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August 26th, 2008
02:37 PM ET

The machine’s flattening of Michelle Obama?

Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, speaks during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Monday.
Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, speaks during the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Monday.

Editor's Note: You can read more Lisa Bloom blogs on In Session”

Lisa Bloom
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

The pundits applaud and cheer for the newly softened Michelle Obama after her speech. Flattened, more like it, by the American political machine’s insistent steamrolling of intelligent, accomplished women into one dimensional wifeys, apparently still the only mold of First Lady palatable to the electorate.

She came to us in last night’s speech, she said, as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother: identities in which she exists only in relation to family members, identities which have defined women for centuries. The first two require only birth. The third and fourth define women solely in relation to our husbands and children.

Are these identities important to strong women? Of course, just as they are for men. Our identities as children and siblings and parents and spouses are key parts of who we all are. But can we imagine a successful man introducing himself on a national political stage as a son, a brother, a husband, a father, and devoting his speech exclusively to these roles? Can we imagine him omitting his work entirely?

There was one drumbeat in Michelle’s speech, surely carefully vetted by the campaign strategists: family, family, family. Breaking news: she loves her daughters, she loves her husband, she loves her mother and her deceased father. Family values are important to her. Of course they are.

When she talked about work at all, it was Barack’s, not her own. She waxed eloquent for hundreds of words about her husband’s work on the South Side of Chicago, but not about her own career in the Chicago mayor’s office, or in public interest programs. There was just one brief throwaway line about how she left a big law firm job for community service, and how she loves America because a working class girl like her got into law school (just as girls are accepted in law schools now around the globe).

Uh, she didn’t just get into law school, she graduated from Harvard Law School. After graduating cum laude from Princeton University. She was then snapped up by the prestigious large law firm Sidley Austin, a plum job, even for an Ivy League grad. She was assigned to mentor Barack Obama when she was senior to him, she a practicing attorney while he was still a law student.

I am sure Michelle Obama’s parents were strong role models who encouraged both their children to study seriously and develop their minds. Michelle did that, to an impressive degree. What a shame that she must downplay her brains and hard work, and that it’s considered a resounding success that she has now successfully positioned herself as a warm and fuzzy potential First Lady because she can speak enthusiastically about being a daughter, sister, wife and mother.

As feminists said a generation ago, “a man of quality is not threatened by a woman of equality.” Barack Obama picked an intelligent, hard working, strong, high-achieving woman to marry, a big plus in my book in assessing Barack. Just as it says a lot about a man when he chooses a bimbo (Elliot Spitzer and the teenaged hooker, feh, that’s all I need to know), a man’s choice of a bright, opinionated woman says that he doesn’t just endorse women’s equality, he enjoys it at home. What a shame that the Machine decided, probably correctly, that the rest of us are not as highly evolved.

soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. marcus

    She was all scared and she did not look like a "wanna be first lady" She dosen`t have the class of a First Lady. She is far away from a First Lady.
    And me as middle class I`m looking forward to buy another house and another one as investments because I have to renovate them as per my taste and that means work for some other people that will do the job, work for the real estate agent, work for the lower and for the bank. That how the economy works. And I`m sorry to hear that somebody`s is in foreclosure situation but just a question for all those :How did you get there?How many credit cards we need?Why don`t you keep them under control?

    August 27, 2008 at 7:30 am |
  2. kate

    Today Hillary Clinton marked the word DEMOCRACY!
    No doubt she is in essence the next president of the united states.
    I believe the OBAMAS had to wait for Barak to mature politically before trying to endorse the role of a president.Surely Hillary does not need to tag along Joe Biden to be credible as a president.
    Barak is running for himself not for the democracy and I am afraid he is handing the presidency to John mccain on a gold platter.

    kate

    August 27, 2008 at 3:05 am |
  3. Trent

    I think there is WAY too much thinking going on here. Michelle is well known to be highly educated, highly intelligent, and very strong. But she is also a wife and mother. And that was where she was speaking from...the aspect of every woman. Not the scholar or attorney. She was speaking in glowing terms of her husband and i'm sure if the roles were reversed he would have done the same for her. The night was not about her many accomplishments, it was about his...After all he is the one running for president!

    August 27, 2008 at 2:43 am |
  4. James Dylan

    The speech was obviously written, at least largely guided, for her; and worse she allowed it. That's change for you; the ability to go back in time. Of course they don't know what else to do about her image after her comments of America. The answer is nothing. What's done is done. Everything coming henceforth just sounds like backtracking. And if you're still working on your image in the convention you've got major problems.

    August 27, 2008 at 2:03 am |
  5. Jerri in Alabama

    Ann...please. A hut? You should be ashamed of yourself. That's an old African stereotype. Their father died before either brother knew of one another. His brother is a proud African man and asked if the American media would stop exaggerating his plight. There are people in America living in rural and urban "huts". When was the last time you did something great to show your love for your own countrymen, women and children. You should really try it. It would make you feel so good inside. I gaurantee it.

