Is Michelle Obama's Playful & Pragmatic Nature Too Heavily Scrutinized?
7 months ago
The first lady, like others before her, is always under the microscope
Recent polls prove that Michelle Obama is more popular than her husband, the president himself, Barack Obama.
While only 54 percent of Americans viewed her as favorable during the 2008 presidential election, that rating has jumped to 66 percent in the years since. Michelle Obama has become the most-televised first lady in history, releasing her own gardening book, launching the Joining Forces initiative to provide job opportunities and support to service members and their families and, of course, creating a platform to fight childhood obesity with the Let's Move campaign.
However, despite her expanding appeal, media and mass audiences have found a misstep in every success. "Hungry" kids slam her low-calorie school lunches; her bare arms mean she isn't "dressing her age"; her excessive hugs, given in an attempt to be 'less intimidating,' make eyes roll; and her appearance on the cover of Vogue magazine, likely dressed in expensive designer clothing, left White House aides feeling as if she were insensitive to the economic plight of others.
Additionally, one Virginia-based voter recently declared her "far from a first lady" saying, "It's about time we get a first lady in there that acts and looks like a first lady. Can you imagine the Kennedys or the Bushes doing push-ups on the floor? She's more about showing her arms off. I think that's very inappropriate for a lot of functions that she goes to. You see her walking around in shorts, just real casual wear."
Once lauded, is Michelle's down-to-earth nature—now more exposed than ever during her husband's re-election campaign—being rightfully scrutinized?
Robert Watson, professor of American studies at Lynn University and author of "The Presidents’ Wives: Reassessing the Office of First Lady," finds any backlash to be unwarranted.
"It's Mrs. Obama’s 'informality' that has allowed her to connect with children at her plant-a-garden events or physical fitness events," Watson said. "Women all across the country can relate to her shopping for dresses off the rack at stores commonly found at the mall. So, there is something more going on here than people being uncomfortable with informality. She's not in a bikini swimming."