truth. I’m a white woman, and I try my best to understand and be open and truthful. And I do care, like millions of other women just like me. What’s naive about that?

    We *are* in this together, and I hope some day that makes sense to you.

    Take care,
    E

  • E

    “I think it is entirely possible to talk about how far we still have to go in achieving equal rights for all and to be rigorous with ourselves without passing down blanket condemnations of entire groups of potential allies.”

    This is SUCH an important point, and one I am so grateful to you for making. Thank you.

  • Green Fairy

    One group of women = one shared experience. Got it.

    What the…?

  • Green Fairy

    “The mothering of white and/or upper-class women who ELECT to stay home is celebrated.”

    No, actually it’s not. And it’s a shame because any parent who stays at home and raises his or her kids should be celebrated because it’s an intensely difficult job to hold. But the sad fact is, very little people respect a ‘soccer mom.’ White women who stay at home are often bashed for being a number of things, many of them having to do with laziness, brainlessness, etc.

  • Nehemiah53

    Why do or should Michella and black women care what stupid, jealous white radical feminist think?

  • http://community.feministing.com/2012/09/05/where-is-feminism-in-the-democratic-family/ feministsmithie

    My impression is that Michelle Obama cares quite deeply about what voters think.

  • Nehemiah53

    well said!

  • http://community.feministing.com/2012/09/05/where-is-feminism-in-the-democratic-family/ feministsmithie

    Michelle Obama probably cares quite deeply about what voters think.

  • Nehemiah53

    You are right it’s about time black women see that white feminist don’t care about them or there families.

  • http://twitter.com/Cognorati001 Colette Marcheline (@Cognorati001)

    I’m sorry, but the fact that what we’re saying may make you feel anxious or alienated does not change the truth of it: no, we are not in “this” together. We do not have the same challenges or struggles as mine are doubled and tripled by race.

    Secondly, minorities are FORCED to understand every dimension of the lives of White people, because there is a complete and utter hegemony in every aspect of American life: everything we see, every way we have of perceiving, every structure is dominated by Whites and reflects their lived experiences. Essentially, Black women have a Phd in Whiteness, while we are invisible to White people.

    For instance, the fact that you would use a loaded term like “victimization” while silencing a consensus of Black women on a Black female website is demonstrative of how Whites perceive themselves as having the locus of control in every interaction.

    Again, no, we are not in this together. That is reality.

  • Nehemiah53

    Eliza please tell me what good is it to have your role outside of motherhood taken seriously when your children are filling up the prisons, dropping out of school at a alarming rates and your families even so call successful career women families are virtually dysfunctional, and as a book say by their fruit ye shall know them, maybe you are not taken seriously outside of motherhood is because you have not kept your house in order, the world see your fruit running amuck. Please help me?

  • http://mommybrown.com melanie

    I think if you are going to speak about children going to prison and dropping out of school, you meed to analyze those issues separately. No one has to go to prison or drop out of school. Those are choices that one makes. Not very good ones, but they are still choices nonetheless.

    I don’t know why she can not be seen as a strong woman, who also happens to be black. Assuming that people who are not black see it any other way is wrong.

    Everyones experience is different, even white woman do not have the same experience as another white woman.

    Feminists, which I do not consider myself to be, are always pushing their agenda and expect any woman in the public eye to follow along. They will take any opportunity such as this one to create drama for that very reason.

  • bk_betty

    I agree except for the last part. Since Hilary Clinton was FLOTUS, there has definitely been a large effort on the part of white (and some black) feminists to elevate the image of the intellectual and professional woman. Just think about it – do you hear a loud outcry from white feminists regarding Condi Rice? Not at all. Even though she represents many of the ideas that feminists completely oppose, she fulfills the role of the childless, asexual, professional woman who has broken certain “glass ceilings” and is now part of the boys’ club – literally. White feminists of the professional class are very interested in that, and Michelle Obama resists being categorized that way. I think there is some definite strategy to her emphasizing her identity as a mother. Michelle Obama was completely demonized when the Obama campaign picked up steam in ’08. She went on a campaign to “humanize” herself and portray a very specific image – one that is very palatable to the mainstream and difficult to attack precisely because it fits in with a false narrative of this country (one that erases racism and sexism, not to mention exploitation of black women’s labor on every level). Condi Rice never had to do that, because she never threatened the racial or gender hierarchy. Michelle Obama already threatens the racial order of things, via the President, there is no way in heck she is making herself more vulnerable. Finally, I just want to say, if anyone focuses on just the “mom” line of her speech, they missed a whole lot of subtle, but powerful, political maneuvering.

