Washington Post and 'Feminist Americans' Won't Let Michelle Obama Have It All

January 20, 2013
By

This began as an essay about the re-emergence of the “having it all” debate, led by Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic last year. Then, the Washington Post ran a story this week about the feminist backlash against Michelle Obama’s insistence that she is a “mom-in-chief,” and this essay took on a new life for me. I have argued that trickle-down feminism, the likes of which Slaughter champions, is an elitist pipe dream that embraces capitalistic exploitation as a means to liberate some women from toiling among the masses of all women. Who must clean your toilets at Princeton on third shift so that a powerful woman can ruminate on the limits of her power?

Michelle Obama (with Condoleezza Rice) figured prominently in Slaughter’s argument as an example of the inclusivity of her hypothesis. I hope Slaughter reads the same Washington Post article I read. The article is rhetorically convoluted, but it is also illustrative of why Slaughter’s central claim is built on quicksand. If, as the Post asserts, “feminist Americans” are “let down” by Michelle Obama’s choice to “work” as a parent rather than in the paid labor force, then there is no such thing as being powerful enough to transcend the double-bind of being both black and a woman.

The “having it all” hypothesis has been thoughtfully and critically engaged by many for ignoring issues of class, status, and privilege. I will go one step further and say that the Anne Marie Slaughters of the world are not naive when they cloak their proximity to white patriarchy in emotional populist appeals to all women. They are intentionally employing the very neo-liberal tools of co-opting, marginalization, and brand building that helped make them privileged in the first place. It is not a novel argument, but that we must still remind the world that poor women, black women, brown women, queer women, working class women, and all manner of not powerful women exist, suggests that now is as good a time as any to revisit why, as Flavia Dzodan so eloquently put it, “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be BS.”

The Post’s treatment of feminism and Michelle Obama has more B.S. than intersectionality. The obfuscations abound. First, there is this odd aside to “feminist Americans” later placed in opposition to “black feminists.”  It is unclear who the former is, but it is particularly clear who the latter is not: black feminists are not mainstream feminists. This treatment of feminism sets up the premise that Michelle Obama may be living some black feminist fantasy, but she has not ascended to acceptable “feminist American” ideals. The idea of being a “mom-in-chief” is apparently antithetical to acceptable choices that feminist Americans make. I do not want to pile on the writer. Frankly, her artlessness only reveals what many believe. Her problem is not that she has said that Michelle Obama is failing at feminism; it’s that she did not obscure that belief in the elitism that Slaughter so casually tosses about her “having it all” thesis.

Black feminists have been fighting this fight for a long time. The tension is grounded in the relative position to power that the Anne Marie Slaughters of the world have enjoyed by their proximity to white men. But Michelle turns that equation on its head. She is as close to power as any white woman has ever been. She is making choices afforded to her by the role of First Lady. That her choice is to work in the home rather than the workforce is only revolutionary because she is black. Every white First Lady has made the same decision. They were chided but they were not unilaterally cast as feminist failures. Neither was feminism constructed as “feminist Americans” versus black feminists to deconstruct the choices of white First Ladies. I do not recall a single instance of mainstream reporting on the black feminist response to Hillary Clinton as she reshaped the role of First Lady. Why, then, is it salient now?

Well, we know why, of course. We cannot reconcile Michelle Obama in the feminist imaginary anymore than we have been able to reconcile the reality of black women or poor women or immigrant women or trans women or any non-middle class white woman with “feminist Americans.”  No matter how you define it, black women have always worked. Our bodies were literally constructed through enslavement as work units and modes of production. Our reproduction was a capitalist endeavor in labor production. If no black woman ever again works in the paid labor force in any position ever again ever, we are all rightful heirs to feminism by virtue of our lived historical experience in the U.S. Black women do not have to earn feminism. If anything, feminism should be earning black women. Even if we put aside the issues of terming motherhood as non-work as compatible with feminism (which it is not), the idea that someone who has come through black women, as has Michelle Obama, would need to prove her feminist bona fides to “feminist Americans” is ahistorical and disingenuous.

It is also why “having it all” debates hold very little appeal for me.

Michelle Obama was born poor and black, worked her way through an elite education and can rest her head in the Roosevelt room at the White House. If she cannot have it all – all the choices, all the freedom, all the autonomy to be what she wants to be on her own terms, including rejecting the very premise of an “all” to be had – then surely there is no “all” for colored girls like me.

This is what the Anne Marie Slaughters of the world  fail to understand. They make Michelle Obama’s decision to work outside the paid labor market a function of elite sexism. It is a convenient misconstrual that tosses aside the inconvenient reality of race to push a version of feminism from which Slaughter benefits. The Washington Post, in casting Michelle as the antifeminist, also gets it wrong because it defines real feminism as the interests of white feminists. This conveniently ignores status hierarchies, history, and capitalism. Neither camp can understand Michelle Obama because they cannot, will not, dare not fully imagine the reality of black women.

Black women complicate trickle-down feminism because ours is a feminism not rooted in pedestals but in work. It has glass ceilings and concrete skies. It is horizontal and vertical; material and transcendent. It is the living embodiment of feminism and, as such, a threat to those who would sell us feminist “drank” as juice.

Do not doubt that is what is happening here. We are being sold an illusion, a particular bill of goods designed to assuage our thirst for real feminism that works for real women in our daily lives. It might sell a few books, a few more newspapers, a few more advertising placements, but it is not the real deal. I, for one, am not buying it. Fortunately, I am a black woman so I don’t have to and neither does Michelle Obama.