    If we allow McCain to be elected we could all end up living in a "hut". There are millionaires right here in America foreclosing on their mansions! This is not a racial issue, it's not even a class issue nor is it a party affiliation issue. This is a human issue. We as Americans are struggling in every realm of our own lives! It has to stop for the sake of our children and our children's children. Don't vote for the person. Vote on behalf of your personal interests. Vote on behalf of those issues that affect you or the industry that you work in or the people that may depend on you.

    August 27, 2008 at 1:53 am |
  6. Jerri in Alabama

    Marty, LOL I can't believe you would mention someone's speaking abilities when you voted for George "we have a saying in Tennessee or is it Texas..anyway, fool me once...shame on um ?...fool me again...um?" W. Bush twice! You will obviously vote for McCain who graduated at the bottom of his class #494 out of 499 students! I respect his ability to survive as a P.O.W. as I respect all who have ever served our country but maybe if he had graduated with higher grades, he would have flown in the right direction instead of crashing into enemy territory which is what I am most afraid of him doing with this entire country.

    August 27, 2008 at 1:52 am |
  7. Jerri in Alabama

    Dennis...CNN did not show Obama's sister speak at the opening of the convention. She is also biracial. They have the same mother but her father is asian. She is an american history teacher. She spoke proudly of their deceased mother and of her brother. C-SPAN showed all of the speeches.

    August 27, 2008 at 1:51 am |
  8. mik

    of course they're going to make mrs. obama do that! remember the first time clinton ran for president? didn't they rip mrs. clinton to shreds, where she had to literally hide for a while? the 2-for-1 jokes? who really wears the pants jokes?

    also, I think mrs. obama knows she's a strong woman, but her husband is running for president and she's there to support him. nothing wrong with that.

    August 27, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  9. llis

    Dennis,
    It's obvious from your posts what prejudices you hold. They are more thinly veiled than you might imagine. I imagine his 80 some yr old white grandmother in Hawaii isn't in good enough health to make the trip to the convention as he already stated she isn't strong enough to travel. She may be infirm. I don't know of any other of his "white" relations. Have you done a search and come up with any?

    Some people will never change their minds about their prejudices because in order to do that, they would have to examine one's own heart and that is too frightening for them to contemplate. They might have to acknowledge that they have been wrong.

    I thought Michelle gave a wonderful, heartfelt speech. As someone who was asked to give a portrait of the lives of herself and Barack, I think she did a fine job of telling their story. She is supporting her husband for President, not running on the ticket. It would have been self aggrandizing to talk soley about her own accomplishments, although I thought the short film that preceded her speech did that very well.

    All I have to say about the Dem candidate is:

    Ba-rack ON!!

    August 27, 2008 at 12:27 am |
  10. Lynn

    I find Mrs. Obama more common personally!! They can put a pretty dress on Mrs. Obama and dress her up, but they can't seem to warm up her cold heart inside! I think she set's back women a 100 years and is hiding behind shadow of a man. Mrs. McCain on the other hand would make a real Frist Lady!!!

    August 27, 2008 at 12:00 am |
  11. Megan

    I completely agree with you, Lisa. While she may care about her family, she also has had a spectacular career, and it's a shame that such an accomplished woman needs to turn herself into a two dimensional character so the public can understand and relate to her. Honestly, I think the majority of the public really is only interested in people who are flat caricatures of themselves. Paris Hilton and George Bush are two good examples. All very predictable quips and one-liners from those two. "That's hot. Loves it." and "We're gonna go get 'em." As they say, we are products of our environment, and when all we're exposed to is a lot of advertising and cartoonish people, that's what we respond to. You know, it's actually a very smart move on Michelle's part. People will understand her and will remember her, because her message was very simple. Obama should probably pick up on some of that, because I think there are a lot of people out there that don't like what they don't understand and don't understand very complex people, like Obama. Maybe he should be a cartoon, too, and then he'd win for sure! Seriously though, he might want to check into that. I think McCain probably is.

    Oh, and Mike in NYC, you're an ass. You've totally discredited any minority who has made it into a good college as "mandated diversity." You've undermined all of Michelle Obama's hard work and intellect, instead crediting her success to the government. She didn't HAVE to be successful, she just as easily could have chosen to be a nobody like yourself. But she chose to be successful and intelligent, to get a good education and a prestigious job, and your close-minded opinion of what made her successful is exactly why people are still talking about and dealing with discrimination and prejudice. She worked hard for what she achieved, and we all need to give credit where credit is due.

    August 26, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  12. Dah McBride

    Wake up AMERICA, it's time for a change.