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  • Nehemiah53

    Wildia I can tell you are young however let me inform you that Michelle Obama and her husband is what the civil rights movement worked so hard to achieve not feminist, if not for black men and black women putting there life on the line you would have never seen a black first lady, if it was up to the feminist movement you would see only white first ladies and white females CEO’s, now lets don’t get things twisted and forget about black men and women who put it all on the line for black males and females when the white feminist didn’t care nothing about black females. It was white feminist who had our grandmothers on there knees scrubbing floors, raising there children, cooking their food and at the same time white feminist you give so much credit to didn’t give a thought about what happen to the black women and her family. You young sister who are looking for a cause need to go back and reeducate yourselves and stop championing the cause of your enemy..

  • beks

    @melanie give on example of this “Feminists, which I do not consider myself to be, are always pushing their agenda and expect any woman in the public eye to follow along.: anywhere…

  • beks

    historically, ‘feminists’ (who exactly are we talking about anyway) have worked closely with black men to achieve greater freedom (leaving out you know who). they struggles yes, and made mistakes but they were there. it’s actually inside of the history books, where the words are….

  • y

    Well, the feminist fight is for rights and equality for all women but seems mostly skewed towards white women, and their choice to work or not. As the author states, black women have always had to work. And for all the anti-feminist/ pro-stay at home mom people, it’s not ok for single black women of a lower socio-economic status to be stay-at-home moms. Where is their voice in this discussion? Seems like they never really had one, and that is how feminism failed them. (If they have to work, why don’t they have more support as far as child-care, work flexibility, etc? Why isn’t there more community support for single-mothers who have to work?)

    The truth is that the First Lady is extremely intelligent, and maybe if her life were not under microscopic criticism of the media, she would better serve the public as a successful professional person in her own right, not ‘mom-in-chief’. The First Lady ‘mission’ seems to be kind of watered-down activism and they’re always careful (especially since Hilary was vilified for her cause) not to offend anyone. If Michelle Obama were ‘allowed’ to act on the real, dire needs of the American and African-American public, no doubt that people would get offended and it might be reflected in the voting booths. The real issue, in my opinion, does have to do with how we view race and how that has affected the socio-economic class of minorities. The idea of institutional racism and how all Americans should acknowledge our violent history, how it is intertwined with African-American history, how that brings us to where we are today as far as racial incongruity and what we can do to grow as a nation.

  • Nehemiah53

    The example is in this article, feminist have problem with the first lady calling her self Mon In Chief, these feminist are to stupid and foolish to realize some very strong powerful professional women who are parents wisely put parenting before a title or career most smart professional women who have children actually love and enjoy parenting [as I did and I am a man] and put there roll as mother above all, that’s why I admire Michelle Obama and yes Sarah Palin because these two powerful women are not ashamed and value there role as mother above all. Women are females first before anyone give them a title, any person who let their title or career defined them is foolish because any title a man/women give you they can take it easily away.

  • Nehemiah53

    Look “Y” that’s where you are wrong and mis guided the first role is primary first and foremost mon in chief because she is a mother she owe her children first because they didn’t ask to come here so here duty as mother is and should come first. First Lady are not it would be foolish for Michelle to put her children on the back burner and go out and champion the cause of single black female, she is trying to show you how to be a strong women and keep your family together whether you like it or not however that’s not what you foolish women want to see, you want to see Michelle destroy her husband, herself and her family. Michelle Obama is not stupid and foolish as some of you are that’s why she is in the position she is in, she is smart strong and wise she have her husband and her children she kelp her family together if Michelle would listen to some of you all and destroy her family she would become like you’ll single black female, stop trying to make other happy and successful female miserable like some of you home wrecking females. It would be foolish for anyone male or female to go out and champion the cause of single parenthood male or female because it would promote weakling the society or civilization, marriage is the foundation of any strong civilization that’s why the white and Hispanic community is stronger than the black community today why because they have a much higher rate of two parent households. Only a stupid fool would want to promote some ideal they know to weakling there civilization.

  • y

    for clarification: under microscopic criticism *from* the media, not ‘of the media.’

  • y

    I don’t even know where to begin. Michelle Obama has her own identity aside from being a mom, just as every mother does. Being an example to her daughters, a successful woman in her own right and giving back to her community, would probably be a pretty powerful example also. I don’t think by doing that she would be destroying her family. I’m pretty sure that her husband would support her decision and that if she chose to be more than ‘mom-in-chief’ she would have people to help with her kids. Not to mention that her kids are in school most of the day, it’s not like she’s taking care of newborns or something. Children don’t have to be attached to their mothers 24/7 in order to be happy or to grow up as healthy adults. Sometimes you have to consider that women have more to contribute to society than just being a mother. And that society as a whole will benefit from women like Michelle Obama being in positions of power.

