What’s important to know is that she’s not “naturally skinny”

21 03 2009

Not surprisingly, Michelle Obama has been interviewed by many reporters lately. The New York Times had an article yesterday, Mrs. Obama Speaks Out About Her Household, where the author mostly reports about what Mrs. Obama has said mostly regarding what she wears and what she eats or doesn’t eat, because of course this is the most important thing.

The author points out that the press aren’t the only ones who watch what Mrs. Obama wears. Her husband does too:

On the president and her wardrobe:

“He’s always asking: ‘Is that new? I haven’t seen that before.’ It’s like, Why don’t you mind your own business? Solve world hunger. Get out of my closet.”

The author also points out that Mrs. Obama admits that she is “not naturally thin and, like most other people, had to exercise and watch what she eats.” She writes:

“I have hips, and I have them covered up with these pleats,” she said, pointing to her Maria Pinto skirt.

To keep those hips from spreading, she said, she follows an exercise regimen of light weights, calisthenics, jump-rope and a cardiovascular routine that includes interval running.

“This is work,” she said.

Regular exercise allows for dessert, French fries and a burger — every now and then. But she would eat the fries every day if she could. “They are my favorite food in the whole wide world,” she said. “I could live on French fries.”

Then the author goes on to say that Mrs. Obama has raised her two daughters to be conscious of what they choose to eat as well. Meanwhile when she was younger, she was not quite a fan of her mom’s healthier cooking.

As a child, she much preferred peanut butter to the vegetables her mother, Marian Robinson, served with dinner every night.

“My mother, who is now a grandmother — and that’s a whole ’nother person — seems to believe that she never, ever really made us eat anything that we didn’t want to eat,” Mrs. Obama said. “It’s just a lie. I’ll get my brother here, and we can spend hours railing about how we hid lima beans in our napkins. And for the days we had to eat liver, we were gagging over it.”

While people like to be told that famous people, be they people in power or celebrities, are normal and just like us, it is disturbing how much focus is on women’s bodies and appearances. Influential women are constantly scrutinized by the media for their conformance to standards of femininity, especially whether or not they are thin (God forbid they gain even an ounce!), or whether or not they dress well enough.

It certainly does not surprise me that the principal focus in the Times article is on Mrs. Obama’s statements about her fashion, weight and appearance, yet it continues to disappoint me and upset me that women are still more valued for their appearance than their substance: their personalities, their beliefs, their contributions to society, etc.

Instead, what’s important for us to know about Mrs. Obama is that she is not “naturally skinny”, she has hips, she has to work hard to stay in shape, she loves french fries and how she never really liked vegetables as a kid.


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