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64 Responses to Washington Post and 'Feminist Americans' Won't Let Michelle Obama Have It All

  1. I.M on January 21, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Wow, it pains me to say this. But you are not speaking as a Black feminist. You are recklessly cloaking yourself in Black feminist mantra to spew Black Bourgeoisie propaganda, which is typical of the Black Bourgeoisie in America sadly. If Michelle Obama was born poor then I’m Nat Turner and I’m not Nat Turner. Shame on you while so many Black women are catching hell in America, to appropriate the poor Black women card falsely to silence/preempt debate on Michelle Obama’s equally disappointing role as first lady as her husband’s role as President. Ms. Obama grow up staunchly middle class with strong ties to the Chicago Democratic Machine. Further the majority of her professional position were with organizations that caused great harm to the Black community including working in high positions for then Mayor Daley and then as the Black women who developed/ and was the Black face for University of Chicago Hospitals successful fight to block trauma treatment for poor Black people on the southside of Chicago. At one protest a mother of a young Black male who died because of this denial of treatment spoke this shameless policy. Michelle Obama has been a power striver, not a Black feminist. Further, Ms. Obama is not the average Black women parent navigating the perils of raising children in America. I guess you forgot that not only does she have a staff that helps with the children, but she also brought her mother to live in the white house to take care of the kids as well. Your political shilling for Ms. Obama has nothing to do with Black Feminism, what it does speak to is the disconnect and disrespect of the Black bourgeois toward the poor Black women and men stuck in the hood who have been abandoned by this President and as always find themselves as fodder, wether it be for the Prison Industrial Complex, Academia, The Non profit Complex or, in this case used by you to promote Ms. Obama, who is neither Eleanor Roosevelt nor Hillary Clinton,but a Black version of Laura Bush.

    • j on January 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

      amen

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Ok. Let’s say the above is true. How does this in any way affect the author’s argument? So Michelle Obama is a BMC “power striver.” Is she any less black in relation to the white feminist agenda? Because that’s what is being discussed here.

      There is a time and place for the class power argument as it relates to Obama. This article is not it. Even if MO’s policies make her a “black version of Laura Bush” (which I am not deigning to examine for its falsehood because it is not relevant here) how does that relate to whether or not she “has it all” in the feminist sense? That’s what we’re talking about. Stay on topic and make your classism argument elsewhere

      Michelle Obama, like her white predecessors, is a SYMBOL and her SYMBOLIC power for feminist/black feminist agenda is what is at stake here.

    • Tressie McMillan Cottom on January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

      I’m not sure the threshold should be set so low for shilling but I am still honored. I suspect this is the first time I’ve been accused of such.

      I maintain that the analysis of how Michelle Obama and Slaughter’s argument have been constructed is a meaningful intersection for an analysis for how black women are constructed through popular treatments of white feminism.

      Should you want to write a piece on Michelle Obama’s personal political history or international violence, I suggest you do so. We would likely be interested in it at TFW. The submission tab above gives details.

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Excuse me, I have to say that I managed to gloss over the part of the article where she said “Michelle Obama was born poor and black.” I would not say that she was raised “poor” either. I apologize.
      Your statements hold some water, but still, let’s not get distracted by that bit of falsehood and look away from the merits of a valid argument made by the author and the symbolism Michelle Obama holds for black women whether we want her to or not, regardless of class.

      • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        but just because she holds symbolism for Black women does not make for a feminist argument. In fact that’s been the problem with this President, we’ve been caught up in the symbolism as oppose to the substance.

        Michael Jordan is a respected hero to many Black men and I find that problematic.

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:39 am

        She made it out of the hood. God Bless her. She’s working to be a classy and elegant role model. Maybe you only think she’s reflecting white feminism because you’re not use to seeing Black women enunciate, and confident, peaceful and proud.

        She’s being herself. Don’t give white feminists so much credit, like Michelle is mimicking white women, because she’s demur and highly educated…and awarded with the opportunity to pour into her children.

        How sad.

    • Daniel S on January 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      When reading this article I could only see it as a weak attempt to say whatever the author wanted to out her mouth. In my opinion, this article is a attack on FIrst Lady Obama and to say she’s taken “feminists” especially black feminists one step back is simply a lie. What interests feminists (which has the label white) attached isn’t necessarily going to work for black feminists. To say that shes basically full of BS is flat out cruel and makes her less credible. Just because she doesn’t want to slave at a 9-5 in corporate America for a paycheck doesn’t mean she’s not playing a vital role in the American workforce. As you’ve mentioned Tressie, the first lady of the United States exerts a plethora of power for any women can hold through out the whole free world. In case you didn’t know many Political Scientists have acknowledge that Michelle Obama is President Obama’s personal advisor meaning that her say so plays a huge role in the policy decisions that President Obama makes. To me that sounds like a job, although she’s not getting her paycheck (which yes-isn’t fair) but best believe that 400g’s that President Obama is making is being split 50/50. And don’t think for one minute that Michelle ain’t making no paper because best believe she has some gigs on the side. But going back to your position that she’s taken steps back because she wants to be the Head Mom Chief in Charge-what’s wrong with that. Whats wrong with a women taken a break from work to be there for her children’s soccer games, violin recitals, being there for her husband these next four years? She realizes that family needs her and plus this gives her time do cool activities such as planning and encouraging America to get fit, be a personality, be a positive influence for young black youth! So its no need for you to be rude and say ugly things about such a positive public figure because the way I feel is that your a flat out HATER! I’m more even enraged that you would have such a condescending critique without realizes that yes, she may a black woman whose holding it down in the household for another 4 years but trust and believe that once 2016 rolls around and its time for the Obama’s to leave the Whitehouse that First Lady Obama will be going back to practice law and or researching/teaching in academia.
      P.S. Your criticism could have at least waited a day, I mean today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day as well as the Inauguration can we have some civility and peace just for today? Lord
      Signed, an angry student who feels you’ve hit Michelle below the belt and really aren’t aren’t embodying the ethics of a black feminist (yup-I said it).

