Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It Went Wrong Again

I'm talking about keeping it real.

Real talk.

Speaking your mind and letting it all hang out. Honest conversation with no hesitation. Spill your guts and set your soul free!

I'm talking about this bullshit.

For those of y'all too lazy to click on the link, it goes to a story discussing the merits of Michelle Obama's derriere. Yeah, I can already see some of y'all scrolling back up to check that out. For visual proof of Michelle's assets, check the picture above.

So, I stumbled on this article through Racialicious and just knew I had to write about it. That's how the creative process works for me. I'm typically forced to discuss something because I can't hold my feelings inside.

Are we really talking about butts now?

Look, I'll be the first to admit that I noticed right away that Michelle Obama had a fairly "black" shape, or at least what I've been taught to consider a "black" shape. A little small up top, narrow waist, wide hips and hindparts that can definitely fill out some jeans. I'm a man. The first thing every man does when seeing a strange woman is take stock of her face and body. We can't help ourselves.

In fact, I've even mentioned to my wife that Barack Obama made sure there could be no doubt that his wife was a black woman. I said it in an approving way. I felt like Michelle's figure probably was affirming to millions of black women who struggle with reading magazines that condemn their asses. Then they have to shop in stores filled with clothes that weren't created with them in mind.

Her body, just like her background, said something about the president-elect. It told me that he was comfortable around black people, that he found black things attractive. That made me comfortable with him. Now, some of y'all might be bothered by how I used the body of a woman to make decisions about her husband, but I'm just trying to be honest.

That said, I didn't spend too much time discussing it. I definitely didn't think somebody would spend two pages in a national magazine discussing it.

After all, it's a little disrespectful to focus that much attention on that part of the body. Sure, rap music and videos do it, but there is a difference between a video vixen and the wife of the future president. Sometimes it's perfectly acceptable to look and discuss, while other times you need to show some decorum.

For example, I was entering a store the other day, and leaving the building was an thin young lady who appeared to have been blessed by the Lord in her jeans. (Most black men can tell from the front whether someone has been blessed in that way.)

Now normally, I might have taken the time to appreciate God's handiwork. However, not only did this young lady have a neck tattoo, but her significant other, clad in typical "urban" attire, was right next to her. I made an important life decision to keep my eyes on the road, and not turn to catch the scenic view.

See? Decorum.

It's universally accepted that it's pretty disrespectful to ogle another man's woman in public. So, I'm just baffled that nobody wondered whether it would be disrespectful to write about the buttocks of a man's wife for the world to read.

And look, I know that it's disrespectful to Michelle to be treated as a sex object and that she's the one who was truly wronged, but I'm trying to point out how out of bounds this thing was on so many levels. Is this the way First Ladys are typically treated?

To make things worse, this article was written by a black woman who claimed she was celebrating the normalization of black beauty standards on a national stage. This was right after she pointed out that she doesn't think Obama's election is a cure-all for racial oppression. So, if I'm to understand her correctly, she thinks that having a big-butted Southsider as First Lady will eliminate the idiotic European standard of beauty prevalent in America, but the first black president won't really be that big a deal? Interesting.

You would think a black woman would be sensitive to the idea that maybe it's disrespectful to discuss the size of a black woman's butt in a magazine that caters to mostly white people. I would have assumed that a black woman would have had the good sense to question whether a tongue-in-cheek tone was the best way to comment on beauty standards and racial stereotypes. But, you know what they say about assumptions.

Instead, we got an article that weds some nuggets of insight about the black female experience, with ridiculous assertions about the importance of a big butt. It just seemed like the writer was trying to discuss a serious topic in a humorous way, but failed because the topic has not been discussed enough by the mainstream media. If Salon actually had a history of discussing racial stereotypes in beauty this would have worked much better. They don't, and it didn't.

Keeping it real went all the way wrong


kid said...

There's this so called "black" PUMA (SugarnSpice)blog where the "sister" constantly goes on about President elect Obama's wife mouth and backside.Most black women don't insult another black woman about those two attributes.Now no matter how his wife looks people will still talk.White people are scared to say anything about her.If she was extremely busty,THEY STILL WOULDN'T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HER.Some times being black works in your favor.

des said...

The most pathetic part of all this is that the writer seemed more impressed with herself than the content of the article.

Anonymous said...

Erin Aubry Kaplan needs her azz whipped...flat out. SIGH. What in the world was she thinking? Oh, that's right, she wasn't thinking.

Big Man said...

I don't advocate violence against women, but Audry definitely needs her ear pulled by one of those old ladies at church.

BBCSR53 said...

Over the years, I have read many of Erin Aubry Kaplan articles; I read the article "First lady got back" I would not call it (S..T).
As people of color, I realize this election is a first. We must not fall in the trap of becomming to sensitive. I must say I did not take from the article the reactions I am getting from this forum.

Big Man said...


Thanks for the comment. Hey, some people may find the article funny and insightful.
I found it stupid from my perspective as a black person and as a journalist.
I respect the need for humor and I understand how we can use witty comments to touch on serious issues. In my opinion, this article never went far enough in either direction. It wasn't a straight joke article and it was a serious article.
The author appeared to be trying to avoid criticism about the topic and tone of the piece by casually tossing in comments about the larger issue of European beauty standards. However, she completely avoided a substantive convo about those standards and instead fell back on trite jokes and Sir Mix-a-lot references.
It would have been a better piece if she took a stand. If she used Michelle's shape as a jumping off point to something serious or just kept it light the whole time.

Anonymous said...

OK, I read the piece and while I get where she was coming from, shit, I'm a Black girl from the southside of Chicago myself. The fact is this piece had no business being wrote at all, sometimes a great idea pops into your mind but then you realize that is where it should stay. Clearly the author didn't realize that in writing this piece she objectifies Michelle in the worst way.

Hands down, this sista needs to sit down somewhere and step away from the keyboard.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

I would have to agree with BGM it just was bad execution.

I don't subscribe to not talking about things in OUR community in front of white folks so that argument didn't work. However sometimes we just should be talking about it period.


Deacon Blue said...

This...I just...I mean...

Shit, I don't have words for just how disappointing this is.

BBCSR53 said...

I really hope the Obama's don't bring out what I call the (Think Tank Syndrome)However, since my wife has one of those butts, I will get a copy of this article and have her read it, and I will ask her what she thinks.

Big Man said...


I think I know what you mean by the Think Tank Syndrome and that's actually something that would be worth a blog post.
However, I'd like you to explain your point of view a little more.

Lolo said...

Meh. From my admittedly outsider point of view, I don't see anything outrageously offensive. It's a fluff piece written around a nugget of opinion that's actually truth.

I also think that if she were thick and wore her hair natural we would have heard a lot more about it.

Raving Black Lunatic