    Ok, so she’s setting an example. Well, great, but my example-learning days are long over. I learned as a child how loving parents interact. Also, learned how single-mothers are forced to become ‘strong’ women by becoming widows far too early. Luckily, when that happened I was old enough not to need daycare or anything. For my grandmother, being a widow in her mid-20′s with a baby, she had her mother and siblings to help out. So what about mothers without that kind of support system? They need help. Oh yeah, and wasn’t the President raised by a single-mom? He turned out ok.

    In no way would it benefit me if the First Family was torn apart, as you say I want. I plan on voting for Obama again in November. It would bring me absolutely zero satisfaction to see anything bad happen to any of them.

    Finally, please don’t make assumptions about me or whoever you think I am. I’ll tell you one thing, my marriage is successful because we have mutual respect for each other and we support one another equally.

  • http://fromthoughtsintowords.blogspot.com/ rkahendi

    Everyone has a right to an opinion shaped by their experiences, whether they are “buffies” (as you call them), or white, or anything else. Why should anybody elbow anybody else out? Why can’t people just establish their own niches, whatever they happen to be?

    I look forward to the day when people can celebrate one group of people’s right to a particular point of view without condemning every other group’s right to have a point of view.

  • Jordan

    I view Michelle Obama’s “mom in chief” quote in the context of what I understand to be a reluctance to enter public life. I found a really interesting article in an old New Yorker, which included profiles of young up and coming couples where she expressed that reluctance. She’s no dumby so I also can’t pretend she isn’t incredibly savvy about how she frames that reluctance. I was troubled when she first announced that she would focus on motherhood when Barack was elected. Overtime, I’ve come to see her vigilence for her family’s privacy as such a personal revolution that it defies categorization and comparison. She embodies a civil rights, feminist and quite frankly, American ideal of self determination and self definition.

  • Nehemiah53

    Y you must not be a parent because if you were you would know that being a parent mother or father is the most important part of your identity and you would know you can not be a success in life no matter what your position is in life and be lousy parent. Look Y Michelle know what some of you feminist sister don’t know or just want except that is when she birth her children into this world her first and most important job is to be the best mom to “her” children as she can because you only get one shot and if you fail the first time you don’t get another chance with that child you birth into this world. And just because some of you’ll are not happy and not fulfilled in your life don’t mean that Michelle is not happy with her life as mom in chief, don’t put that feminist crap on her, she is above that, she knows it gas and a fail social experiment but she just can’t say it and quite frankly radical feminist have made some of you sister very unbalance, stupid and self destructive, some of you have had good husband like Michelle and some you have destroyed your family thinking you can be superwomen and Xena. Michelle Obama is a very well balance, wise, strong and intelligent women who is happy in her own skin. And if you had read his book you would know the President was not raised by a single-mom he was raised primary by his mom and step father and after that he was raised by his grand mother and his grand father.

  • Nehemiah53

    Amen.

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  • http://aprilpj.wordpress.com aprilpj

    Great article that spoke directly to me and many of my counterparts. We are college educated, African-American women, married with children. I often feel like an outcast because of that. I had a career and CHOOSE to stay home. What a privilege! It seemsnasnthough society doesn’t want to see us in thus light.
    To hear Michelle Obama celebrate her role as “Mom-in-chief, warmed my heart and took nothing away from her intellect and success. African-American women do not have many examples of this. My mother was single and worked her BEHIND off to raise two daughters on her own, working fulltime as a nurse. I have seen us work our ass off, alone, discriminated against by EVERYONE! I thank Michelle Obama for helping create a new legacy, “choices”. We can choose to have the career, the education, the life we want; not dictated by anyone else any longer.
    i applaud this article. Thank you for representing THE TRUTH!!!!!!!

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  • Istahil Ibrahim

    Wonderful article. A lot White feminists really do need to get a clue.

  • Fran Hurst

    This was a great article. White women feminist must realize that their world and the Black woman’s world are very different as it has pertaines to choices. My mother couldn’t stay home with us she had to work and be mommie and chief (emphasis on had to). Which is the case in most minorty households. I am sure that there are a large number of Black women who wish they had the option of being a stay-at-home mom. Michelle Obama is a First Lady that all women can be impressed with. Educated, beautiful, stylish, and a great mom with a husband who loves and appreciates all her assets. Go Michelle!!!

  • Lisa M.

    We might do well to ignore the chatter coming from our paler sister friends. They are entitled to their opinions, but until they’ve walked a mile in our shoes, with the limitations and restrictions we continue to battle on a daily basis, all I’m hearing is noise.

  • http://gravatar.com/thisismyoyster Valsays

    This article opened my eyes, and dare I say changed my life. I am a 32 year old black feminist who went along with the chatter not really being able to make the connection.