  2. I.M on January 21, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Wow, it pains me to say this. But you are not speaking as a Black feminist. You are recklessly cloaking yourself in Black feminist mantra to spew Black Bourgeoisie propaganda, which is typical of the Black Bourgeoisie in America sadly. If Michelle Obama was born poor then I’m Nat Turner and I’m not Nat Turner. Shame on you while so many Black women are catching hell in America, to appropriate the poor Black women card falsely to silence/preempt debate on Michelle Obama’s equally disappointing role as first lady as her husband’s role as President. Ms. Obama grow up staunchly middle class with strong ties to the Chicago Democratic Machine. Further the majority of her professional position were with organizations that caused great harm to the Black community including working in high positions for then Mayor Daley and then as the Black women who developed/ and was the Black face for University of Chicago Hospitals successful fight to block trauma treatment for poor Black people on the southside of Chicago. At one protest a mother of a young Black male who died because of this denial of treatment spoke this shameless policy. Michelle Obama has been a power striver, not a Black feminist. Further, Ms. Obama is not the average Black women parent navigating the perils of raising children in America. I guess you forgot that not only does she have a staff that helps with the children, but she also brought her mother to live in the white house to take care of the kids as well. Your political shilling for Ms. Obama has nothing to do with Black Feminism, what it does speak to is the disconnect and disrespect of the Black bourgeois toward the poor Black women and men stuck in the hood who have been abandoned by this President and as always find themselves as fodder, wether it be for the Prison Industrial Complex, Academia, The Non profit Complex or, in this case used by you to promote Ms. Obama, who is neither Eleanor Roosevelt nor Hillary Clinton,but a Black version of Laura Bush.

    • j on January 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

      amen

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Ok. Let’s say the above is true. How does this in any way affect the author’s argument? So Michelle Obama is a BMC “power striver.” Is she any less black in relation to the white feminist agenda? Because that’s what is being discussed here.

      There is a time and place for the class power argument as it relates to Obama. This article is not it. Even if MO’s policies make her a “black version of Laura Bush” (which I am not deigning to examine for its falsehood because it is not relevant here) how does that relate to whether or not she “has it all” in the feminist sense? That’s what we’re talking about. Stay on topic and make your classism argument elsewhere

      Michelle Obama, like her white predecessors, is a SYMBOL and her SYMBOLIC power for feminist/black feminist agenda is what is at stake here.

    • Tressie McMillan Cottom on January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

      I’m not sure the threshold should be set so low for shilling but I am still honored. I suspect this is the first time I’ve been accused of such.

      I maintain that the analysis of how Michelle Obama and Slaughter’s argument have been constructed is a meaningful intersection for an analysis for how black women are constructed through popular treatments of white feminism.

      Should you want to write a piece on Michelle Obama’s personal political history or international violence, I suggest you do so. We would likely be interested in it at TFW. The submission tab above gives details.

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Excuse me, I have to say that I managed to gloss over the part of the article where she said “Michelle Obama was born poor and black.” I would not say that she was raised “poor” either. I apologize.
      Your statements hold some water, but still, let’s not get distracted by that bit of falsehood and look away from the merits of a valid argument made by the author and the symbolism Michelle Obama holds for black women whether we want her to or not, regardless of class.

      • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        but just because she holds symbolism for Black women does not make for a feminist argument. In fact that’s been the problem with this President, we’ve been caught up in the symbolism as oppose to the substance.

        Michael Jordan is a respected hero to many Black men and I find that problematic.

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:39 am

        She made it out of the hood. God Bless her. She’s working to be a classy and elegant role model. Maybe you only think she’s reflecting white feminism because you’re not use to seeing Black women enunciate, and confident, peaceful and proud.

        She’s being herself. Don’t give white feminists so much credit, like Michelle is mimicking white women, because she’s demur and highly educated…and awarded with the opportunity to pour into her children.

        How sad.