    August 26, 2008 at 11:01 pm |
  13. Rob

    This was the politically-correct, "I want to get my husband elected" side of Michelle Obama. What side of a person is really authentic? The early unguarded remarks (For the first time in my adult life I am really proud of my country) or the scripted, look how sweet I am speech? Give me a break. She is a radical like her husband. I agree she appears to be smart, capable and hardworking, devoted to her family and husband which are all great qualtiies. But I believe she and Barack both still believe what The Rev. Wright said in church for 20 years: white people are the cause of all evil in America. I truly wanted Obama to unite us in the U.S. when I first heard of him. I thought it was GREAT we had a viable African-American candidate. And then he turned out to be a radical, "blame America" inexperienced disappointment.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  14. carrieinSterling, Va

    I was surprized by the reaction of the pundits. I thought Michele's speech was awkward, hokie, and scripted. She was trying so hard to sell her self as "acceptable" she came off phony. And everyone who said it was great came off phony too. She's a strong woman with strong opinions. I don't agree with a lot of them-but I appreciate authenticity-not extreme makeovers of the political or any other kind.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  15. Beth in MD

    I understand that the point of the speech was to talk about her husband. I also think the fact that she has her own significant accomplishments also put Barack in a favorable light. I agree that a man that selects an intelligent wife is probably a better man than who doesn't. I also thought the song was inappropriate and demeaning. Why do we think America wants women who aren't strong and accomplished, whether they are mothers or not.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:46 pm |
  16. Rob

    Give me a break with the "7 houses" dig. They are all rich. The Obama's are millionaires. The leaders of the Democratic party (Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Clintons) are ALL rich. Stop buying the crap the Dem. party has sold to ignorant people for years that the Republicans are for the rich and the Democrats are for the poor. Are you that ignorant or gullible? How many houses does Pelosi have and who really cares? The issue should be "who has the most experience to lead the country?" "Who can we trust?" Obama is a creation of the DNC: a newcomer, a good speaker, someone who inspires uninformed people who are impressed by empty rhetoric and who don't really research voting records or experience. If you love Obama after really researching his beliefs and background -go for it – vote for him. But, if you have gotten caught up in the hype about his message of hope, or in the image of the person who is good at reading a teleprompter – then you are what is wrong with this country. I am no McCain supporter (he does not reflect my views either) but at least he hasn't attended an anti-White church nor has he associated with terrorists.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  17. Cynthia

    Any person doing on this post who grew up poor or middle class, who has children, or went to college of student loans be it Princeton or whatever college. If the really listened to that speech could relate to something in it. The only way that you could not is if you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth.

    August 26, 2008 at 10:12 pm |
  18. Kathryn

    I am stunned at the pettiness of some of the criticism of this amazing woman! Her speech was delivered flawlessly with great style and eloquence, spoken clearly from the heart and in her own words. Her elegance not only meets but surpasses most of our former First Ladies, not because of her lovely and completely appropriate dress, but because of her shining intelligence. Tonight I am looking forward to hearing from one of the few First Ladies who is in her league – Hillary Clinton!

    August 26, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  19. voting mccain

    am i the only one that can see that michelle had a great speech writer . talk about chainging your spots. i just could not beleive she was being honest . it was to scripted . you say mccain is to old . i'm not ready to let a rookie run this country. mccain is not bush , and in my heart i think he is the right man for the job . there can be change in this country and mccain is getting my vote , obama reminds me of a snake oil salesman , i'm not sure what he will say on the same subject from one week to another. obama is playing some of you as fools, but let us be thankful for the fools . but for them the rest of us could not succed

    August 26, 2008 at 10:07 pm |
  20. Taaka

    Frankly: I think Cindy has an issue with Michelle Obama. Nevertheless I am excited about what the Obamas are doing as well, I believe that Michelle had to find herself on the political stage. Michelle Obama in the workplace may not be appropriate for the political stage, or the campaign trail. We saw that already and the "big boys" and of the media went crying about "angry militant black woman". Sometimes you have to do what you have to do in order to get where you need to be. I bleieve we saw the real Michelle Obama, just a different side, an adaptable Michelle. A quality that I think suites her well. Knowing which hat to wear at which time reflects wisdom on the part of the wearer. I'm just sorry that some bloggers don't have that same respect for her "choice of hats".

    August 26, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    I think Michele could have represented herself in full rather than just the family side. Lot of us have 2 bread winners in the family; a lot of wives are just as passionate about their work and excel at their work just like their husbands do. Balancing a successful demanding career while being a good mother and wife is quite an accomplishment and I don't see that it would take anything away from Obama if Michelle had spoken of her whole self instead of just one part.

