Book Review: The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own, Veronica Chambers, ed. (2017)

Friday, January 13th, 2017

A bittersweet love letter to the outgoing FLOTUS.

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for discussions of racism and misogyny.)

Barack and Michelle Obama served this country for two terms as President and First Lady of the United States of America. Imagine that. America shaped in the image of a black man—with a black woman by his side. Even after eight years of watching them daily in the press, the fact that the most powerful man in the world is a Black man is still breathtaking to me. The fact that he goes home to a tight-knit, loving family headed by a Black woman is soul-stirring. That woman is Michelle. Michelle! That name now carries a whole world of meaning. And a whole world of memory. And a whole world of a magic.

(“Preface,” Ava Duvernay)

Thank you, Michelle, for showing a generation of women, including me and my daughter, what it means to dwell in possibility.

(“Acknowledgements,” Veronica Chambers)

For all of my adult life – the entire time I’ve been paying attention to politics, really – I’ve vastly preferred our president’s wives over their husbands: Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and now Michelle Obama. (The same will probably hold true of Melania, but it’s an impossibly low bar, okay.) No matter their political allegiances, the FLOTUSes (FLOTI?) tend to be a least a shade more progressive than their men, especially when it comes to “women’s issues” like reproductive freedom. Not that they’re allowed to voice these views: American prefers its First Ladies be seen, not heard, functioning as little more than their husbands’ appendages or cheerleaders. “Stepford Wives-in-Chief,” Tiffany Dufu puts it. Remember how viciously then-FLOTUS Hillary was shot down for daring to advance health care reform?

Michelle Obama is in a league of her own, though. Like many Americans, I was captivated with her from Day 1. I loved that she refused to play the role of the bland, devoted wife; a blank canvas onto which Americans/voters could project their versions of ideal femininity. She spoke of Barack like he was a regular guy, rather than an up-and-coming rockstar politician. Yet it was evident that these two crazy kids were deeply in love. She (and her family) was a lightning rod for every bit of racist and sexist excrement the right could throw at her, yet Michelle handled it with grace and finesse. We watched as Lady O. – and her style – evolved from first to second term; she went from high-power lawyer to high-fashion mom, as described by Tanisha C. Ford (“She Slays”). She had fun, was comfortable in her skin, and was perfectly imperfect.

(More below the fold…)

Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 3

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’ve been feeling kind of crappy since Friday, so I all I have to offer is this link roundup. Happy reading…or not.
 


 
Kelly Garbato @ Animal Rights @ Change.org: Egypt’s Pigs: Beaten, Stoned, and Burned Alive (Part 1) and Religious Discrimination and the Killing of Egypt’s Pigs (Part 2)

In my second round of guest posts at change.org, I look at the recent pig culls in Egypt, and explain how the mass killings may have less to do with concerns over the swine flu than with religious discrimination directed at the country’s Coptic Christians – as well as “their” pigs.

I, Bonobo: Guess who’s really at the bottom of the shitpile? and

Vegan Soapbox: Why Women Should Care About Animals

Bonobobabe and Eccentric Vegan both respond to a recent piece that appeared in the community section of Feministing. Not surprisingly, the author asserted that animal rights and feminism are unrelated movements, such that the animal rights movement has nothing to contribute to feminism and vice versa. Thus, it’s perfectly acceptable for good liberal progressive feminists to eat meat, wear fur and shit on animal advocates when they complain. I’m taking liberties, of course, but you get the idea.

Bonobobabe’s reply, in particular, is a must-read. I skimmed it over several times, trying to boil it down to an excerpt or two to illustrate her argument, but it’s all awesome. This about sums it up, though:

So, while I think it’s fine for a woman who calls herself a feminist to put her time and energy towards women-centered things, I also feel that if a feminist is supposed to be sensitive to class and race issues, that she should also be sensitive to speciesist issues. It’s not OK to say that you are better than an animal. Besides, hierarchies are the invention of men. Being a speciesist, even if one is a feminist, is playing by men’s rules. You’re better than that.

Hat tip to Stephanie for this one.

(More below the fold…)