    • Daniel S on January 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      When reading this article I could only see it as a weak attempt to say whatever the author wanted to out her mouth. In my opinion, this article is a attack on FIrst Lady Obama and to say she’s taken “feminists” especially black feminists one step back is simply a lie. What interests feminists (which has the label white) attached isn’t necessarily going to work for black feminists. To say that shes basically full of BS is flat out cruel and makes her less credible. Just because she doesn’t want to slave at a 9-5 in corporate America for a paycheck doesn’t mean she’s not playing a vital role in the American workforce. As you’ve mentioned Tressie, the first lady of the United States exerts a plethora of power for any women can hold through out the whole free world. In case you didn’t know many Political Scientists have acknowledge that Michelle Obama is President Obama’s personal advisor meaning that her say so plays a huge role in the policy decisions that President Obama makes. To me that sounds like a job, although she’s not getting her paycheck (which yes-isn’t fair) but best believe that 400g’s that President Obama is making is being split 50/50. And don’t think for one minute that Michelle ain’t making no paper because best believe she has some gigs on the side. But going back to your position that she’s taken steps back because she wants to be the Head Mom Chief in Charge-what’s wrong with that. Whats wrong with a women taken a break from work to be there for her children’s soccer games, violin recitals, being there for her husband these next four years? She realizes that family needs her and plus this gives her time do cool activities such as planning and encouraging America to get fit, be a personality, be a positive influence for young black youth! So its no need for you to be rude and say ugly things about such a positive public figure because the way I feel is that your a flat out HATER! I’m more even enraged that you would have such a condescending critique without realizes that yes, she may a black woman whose holding it down in the household for another 4 years but trust and believe that once 2016 rolls around and its time for the Obama’s to leave the Whitehouse that First Lady Obama will be going back to practice law and or researching/teaching in academia.
      P.S. Your criticism could have at least waited a day, I mean today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day as well as the Inauguration can we have some civility and peace just for today? Lord
      Signed, an angry student who feels you’ve hit Michelle below the belt and really aren’t aren’t embodying the ethics of a black feminist (yup-I said it).

  3. I.M on January 21, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Wow, it pains me to say this. But you are not speaking as a Black feminist. You are recklessly cloaking yourself in Black feminist mantra to spew Black Bourgeoisie propaganda, which is typical of the Black Bourgeoisie in America sadly. If Michelle Obama was born poor then I’m Nat Turner and I’m not Nat Turner. Shame on you while so many Black women are catching hell in America, to appropriate the poor Black women card falsely to silence/preempt debate on Michelle Obama’s equally disappointing role as first lady as her husband’s role as President. Ms. Obama grow up staunchly middle class with strong ties to the Chicago Democratic Machine. Further the majority of her professional position were with organizations that caused great harm to the Black community including working in high positions for then Mayor Daley and then as the Black women who developed/ and was the Black face for University of Chicago Hospitals successful fight to block trauma treatment for poor Black people on the southside of Chicago. At one protest a mother of a young Black male who died because of this denial of treatment spoke this shameless policy. Michelle Obama has been a power striver, not a Black feminist. Further, Ms. Obama is not the average Black women parent navigating the perils of raising children in America. I guess you forgot that not only does she have a staff that helps with the children, but she also brought her mother to live in the white house to take care of the kids as well. Your political shilling for Ms. Obama has nothing to do with Black Feminism, what it does speak to is the disconnect and disrespect of the Black bourgeois toward the poor Black women and men stuck in the hood who have been abandoned by this President and as always find themselves as fodder, wether it be for the Prison Industrial Complex, Academia, The Non profit Complex or, in this case used by you to promote Ms. Obama, who is neither Eleanor Roosevelt nor Hillary Clinton,but a Black version of Laura Bush.

    • j on January 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

      amen

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Ok. Let’s say the above is true. How does this in any way affect the author’s argument? So Michelle Obama is a BMC “power striver.” Is she any less black in relation to the white feminist agenda? Because that’s what is being discussed here.

      There is a time and place for the class power argument as it relates to Obama. This article is not it. Even if MO’s policies make her a “black version of Laura Bush” (which I am not deigning to examine for its falsehood because it is not relevant here) how does that relate to whether or not she “has it all” in the feminist sense? That’s what we’re talking about. Stay on topic and make your classism argument elsewhere

      Michelle Obama, like her white predecessors, is a SYMBOL and her SYMBOLIC power for feminist/black feminist agenda is what is at stake here.

    • Tressie McMillan Cottom on January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

      I’m not sure the threshold should be set so low for shilling but I am still honored. I suspect this is the first time I’ve been accused of such.

      I maintain that the analysis of how Michelle Obama and Slaughter’s argument have been constructed is a meaningful intersection for an analysis for how black women are constructed through popular treatments of white feminism.

      Should you want to write a piece on Michelle Obama’s personal political history or international violence, I suggest you do so. We would likely be interested in it at TFW. The submission tab above gives details.

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Excuse me, I have to say that I managed to gloss over the part of the article where she said “Michelle Obama was born poor and black.” I would not say that she was raised “poor” either. I apologize.
      Your statements hold some water, but still, let’s not get distracted by that bit of falsehood and look away from the merits of a valid argument made by the author and the symbolism Michelle Obama holds for black women whether we want her to or not, regardless of class.

      • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        but just because she holds symbolism for Black women does not make for a feminist argument. In fact that’s been the problem with this President, we’ve been caught up in the symbolism as oppose to the substance.

        Michael Jordan is a respected hero to many Black men and I find that problematic.

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:39 am

        She made it out of the hood. God Bless her. She’s working to be a classy and elegant role model. Maybe you only think she’s reflecting white feminism because you’re not use to seeing Black women enunciate, and confident, peaceful and proud.

        She’s being herself. Don’t give white feminists so much credit, like Michelle is mimicking white women, because she’s demur and highly educated…and awarded with the opportunity to pour into her children.

        How sad.

