Thursday, June 12, 2008

Michelle Obama Watch, Yes!


I had planned to post on FOX News again because I heard yesterday that the network called potential First Lady Michelle Obama "Obama's baby mama." And if I had posted on that topic, I was going to say that attacks on Michelle Obama are getting so bad that someone needs to create a site just to keep track of them. Fortunately, someone already has.

The site keeping track of assaults on Michelle Obama is appropriately called MichelleObamaWatch.com. I learned there that her daughters, the "weeMichelles," have also been targets; however, those attacks were presented in the guise of art. I don't know what the artist believes politically. Sometimes creative types take others to task with poorly-conceived attempts irony but the imagery backfires.

The site leaves me conflicted. I wish for its success in calling attention to sexism, misogyny, and racist misogyny, but I also hope that it runs out of material, which would in turn mean its downfall. Still, wouldn't it be wonderful if this site couldn't find material because folks stopped being so hateful?

Sometimes people insult Michelle in ignorance, but in the case of FOX, I'm sure it's more of their being crazy like a fox. The network panders to its conservative audience, many of whom probably believe America's gone to hell in a hand basket when it comes to African-American advancement and women's rights, and it ridicules minorities and women. However, when criticized for delivering biased, racist, misogynistic commentary and coverage, staff and contributors hide behind "Oh, we misspoke," or "My, we didn't know that was an insult," or "political correctness is anti-American."

Overall, I think most people (because it's not all FOX) who insult Michelle have an agenda and don't care if they divide this nation. They want to be in control and favor divide and conquer. But the degradation of Michelle is more insidious than pushing fascist political agendas.

Aside from being used as a strategy to sidetrack Barack Obama's campaign, these Michelle Obama attacks are launched in part because Michelle is an African-American woman. However, as others have said, these attacks are launched also because Michelle Obama is a strong woman, a vocal woman.

Anyone who remembers Bill Clinton's years in office may see that attacks on Michelle are reminiscent of conservative attacks on Hillary Clinton that remained virulent all through Bill's presidency. For the first time (excluding perceptions of Eleanor Roosevelt's work) the White House had a First Lady who worked on issues that could direct critical policy such as Hillary's calling for national health care reform. Hillary was the first First Lady to keep an office in The West Wing.

Hillary Clinton had encountered controversy from practically the beginning of her tenure. By her having assuming a more overtly political role than any of her predecessors, Hillary Clinton was an easy target for the political opposition; oftentimes it was she personally that was attacked, beyond the words she spoke or actions she took. Much as Nancy Reagan had served as a target for her husband's opponents, so too did Hillary Clinton become a target for those who disagreed with the Administration. The American Conservative Union, for example, solicited money to fight what they termed the First Lady's "radical agenda." (FirstLadies.org)
Some of the vilest mud slung at Hillary hasn't been documented for public consumption because it wasn't put on the Net. The Net wasn't the magnet back then that it is today. But I remember seeing fliers and hearing commentary that was pretty mean and tacky.

And as we saw during Hillary's campaign, the Hillary-specific hate, misogyny-in-general, and sexist jabs just kept on coming. The Women's Media Center said that Hillary's campaign put a spotlight on sexism and produced this video to back up that statement.

The difference between attacks on Hillary and attacks on Michelle is that attacks on Hillary heated up after her husband took office. Michelle seems to have been a target from the beginning of her husband's campaign. However, according to this Salon article, Republicans attacking a candidate's spouse is pretty standard. Oh, but is it usually so rancid?

Sadly, the attacks and smears against both the candidate and his wife are bad enough for Obama's own website to launch response through a special section, Fight the Smears.

This racism and misogyny that's been shaken to America's surface during this campaign has often disheartened me, but I keep telling myself it may be a necessary evil. Just as it may be darkest before the dawn, we may need to endure pain before we heal and grow stronger.

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2 comments:

Morra said...

It is so dispicable to me that Fox hurls racist, sexist insults at Michelle Obama. It's the most upsetting part of this whole campaign in some ways: they can't openly smear Barack, but they can his wife? It's completely juvenile, offensive, and unamerican.

Vérité Parlant said...

Yes, unamerican! They try to come off as patriotic but I don't think they're concerned about promoting the American ideal at all. And "juvenile" hits it on the head too. My daughter said, "They did it to insult the Obamas and because mama rhymes with Obama. Fox News people seem to think this stuff is cute. They don't care about the fallout or what hate speech incites in this country. I dread my children seeing FOX News' ugly shenanigans because I don't want them to build up any bitterness about what goes on this country. FOX News is the most irresponsible network on the air.