Friday, February 22, 2008

Barack's "Rock"

Newsweek featured an article Who Is Michelle Obama?--an impressive expose of the intelligence, achievements and convictions of Barack's wife.

But it couldn't stop at that. It could not be a piece on the grassroots organizing and ivy-league brilliance of Michelle. It needed to re-framed her story through a traditional gendered lens: "Barack's rock."

Says the article, "She's the one who keeps him real, the one who makes sure running for leader of the free world doesn't go to his head. Michelle's story."

I've heard this classic sexist narrative before--it's the woman, pure and strong, keeping the aggressive and powerful public man together back in the warmth and legitimacy of the private realm.

The truth is, from running literacy programs, to getting out the vote, to recruiting minority students, Michelle is a leader in her own right.

The cultural pride we place on the "woman behind the man" functions only to divert attention from the oppression of woman and to inculcate whimsical notions of female "power" by aggrandizing the influence of women behind the scenes.

And even if this is true, and woman really are pulling strings behind closed doors--again the question remains, why must female power occur behind the scenes, and why is female power generally and culturally mediated through the male?

I happen to think that Michelle Obama is a power house of her own, and I object to her story being run through the same old sexist script.

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