    • Daniel S on January 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      When reading this article I could only see it as a weak attempt to say whatever the author wanted to out her mouth. In my opinion, this article is a attack on FIrst Lady Obama and to say she’s taken “feminists” especially black feminists one step back is simply a lie. What interests feminists (which has the label white) attached isn’t necessarily going to work for black feminists. To say that shes basically full of BS is flat out cruel and makes her less credible. Just because she doesn’t want to slave at a 9-5 in corporate America for a paycheck doesn’t mean she’s not playing a vital role in the American workforce. As you’ve mentioned Tressie, the first lady of the United States exerts a plethora of power for any women can hold through out the whole free world. In case you didn’t know many Political Scientists have acknowledge that Michelle Obama is President Obama’s personal advisor meaning that her say so plays a huge role in the policy decisions that President Obama makes. To me that sounds like a job, although she’s not getting her paycheck (which yes-isn’t fair) but best believe that 400g’s that President Obama is making is being split 50/50. And don’t think for one minute that Michelle ain’t making no paper because best believe she has some gigs on the side. But going back to your position that she’s taken steps back because she wants to be the Head Mom Chief in Charge-what’s wrong with that. Whats wrong with a women taken a break from work to be there for her children’s soccer games, violin recitals, being there for her husband these next four years? She realizes that family needs her and plus this gives her time do cool activities such as planning and encouraging America to get fit, be a personality, be a positive influence for young black youth! So its no need for you to be rude and say ugly things about such a positive public figure because the way I feel is that your a flat out HATER! I’m more even enraged that you would have such a condescending critique without realizes that yes, she may a black woman whose holding it down in the household for another 4 years but trust and believe that once 2016 rolls around and its time for the Obama’s to leave the Whitehouse that First Lady Obama will be going back to practice law and or researching/teaching in academia.
      P.S. Your criticism could have at least waited a day, I mean today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day as well as the Inauguration can we have some civility and peace just for today? Lord
      Signed, an angry student who feels you’ve hit Michelle below the belt and really aren’t aren’t embodying the ethics of a black feminist (yup-I said it).

  4. I.M on January 21, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Wow, it pains me to say this. But you are not speaking as a Black feminist. You are recklessly cloaking yourself in Black feminist mantra to spew Black Bourgeoisie propaganda, which is typical of the Black Bourgeoisie in America sadly. If Michelle Obama was born poor then I’m Nat Turner and I’m not Nat Turner. Shame on you while so many Black women are catching hell in America, to appropriate the poor Black women card falsely to silence/preempt debate on Michelle Obama’s equally disappointing role as first lady as her husband’s role as President. Ms. Obama grow up staunchly middle class with strong ties to the Chicago Democratic Machine. Further the majority of her professional position were with organizations that caused great harm to the Black community including working in high positions for then Mayor Daley and then as the Black women who developed/ and was the Black face for University of Chicago Hospitals successful fight to block trauma treatment for poor Black people on the southside of Chicago. At one protest a mother of a young Black male who died because of this denial of treatment spoke this shameless policy. Michelle Obama has been a power striver, not a Black feminist. Further, Ms. Obama is not the average Black women parent navigating the perils of raising children in America. I guess you forgot that not only does she have a staff that helps with the children, but she also brought her mother to live in the white house to take care of the kids as well. Your political shilling for Ms. Obama has nothing to do with Black Feminism, what it does speak to is the disconnect and disrespect of the Black bourgeois toward the poor Black women and men stuck in the hood who have been abandoned by this President and as always find themselves as fodder, wether it be for the Prison Industrial Complex, Academia, The Non profit Complex or, in this case used by you to promote Ms. Obama, who is neither Eleanor Roosevelt nor Hillary Clinton,but a Black version of Laura Bush.

    • j on January 21, 2013 at 10:14 am

      amen

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Ok. Let’s say the above is true. How does this in any way affect the author’s argument? So Michelle Obama is a BMC “power striver.” Is she any less black in relation to the white feminist agenda? Because that’s what is being discussed here.

      There is a time and place for the class power argument as it relates to Obama. This article is not it. Even if MO’s policies make her a “black version of Laura Bush” (which I am not deigning to examine for its falsehood because it is not relevant here) how does that relate to whether or not she “has it all” in the feminist sense? That’s what we’re talking about. Stay on topic and make your classism argument elsewhere

      Michelle Obama, like her white predecessors, is a SYMBOL and her SYMBOLIC power for feminist/black feminist agenda is what is at stake here.

    • Tressie McMillan Cottom on January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

      I’m not sure the threshold should be set so low for shilling but I am still honored. I suspect this is the first time I’ve been accused of such.

      I maintain that the analysis of how Michelle Obama and Slaughter’s argument have been constructed is a meaningful intersection for an analysis for how black women are constructed through popular treatments of white feminism.

      Should you want to write a piece on Michelle Obama’s personal political history or international violence, I suggest you do so. We would likely be interested in it at TFW. The submission tab above gives details.

    • gabs on January 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Excuse me, I have to say that I managed to gloss over the part of the article where she said “Michelle Obama was born poor and black.” I would not say that she was raised “poor” either. I apologize.
      Your statements hold some water, but still, let’s not get distracted by that bit of falsehood and look away from the merits of a valid argument made by the author and the symbolism Michelle Obama holds for black women whether we want her to or not, regardless of class.

      • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        but just because she holds symbolism for Black women does not make for a feminist argument. In fact that’s been the problem with this President, we’ve been caught up in the symbolism as oppose to the substance.

        Michael Jordan is a respected hero to many Black men and I find that problematic.

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:39 am

        She made it out of the hood. God Bless her. She’s working to be a classy and elegant role model. Maybe you only think she’s reflecting white feminism because you’re not use to seeing Black women enunciate, and confident, peaceful and proud.

        She’s being herself. Don’t give white feminists so much credit, like Michelle is mimicking white women, because she’s demur and highly educated…and awarded with the opportunity to pour into her children.

        How sad.