    I really liked the part after her speech where the youngest kept talking to her father on the video phone setup; that was adorable and funny!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 26, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  22. kim-chicago

    Political analysis is getting so ridiculous. Michelle Obama is walking a tightrope. No matter what she says or what she does or even more insane...what she wears...is going to be dissected beyond reason. She clearly loves her husband and her family and is doing the best she can. In my opinion she is one amazing woman.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  23. DeBorah

    Lets see. Michelle Obama's speech, LOVE. Love and support for her Husband, Love for her Family, and, Love for America and its People.

    Lisa's comments, unnecessary NEGATIVITY.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:09 pm |
  24. Amy, Chicago

    Another comment –

    My employees have seen me on the shop floor with flip flops and jeans ....but when they see the suit they are happy because they know I mean business and I am working to keep them employed, they know their future is being taken seriously.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  25. Amy, Chicago

    This election is not just about social change, it is about a global playing field.

    Michelle has appears by Barak's side on the stump in leggings and a baby doll dress. Please help us if she expects to be respected on the world playing field.

    As an employer in Chicago – I love flip flops and jeans – however If I have meeting with a large corporation, I wear a suit and have a demeanor that is respectable!

    August 26, 2008 at 9:03 pm |
  26. Ruth

    Carol...really liked what you said! You hit the nail on the head! Thanks!

    August 26, 2008 at 8:53 pm |
  27. Ruth

    This is ridiculous! Michelle Obama is an outstanding, smart, intelligent, normal! woman...yes, she is a strong woman, and unfortunately, there are still some men and women in this very country who dislikes strong women, period. They are using other lame reasons to make her look bad, rather than being honest about their true reason for disliking her. This is America! This is a land of equality, folks!

    August 26, 2008 at 8:51 pm |
  28. Abby

    Good Grief! No one forced Michele and Barack Obama into politics. There is no time for politics for whinny victims. Her speech was fine, the kids were fine. Let's move on. She is NOT a victim and everytime I hear someone say she is it makes me more disappointed. I am a right leaning independent. I'm open to Obama, but not with a "poor me", "victim me" attitude. I'm bright enough to understand that Obama is every bit a regular politician....no change here. But since I choose not to enter any race, anywhere, I have to accept that. I would just like a little honesty. I don't respond to pandering, I don't respond to promising the world, I don't respond to the idea that bigger government is better government. I respond to a solution to a problem. So far – they only offer more money – which is already a failure.

    August 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  29. bj

    The Obama Family is one in unity, love, compassion. Michelle knows who she is and what she has accomplished; and by now so does everyone else in this Country.

    Wake-up everybody; stick to the issues. Change must come to our Country by neccessity or by embracing it. Either way ,change will come.

    Financially we have already lost our clout and power. Our Country is in serious debt to other rogue nations; we would never do business
    with these countries in the past. He who controls the purse strings control the power.

    The Trickle-Down Theory of the past Bush Administration is Tax cuts for the Wealthy and they will past it on to you. Reality, It is not being past on to us. It JUST STOPS AT THE TOP AND THE WINNER TAKE ALL.

    My challenge for anyone who thinks that a 72yr old man is as sharp as one in his forty's is in denial. Somethings just come with age.
    I see the same signs in McCAIN that Reagan displayed when he was in office; forgetfulness, off the wall comments, etc.

    The same powers in the Bush Whitehouse will be the same powers running the McCain Whitehouse; in other words the story will be the same, the names will just change. Bush-McCain, Cheney- to be announced. In other words a ROSE by any other Name is still a Rose.

    August 26, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  30. Samatha Stewert

    I hear they will redo Planet of the Apes starring Michelle Obama!!! need to fi x the under bite dearand nice try –trying to come across like apple pie!!!

    August 26, 2008 at 8:35 pm |
  31. VivianKY

    I have to agree with Eve. Ms. Obama's speech was about her husband's bid for the presidency. Others have and will let us know about her personal accomplishments. My sense is Michelle and Barack Obama compliment each other and are totally comfortable within themselves. This enables each to honestly praise the other. I feel this is something they have a history of doing for and about each other in every arena of their lives.

    August 26, 2008 at 8:22 pm |
  32. Mary in Houston

    Fact- One cannot be all things to all people all the time. Partisan politics will provide criticism and compliments, and this will be true all week long for Michelle, Hillary, and each of the speakers. Some will say he/she should have included this or that, others will say too much was said ...As intelligent Americans it is our duty to see through the hype and showmanship to the character, beliefs and values that will sustain a leader to make the best choices for Americans. Fundamental differences separate the parties though we still expect that whoever is elected will represent each equally, showing balance to segments of society, and respecting underrepresented people. Media's coloring of this must remain neutral or at least balanced. Talking over speakers to reiterate a pundits opinion removes us from forming our own.

    August 26, 2008 at 8:15 pm |
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