The problem is — and dare I say this — it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving, yeah it does — what do you mean, what do I mean?What is it – no, I’m trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, or of a woman [professional baseball player] Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you. I mean, women are under constant pressure to look lithe, and Michelle My Belle is out there saying if you eat the roots and tree bark and the berries and all this cardboard stuff you will live longer, be healthier and you won’t be obese. Okay, fine, show us.
One of the reasons I felt drawn to address this, is because though feminists are supposedly about fighting for women’s rights, they have a tendency to ignore the sexism and racism aimed at Michelle Obama. During the election, many were quick to defend the hideous Sarah Palin (yes, I know I broke my Sarah Palin free vow), and ignore the attacks aimed squarely at Michelle Obama. If all women mattered in women’s organizing, women of colour would have a central role.
In typical Limbaugh fashion, he asserts that a woman’s value is based in how fuckable she is. The swimsuit covers that he is suggesting, aren’t even images of real women. We live in the age of photoshop, and even the world’s most beautiful women are continually touched up, so that they appear impossibly beautiful. Supermodel Cindy Crawford once said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” Women are not allowed to have even the smallest imperfection and all this is done at the behest of the twin evils of capitalism and patriarchy. They keep women funneling their money into the exploitative beauty industry, which has no problem making wild claims that are not based in even the smallest amount of science. No beauty cream, no matter how much you spend, can penetrate below the first layer of the epidermis. With women encouraged to value their physical beauty over and above any other skill they may possess, it helps to lower ambition and success rates, while we squabble amongst each other for crumbs from the masters table.
His position is further problematized by the fact that women of colour are routinely erased from these magazine covers, with the exception of a small few to reduce the implication of racism. When darker skin women are placed on the cover of fashion magazines, their skin is routinely lightened. Historically, women of colour have been called ugly and ‘unwomen,’ and only those with the lightest hue have been offered even the tiniest glimpse of what it is to be accepted as women who are desirable and feminine. It has not escaped my notice, that as a dark skinned woman, Michelle’s body symbolizes all that Whiteness has targeted as ugly and disgusting. Is it any wonder they prize light skinned women, when their hue often represents the repeated the violation of White men over the course of centuries?
Though the FLOTUS has made a terrible decision by partnering with Walmart, the impetus behind the “let’s move” campaign is to encourage the populace to make healthy choices and get exercise. Nowhere does she suggest that people should live on “roots and tree bark.” This is completely a spurious argument on the part of Limbaugh. So what if she had ribs and they are high in calories and fat. She is not sitting down in front of a rack of ribs daily; it was simply one choice within a multitude of dietary choices she makes everyday to maintain a healthy weight. I think that considering Limbaugh’s current weight, that he has little room to be calling anyone fat. Michelle Obama has a woman’s body. She is muscular and yet has beautiful feminine curves. There is nothing about her physical body that needs to change, and the fact that she isn’t willing to starve herself, or engage in harmful eating practices to attain a figure that is unnatural for her, sends a positive message to young girls and more specifically young girls of colour, that they are fine they way they are.
There is nothing new or revolutionary in what Limbaugh is saying just as there is nothing new about the silence from those claiming to be involved in women’s advocacy. The continual silence of women’s activists work to affirm Limbaugh’s points and asserts that they only women that matter are White. This falls right in line with the failure to pay attention to the special needs of WOC in women’s organizing. Limbaugh may not be worth addressing on a regular basis but it is certainly pertinent to address the social implications of his repeated attacks against Michelle Obama.