    • Daniel S on January 21, 2013 at 10:10 pm

      When reading this article I could only see it as a weak attempt to say whatever the author wanted to out her mouth. In my opinion, this article is a attack on FIrst Lady Obama and to say she’s taken “feminists” especially black feminists one step back is simply a lie. What interests feminists (which has the label white) attached isn’t necessarily going to work for black feminists. To say that shes basically full of BS is flat out cruel and makes her less credible. Just because she doesn’t want to slave at a 9-5 in corporate America for a paycheck doesn’t mean she’s not playing a vital role in the American workforce. As you’ve mentioned Tressie, the first lady of the United States exerts a plethora of power for any women can hold through out the whole free world. In case you didn’t know many Political Scientists have acknowledge that Michelle Obama is President Obama’s personal advisor meaning that her say so plays a huge role in the policy decisions that President Obama makes. To me that sounds like a job, although she’s not getting her paycheck (which yes-isn’t fair) but best believe that 400g’s that President Obama is making is being split 50/50. And don’t think for one minute that Michelle ain’t making no paper because best believe she has some gigs on the side. But going back to your position that she’s taken steps back because she wants to be the Head Mom Chief in Charge-what’s wrong with that. Whats wrong with a women taken a break from work to be there for her children’s soccer games, violin recitals, being there for her husband these next four years? She realizes that family needs her and plus this gives her time do cool activities such as planning and encouraging America to get fit, be a personality, be a positive influence for young black youth! So its no need for you to be rude and say ugly things about such a positive public figure because the way I feel is that your a flat out HATER! I’m more even enraged that you would have such a condescending critique without realizes that yes, she may a black woman whose holding it down in the household for another 4 years but trust and believe that once 2016 rolls around and its time for the Obama’s to leave the Whitehouse that First Lady Obama will be going back to practice law and or researching/teaching in academia.
      P.S. Your criticism could have at least waited a day, I mean today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day as well as the Inauguration can we have some civility and peace just for today? Lord
      Signed, an angry student who feels you’ve hit Michelle below the belt and really aren’t aren’t embodying the ethics of a black feminist (yup-I said it).

  5. Tracie G. on January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I cannot express how much I appreciate and extend gratitude for your brilliance on this Earth. I am with you. I hear you. I KNOW this voice; I AM this voice, in my own spaces, groups, and thoughts.

    Thank you.

  6. Tracie G. on January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I cannot express how much I appreciate and extend gratitude for your brilliance on this Earth. I am with you. I hear you. I KNOW this voice; I AM this voice, in my own spaces, groups, and thoughts.

    Thank you.

  7. Tracie G. on January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I cannot express how much I appreciate and extend gratitude for your brilliance on this Earth. I am with you. I hear you. I KNOW this voice; I AM this voice, in my own spaces, groups, and thoughts.

    Thank you.

  8. Tracie G. on January 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

    I cannot express how much I appreciate and extend gratitude for your brilliance on this Earth. I am with you. I hear you. I KNOW this voice; I AM this voice, in my own spaces, groups, and thoughts.

    Thank you.

  9. Sony on January 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

    :::::standing ovation:::: What an excellent and eloquent response! Thank you!

  10. Sony on January 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

    :::::standing ovation:::: What an excellent and eloquent response! Thank you!

  11. Sony on January 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

    :::::standing ovation:::: What an excellent and eloquent response! Thank you!

  12. Sony on January 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

    :::::standing ovation:::: What an excellent and eloquent response! Thank you!

  13. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I am a Black feminist, and I say, let the woman be happy. Good for her. It just shows the jealousy and negativity we spew at a woman who has a wonderful family, home and personal life.

    I’m happy for her and support any woman who is enthusiastic about what she’s doing whether she is rich or poor…like there are no poor black women who are happy. The notion is racist and small minded in itself.

    Let’s get over ourselves and our jealousy…and also speaking for demographics we obviously are not in touch with and start banding together. Michelle is an amazing and intelligent role model for our Black daughters, and if she wants to stay home and raise and pour into her children instead of neglecting them while she’s working 80 hours a week like my mother did, I believe she has more courage than any Black female executive who alienates their daughters for a larger paycheck.

    My mother is an amazing and beautiful, brilliant woman, but i would rather have had super mom, than a great business mentor.

    • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Sounds like your arguing as a democratic party supporter as oppose to a feminist. I’m not saying any thing is wrong with being a democratic supporter of Ms. Obama, but it’s not the same as a feminist

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:35 am

        I didn’t say anything about politics. I’m not a democratic or a republican, I’m an American. Please don’t tell me who I am or what I believe. I’m talking about the human experience. I am a black women. I AM a feminist. I’m looking at this case from the simple fact that you act like you know how the rich and poor interact and how they feel and perceive the world.

        You haven’t the slightest idea. To say that being a stay at home is only a luxury for the rich is not true. And you stating the fact that being poor and Black and female is this terrible bleak experience that we must fight instead of putting our children first.

        Please don’t hide behind terminology, wake up, and maybe you should talk to people instead of burying your head in the news and insulting a powerful Black woman for putting her children first.

        Do you have children?

