Smacking down Michelle

You know, I try not to be shy about using the word “patriarchy” around here even though I tend to be in real life. In real life, people hear you say “patriarchy” and what they think is “radical feminazi impervious to reason.” While I personally can’t muster a fly’s crap worth of caring what they think of me, I do hope to occasionally reach someone with my arguments, so I back off the big scary P word. When I think about how much I use it on the blog, I start to wonder if I throw it around too much. But dammit, when it’s the right word, I’m using it

Michelle Obama’s fame is providing dozens of lovely examples of the patriarchy in action.

Her speech at the DNC a couple nights ago unsurprisingly moved a lot of assholes to express their discomfort with the fact that she was using her mouth for something other than… maintaining close-lipped smiles to pretty up the place while she stands three steps behind and slightly to the left of her husband. (What? Where did you think I was going with that?) Normally what they’d do in a such a situation is to dismiss her speech as badly written and delivered, her arguments as poorly supported, and her ideas as trivial. A lot of people would look at these criticisms of women and be willing to shout down anyone who pointed out the misogyny by saying, “It’s not about her, it’s about her speech. And you have to admit there were certain weaknesses.” But Michelle Obama is fucking with the templates of their anti-woman form letters because no one can deny that she rocked the house. So all of a sudden it is about her. Her and her uppitiness.

Which is why you get articles like this one, wherein some dude makes some completely incoherent argument about why Michelle Obama needs to start wearing burlap sacks so he can be less intimidated by her and her all-around awesomeness. After trying to make some kind of “Ma’am, you’re no Jackie Kennedy”-type statement he doesn’t even bother trying to support, he critiques everything from how her dress “appeared to follow the curve of her buttocks rather than dropping at the curve” to her “pointy eyebrows, which give her countenance a stern expression.” Then this fuckneck has the audacity to say,

No one is suggesting that Michelle Obama change who she is.

No one is suggesting that she wear flats instead of heels to make insecure people feel less intimidated by her height (nearly 6 feet).

No one is saying she should look dowdy, matronly, or even conservative to accommodate tradition or to fit in with what Washington has come to expect from a president’s wife.


But the thing is, he must say it. He probably feels driven to say it without even really knowing why. He must say it because otherwise, some woman somewhere might think that it was OK to pick an outfit based on what she felt like wearing and what she felt good in, rather than what outfit properly accessorizes what her husband (who did not consult her on his wardrobe choices, natch) is wearing, and what provides the proper degree of titillation for any men who might happen to cross her path—enough to make them want to hit that without coming off slutty. (There is, for the record, no such thing. The patriarchy never lets you win, whether you play its game or not.) Women who have independent thoughts and openly don’t give a fuck whether doodz approve of those thoughts or not MUST BE STOPPED! They might give other women ideas.

This is also why you get articles like this one, passed along by helpful reader juldea, where random delegates talk about how happy they are that the tribute to Michelle and her speech focused so much on her family life instead of her, y’know, thoughts and ideas.

She allowed us to see her as a mother and as a wife, and not so strong-willed and independent.

“Uppity bitch,” this comment says, “the only thing I want your opinion on is which version of Tickle Me Elmo is the best value for my money.” And this is coming from a nominally progressive woman.

The patriarchy requires constant reinforcement. Whenever a woman steps out of line, someone must step in to deliver a smackdown and put her back in her place. Women are inculcated in the patriarchy too. Women can be policemen too.


6 Responses

  1. one of the reasons I read your blog is because your lack of fear of using the p word. please continue to use it without apology. and keep up the good work and good thinking.

  2. Thanks, liz! I am given courage by Twisty Faster‘s fearless use of the term. In my more cynical moments, I find it funny that the patriarchy has effectively outlawed its own name. If you don’t name it, ladies, it doesn’t exist! Go about your day, you’re not oppressed!

  3. I’m impressed that you have the stomach to read articles like like that post-gazette one. I take one look and feel ill.

  4. The Boston Brahmina: Cuttin’ through bullshit so you don’t have to!

    Seriously, though, it really, really made me want to punch things. I just wrote a ranty, ranty post instead. It’s how I deal.

  5. Way to call that shit out. I am planning to address this, this weekend but I needed some days to calm down to make my rant coherent. He is right about one thing, it isn’t about her, it is about their sexist, misogynistic, women hating selves. Michelle rocked the house and she continue to daily blow my mind.

  6. My father is a union organizer and, therefore, democrat. I don’t know which came first really, the union thing or the democrat thing, it’s like the chicken and the egg. Anyway, he’s extremely confident that no one will ever elect McCain and, at the same time, continually surprised that there are actual McCain supporters out there.

    I tell him it’s because if we have a black man for president then blacks might take over the country – and you know what happens next??? HISPANICS will take over the country and they’re already ahead of the game, speaking TWO languages and all. The good white folks are doomed.

    Anyway, I thought this sort of spoke to the patriarchy thing. People are scared and easily convinced if you use fear and threaten their livelihood. It’s easier to scare people than it is to educate them and let them think for themselves…

    I don’t know if that makes sense but: I agree with you and it makes me think of all the other things that are wrong and we almost never think about, never mind question.

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