  • Bestermor

    I am a 62-year-old white feminist. I absolutely love Michelle Obama. Her characterization of herself as “mom-in-chief” bugged me, because she is so much more than that. On the other hand, now that I have raised five children to adulthood and am grandma to eight (evenly divided between boys and girls), I can say that the work of being Mom was the most important thing of my live. And I didn’t always do it well. My parents were immigrants with an eighth-grade education. My mother was a hotel maid who worked her way up to head housekeeper. I was never rich or privileged; my sons’ father was abusive and not interested in supporting them in any way after the divorce. But because of that, I finished my education and now have a pretty darn comfortable life… and I like to think that I invested that self-determination in my children. I hope you can look at this issue from the standpoint of economic status rather than purely racial status and see that many of us old white broads share common ground with you.

  • Nehemiah53

    Sound like you were a mom in chief, no one is perfect, no one wrote a manual on parenting I admire your strength however our problem in the black family and community are deferent than whites, look at the news, we need strong dedicated mothers and father dedicated to parenting above all, we need less conflict between mother and father, males and females and more focus on parenting to solve our family and community problems so yes since mothers are the first teacher [males do not bring life into this world nature gave that power to females] women should and must not view motherhood as less than, society should hold motherhood in the highest esteem above all, career, titles etc. because mothers raise up great nation!

  • Nehemiah53

    Valsays these radical feminist that seem to have a problem with the first lady describing her self as mom in chief are very much mis guided, it’s gas and the first lady is in her own way trying to signal to you black women/mother not to view your role as mother as less than they don’t understand that she were not talking to them [white feminist], if white women have a problem with it that’s on them and they are showing there ignorance there family had a 400 years lead on black family in this country, our problem are deferent the first lady knows this and in her own way is trying to signal to you black women when you decide to bring life into this world [nature gave only females that power] above all take your role as mother serious and above all career, title etc. be proud of motherhood, she know time is limited she might not get another shoot to get her massage over to you black women/mother. Michelle Obama is the greatest first Lady ever she is what black women need at this time as a model of strong women, mother, wife and leader only if black women learn to be smart and read between the lines when she is talking and pickup on what she is saying only to you thru her action and what she is saying, I as a black man admire her above her husband and love her.

  • funka

    Though you share common ground on a class level you do not on a level of race both socially and systematically. It isn’t something that you need to be ashamed of but aware of and to understand that women of color from a background similar to your upbringing also must rise above, fight against and find support for the racism and oppression that still exist in this country. It is a very real thing and the best thing you can do is work to help stand with all women and understand their personal struggles in comparison to and outside of your own.

  • http://www.liorakphotography.com Liora

    I clicked report by accident – I meant to hit reply!! I’m so sorry.

    Thank you so much for this comment.

  • http://soulfulindustry.wordpress.com/ Soulfulindustry

    A day late and a dollar short but…..

    Your sentiment is nice, but you clearly have not read all the comments before your own. They would give you an idea where the criticisms of white feminism and general angst expressed in many comments come from.

    If you want to create a space of empathy and understanding start by listening. You are on a website that caters to black women…women of color from all over the world post here. This would be a great space for you to listen learn and understand where we come from. Do not interrupt, do not chastise, do not speak down to us for not embracing you, your values or ideals. This space was not created for you.

    Listen. Seek to understand what is important to others and where they are coming from. Listening is the basis of empathy and understanding. You cannot be an ally if you do not listen.

    Let me be completely honest with you. As a woman of color is it challenging to get down with white feminists because ya’ll don’t listen and you only seem to care about yourselves.

    Even from your comments you seem to care more about being accepted or approved than really understanding why women of color don’t really want to play with you.

    On the whole, from my experience, I’ve had all sorts of flowery talk from self proclaimed white feminists about how we are all down for the same struggle as sisters. But when the rubber met the road, these so called feminists did not care about me as a black woman. They did not care about my feelings, my stories, my experiences. They could not hear, create space for or process my blackness, never mind understand how it shaped my experience as a woman. Nor were they willing to support me in my own full expression or experience of woman hood. It always had to be within their constraints, boundaries and expectations. (Can you see the theme here?)

    If you really want to be an ally, you need to listen to Women of Color. Don’t chastise them for not seeing the world the way you do, or not accepting you. Don’t barge into their spaces and demand their attention, affection and kindness. That’s wildly arrogant and off putting. It’s not behavior suitable to being an ally. Being an ally means the community trusts you. If you really want to be an ally and earn that trust listen, learn and understand. It’s arrogant and not helpful to your cause to come here and lecture us for not embracing you with open arms.

  • felicia

    Michelle obama will be in the office for four more years. So this will be more inspiration and good things from her. Hate her you can move out of the country. I love Michelle and im glad you agree

  • Sharon M

    I was one of those who got it wrong about First Lady Michelle Obama.
    This is an excellent article and wake up call.

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