    • ICare2 on January 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Amen! You are so true, I’m a black female who was born to a poor, single mother who had worked hard in the 50′s to raise me and my sister and brother! She believed like Michelle’s parent the the only way for us to get ahead was though education, the same thing that I taught my children. I’m not jealous of Michelle I am proud of her, I’m proud that her mother is serving with her in the White House, two strong black women! There is so much bitterness in the black race, there is so much hatred and jealousy in our own race. We are so busy putting each other down, that the white man doesn’t have to hold us down we do that to ourselves ! Instead of standing together we are tearing it apart! We complain about this woman’s education, we complain about the President not doing any thing for the black community, a community who deny it’s own history, the history of slavery, or voting rights being denied, please young people Stop Hating, and Start Participating! Listen to the President’s Speech!

      Now I know you will bitch about what I’m saying, but just look at yourself and think about where you stand, and your own accomplishments! Then ask yourself what have you done to make change in your life and the change you made in someone else’s life!

  14. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I am a Black feminist, and I say, let the woman be happy. Good for her. It just shows the jealousy and negativity we spew at a woman who has a wonderful family, home and personal life.

    I’m happy for her and support any woman who is enthusiastic about what she’s doing whether she is rich or poor…like there are no poor black women who are happy. The notion is racist and small minded in itself.

    Let’s get over ourselves and our jealousy…and also speaking for demographics we obviously are not in touch with and start banding together. Michelle is an amazing and intelligent role model for our Black daughters, and if she wants to stay home and raise and pour into her children instead of neglecting them while she’s working 80 hours a week like my mother did, I believe she has more courage than any Black female executive who alienates their daughters for a larger paycheck.

    My mother is an amazing and beautiful, brilliant woman, but i would rather have had super mom, than a great business mentor.

    • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Sounds like your arguing as a democratic party supporter as oppose to a feminist. I’m not saying any thing is wrong with being a democratic supporter of Ms. Obama, but it’s not the same as a feminist

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:35 am

        I didn’t say anything about politics. I’m not a democratic or a republican, I’m an American. Please don’t tell me who I am or what I believe. I’m talking about the human experience. I am a black women. I AM a feminist. I’m looking at this case from the simple fact that you act like you know how the rich and poor interact and how they feel and perceive the world.

        You haven’t the slightest idea. To say that being a stay at home is only a luxury for the rich is not true. And you stating the fact that being poor and Black and female is this terrible bleak experience that we must fight instead of putting our children first.

        Please don’t hide behind terminology, wake up, and maybe you should talk to people instead of burying your head in the news and insulting a powerful Black woman for putting her children first.

        Do you have children?

    • ICare2 on January 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Amen! You are so true, I’m a black female who was born to a poor, single mother who had worked hard in the 50′s to raise me and my sister and brother! She believed like Michelle’s parent the the only way for us to get ahead was though education, the same thing that I taught my children. I’m not jealous of Michelle I am proud of her, I’m proud that her mother is serving with her in the White House, two strong black women! There is so much bitterness in the black race, there is so much hatred and jealousy in our own race. We are so busy putting each other down, that the white man doesn’t have to hold us down we do that to ourselves ! Instead of standing together we are tearing it apart! We complain about this woman’s education, we complain about the President not doing any thing for the black community, a community who deny it’s own history, the history of slavery, or voting rights being denied, please young people Stop Hating, and Start Participating! Listen to the President’s Speech!

      Now I know you will bitch about what I’m saying, but just look at yourself and think about where you stand, and your own accomplishments! Then ask yourself what have you done to make change in your life and the change you made in someone else’s life!

  15. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I am a Black feminist, and I say, let the woman be happy. Good for her. It just shows the jealousy and negativity we spew at a woman who has a wonderful family, home and personal life.

    I’m happy for her and support any woman who is enthusiastic about what she’s doing whether she is rich or poor…like there are no poor black women who are happy. The notion is racist and small minded in itself.

    Let’s get over ourselves and our jealousy…and also speaking for demographics we obviously are not in touch with and start banding together. Michelle is an amazing and intelligent role model for our Black daughters, and if she wants to stay home and raise and pour into her children instead of neglecting them while she’s working 80 hours a week like my mother did, I believe she has more courage than any Black female executive who alienates their daughters for a larger paycheck.

    My mother is an amazing and beautiful, brilliant woman, but i would rather have had super mom, than a great business mentor.

    • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Sounds like your arguing as a democratic party supporter as oppose to a feminist. I’m not saying any thing is wrong with being a democratic supporter of Ms. Obama, but it’s not the same as a feminist

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:35 am

        I didn’t say anything about politics. I’m not a democratic or a republican, I’m an American. Please don’t tell me who I am or what I believe. I’m talking about the human experience. I am a black women. I AM a feminist. I’m looking at this case from the simple fact that you act like you know how the rich and poor interact and how they feel and perceive the world.

        You haven’t the slightest idea. To say that being a stay at home is only a luxury for the rich is not true. And you stating the fact that being poor and Black and female is this terrible bleak experience that we must fight instead of putting our children first.

        Please don’t hide behind terminology, wake up, and maybe you should talk to people instead of burying your head in the news and insulting a powerful Black woman for putting her children first.

        Do you have children?

    • ICare2 on January 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Amen! You are so true, I’m a black female who was born to a poor, single mother who had worked hard in the 50′s to raise me and my sister and brother! She believed like Michelle’s parent the the only way for us to get ahead was though education, the same thing that I taught my children. I’m not jealous of Michelle I am proud of her, I’m proud that her mother is serving with her in the White House, two strong black women! There is so much bitterness in the black race, there is so much hatred and jealousy in our own race. We are so busy putting each other down, that the white man doesn’t have to hold us down we do that to ourselves ! Instead of standing together we are tearing it apart! We complain about this woman’s education, we complain about the President not doing any thing for the black community, a community who deny it’s own history, the history of slavery, or voting rights being denied, please young people Stop Hating, and Start Participating! Listen to the President’s Speech!

      Now I know you will bitch about what I’m saying, but just look at yourself and think about where you stand, and your own accomplishments! Then ask yourself what have you done to make change in your life and the change you made in someone else’s life!

  16. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I am a Black feminist, and I say, let the woman be happy. Good for her. It just shows the jealousy and negativity we spew at a woman who has a wonderful family, home and personal life.

    I’m happy for her and support any woman who is enthusiastic about what she’s doing whether she is rich or poor…like there are no poor black women who are happy. The notion is racist and small minded in itself.

    Let’s get over ourselves and our jealousy…and also speaking for demographics we obviously are not in touch with and start banding together. Michelle is an amazing and intelligent role model for our Black daughters, and if she wants to stay home and raise and pour into her children instead of neglecting them while she’s working 80 hours a week like my mother did, I believe she has more courage than any Black female executive who alienates their daughters for a larger paycheck.

    My mother is an amazing and beautiful, brilliant woman, but i would rather have had super mom, than a great business mentor.

    • I.M on January 21, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Sounds like your arguing as a democratic party supporter as oppose to a feminist. I’m not saying any thing is wrong with being a democratic supporter of Ms. Obama, but it’s not the same as a feminist

      • j on January 23, 2013 at 2:35 am

        I didn’t say anything about politics. I’m not a democratic or a republican, I’m an American. Please don’t tell me who I am or what I believe. I’m talking about the human experience. I am a black women. I AM a feminist. I’m looking at this case from the simple fact that you act like you know how the rich and poor interact and how they feel and perceive the world.

        You haven’t the slightest idea. To say that being a stay at home is only a luxury for the rich is not true. And you stating the fact that being poor and Black and female is this terrible bleak experience that we must fight instead of putting our children first.

        Please don’t hide behind terminology, wake up, and maybe you should talk to people instead of burying your head in the news and insulting a powerful Black woman for putting her children first.

        Do you have children?

    • ICare2 on January 21, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Amen! You are so true, I’m a black female who was born to a poor, single mother who had worked hard in the 50′s to raise me and my sister and brother! She believed like Michelle’s parent the the only way for us to get ahead was though education, the same thing that I taught my children. I’m not jealous of Michelle I am proud of her, I’m proud that her mother is serving with her in the White House, two strong black women! There is so much bitterness in the black race, there is so much hatred and jealousy in our own race. We are so busy putting each other down, that the white man doesn’t have to hold us down we do that to ourselves ! Instead of standing together we are tearing it apart! We complain about this woman’s education, we complain about the President not doing any thing for the black community, a community who deny it’s own history, the history of slavery, or voting rights being denied, please young people Stop Hating, and Start Participating! Listen to the President’s Speech!

      Now I know you will bitch about what I’m saying, but just look at yourself and think about where you stand, and your own accomplishments! Then ask yourself what have you done to make change in your life and the change you made in someone else’s life!

  17. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

    And one more thing, as a black woman and feminist, I know the sky is the limit for me. You perpetuating this negative slave mentality to Black women is not helping, but hurting our community and perspective.

    I don’t see a glass ceiling or concrete anything. I don’t believe in them. Stop telling women they exist and our daughter will grow up free…because their minds are free.

  18. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

    And one more thing, as a black woman and feminist, I know the sky is the limit for me. You perpetuating this negative slave mentality to Black women is not helping, but hurting our community and perspective.

    I don’t see a glass ceiling or concrete anything. I don’t believe in them. Stop telling women they exist and our daughter will grow up free…because their minds are free.

  19. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

    And one more thing, as a black woman and feminist, I know the sky is the limit for me. You perpetuating this negative slave mentality to Black women is not helping, but hurting our community and perspective.

    I don’t see a glass ceiling or concrete anything. I don’t believe in them. Stop telling women they exist and our daughter will grow up free…because their minds are free.

  20. j on January 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

    And one more thing, as a black woman and feminist, I know the sky is the limit for me. You perpetuating this negative slave mentality to Black women is not helping, but hurting our community and perspective.

    I don’t see a glass ceiling or concrete anything. I don’t believe in them. Stop telling women they exist and our daughter will grow up free…because their minds are free.

  21. MN on January 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I so appreciate this instructional essay and congratulate the writer for a brilliant expose of the fallacy of white feminism as it applies to women of racial and ethnic origins marginalized in our society. Only women who fear the loss of their power will find these view objectionable. Further, Black women have always been left outside the feminist circle and agenda.

  22. MN on January 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I so appreciate this instructional essay and congratulate the writer for a brilliant expose of the fallacy of white feminism as it applies to women of racial and ethnic origins marginalized in our society. Only women who fear the loss of their power will find these view objectionable. Further, Black women have always been left outside the feminist circle and agenda.

  23. MN on January 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I so appreciate this instructional essay and congratulate the writer for a brilliant expose of the fallacy of white feminism as it applies to women of racial and ethnic origins marginalized in our society. Only women who fear the loss of their power will find these view objectionable. Further, Black women have always been left outside the feminist circle and agenda.

  24. MN on January 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

    I so appreciate this instructional essay and congratulate the writer for a brilliant expose of the fallacy of white feminism as it applies to women of racial and ethnic origins marginalized in our society. Only women who fear the loss of their power will find these view objectionable. Further, Black women have always been left outside the feminist circle and agenda.

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