June 6, 2013

Ellen Sturtz, the 56-year-old lesbian activist, who heckled Michelle Obama and says she was "taken aback" when Michelle "came right down in my face."

As discussed in this earlier post today, Michelle Obama said "Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving," and now Sturtz would like us to know that "she told Obama she was happy to take the microphone to plead her case," which — she claims — "appeared to fluster the first lady."
“I said I want your husband to sign the executive order,” Sturtz said. “Her husband could sign this order tonight and protect 22 percent of the work force in this country.”

Sturtz said she paid $500 to attend the fundraiser, part of a protest cooked up by the gay rights group GetEqual, which gained notice in Obama’s first term for hectoring him during speeches and demanding more action on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
I get a whiff of sexism from the use of the word "fluster." That's a word that people have traditionally used — this is my observation — to portray a woman as incapable of standing her ground and dealing with emotional turmoil.

The (unlinkable) OED defines the transitive verb "to fluster" to mean "To flurry, confuse":
1785   A. Murphy Way to keep Him (new ed.) i. 26   Ma'am, if I was as you, I would not fluster myself about it.
1816   Scott Antiquary III. v. 112   The aged housekeeper was no less flustered and hurried in obeying the numerous..commands of her mistress.
I find it arrogant and annoying for this protester to claim to have flustered the First Lady. The First Lady was angered (and justifiably).

96 comments:

Methadras said...

At least she didn't say the permanent sneering she bitch of a presidents wife was hysterical. That would just be rude and sexist.

Jay said...

The white girl was all scared of the black girl.

This is nothing new!

Chip S. said...

I find it arrogant and annoying for this protester to claim to have flustered the First Lady. The First Lady was angered

It's not either/or.

MO was angered by the heckling and flustered by the acceptance of her challenge.

And I don't see anything sexist about "flustered". "Hysterical" it ain't.

Capt. Schmoe said...

Why is it that people who are behaving poorly get taken aback when others behave poorly to them?

Jay said...

Flashback:

In Elko, Obama tried to anticipate his critics and called on the crowd of about 1,500 to sharpen their elbows, too.

"I need you to go out and talk to your friends and talk to your neighbors. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their face," he said.



Inga said...

She was angered and flustered as Chip said. It shows that she is human and not at all the queenly arrogant person that she is painted to be. She handled it well, good for her.

Paddy O said...

I've heard flustered used equally.

And people fluster differently. Some get the vapors (that's an example of a sexist word), some stammer, some respond in anger, some are wits, some ignore. Getting flustered brings out a natural response.

Which is to say it sounded like she was totally flustered and responded with frustration and anger, a very natural response especially when a person is used to being the (or with the) most important person in the room.

Chip S. said...

Whoever writes headlines for the WaPo sports section doesn't seem to find anything female-specific about being flustered:

After losing first set again, Nadal flustered not by his play as much as French Open scheduling

sydney said...

The confrontation occurred in a private home. I did not realize it was such a small and intimate gathering:

Obama was addressing a Democratic Party fundraiser in a private Kalorama home in Northwest Washington when Ellen Sturtz, 56, a lesbian activist, interrupted her remarks....

...Obama showed her displeasure – pausing to confront Sturtz eye to eye, according to witnesses.

“One of the things that I don’t do well is this,” she said to applause from most of the guests, according to a White House transcript. “Do you understand?”

A pool report from a reporter in the room said Obama “left the lectern and moved over to the protester.” The pool report quoted Obama as saying: “Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice....”

The audience responded by asking Obama to remain, according to the pool report, which quoted a woman nearby telling Sturtz, “You need to go.”

Sturtz was escorted out of the room.


That puts a little different color to the interaction. It is rude to interrupt someone. It is also rude to turn all confrontational in an intimate setting like that in response to the rudeness. When I thought it was a large audience in a lecture hall, her response made more sense. But in someone's living room? Not so much.

JPS said...

Inga, 11:19:

"It shows that she is ... not at all the queenly arrogant person that she is painted to be."

Who painted her that way? It's the vilest slander!

"Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone... Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual - uninvolved, uninformed."

Nothing queenly or arrogant there.

dreams said...

"I find it arrogant and annoying for this protester to claim to have flustered the First Lady. The First Lady was angered (and justifiably)"

I don't have any sympathy for the heckler but that doesn't mean that Michelle wasn't flustered regardless of the sexism of the word. I don't like Michelle and I'm pretty sure she and her heckler have more in common with each other than either has with the majority of the American people so as I'm concerned they deserve each other.

bagoh20 said...

So she expected Michelle to stop and have a conversation with just her, and was shocked that she was kind of busy at the moment.

Too dumb to take serious, and I can't believe this is even a story, let alone the coverage it's getting. It's a bitch-bites-bitch story and nothing more.

Now, that's sexist language, lest you've forgotten what the real thing looks like, and there is nothing wrong with it among adults.

edutcher said...

Fact is, the White House edited the whole thing out of the transcript, but good for the woman for calling Moochelle's bluff.

I'd love to see a vid of Moochelle giving that woman the hairy eyeball. I'll bet Choom didn't teach her that.

Nobody's allowed to talk to Her Majesty as if she were just another citizen.

Inga said...

She was angered and flustered as Chip said. It shows that she is human and not at all the queenly arrogant person that she is painted to be.

Sure sounds like she is.

PS The Blonde uses the word, "flustrate".

Paco Wové said...

"22 percent"? Where did that come from?

Smilin' Jack said...

Michelle offered the mic to Sturtz and then didn't know how to respond when Sturtz accepted the offer. In other words, she was flustered.

bagoh20 said...

" Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual - uninvolved, uninformed."

Wow, didn't that ever come to be true? Not like she meant it though. "Transform America" alright - from bastion of freedom into a embarrassing banana republic with the Press helping all the way. Great Job!

David said...

I just had to look up a photo of Sturtz.

She's posing with her dog.

They are near twins.

That's not to say that Sturtz is a dog in the sense of unattractive. She's not my type, but she's well groomed (dog concept alert) and trim.

You would look at her and think "lesbian," an attractive lesbian of a certain age. No that's not an insult. It's what she intends.

But she really, really looks like her dog.

David said...

Hey I have gotten flustered.

It usually involves a woman.

dreams said...

I'm here to heckle, no fair getting heckled back, life is so unfair.

Chip S. said...

It seems like only yesterday that Althouse argued that this

“One of the things that I don’t do well is this”

was self-deprecating.

Now that we have video, it's pretty clearly anger rather than modesty.

Jay said...

Hilarious contrast:

Inga said...
She was angered and flustered as Chip said. It shows that she is human and not at all the queenly arrogant person that she is painted to be.


Michelle Obama said...
Listen to me or you can take the mic

Conclusion: Inga is silly & stupid.

Jay said...

Now that we have video, it's pretty clearly anger rather than modesty.

Holy cow does that video complete Inga's beclownment.

The Mooch is angry as shit!

Michael Ryan said...

I know in debates it's vital to make your side look more important than it really is, but really? Are they claiming that 22% of the workforce is LGBT?

Michael Ryan said...

I know in debates it's vital to make your side look more important than it really is, but really? Are they claiming that 22% of the workforce is LGBT?

Sigivald said...

When you heckle someone, you do not get to be taken aback when they get in your face.

I mean, okay, you do, if you're such a gigantic loser that you can't take what you dish out.

But you don't get any symapthy for it.

Darcy said...

Such a lovely First Lady.

David said...

Michelle was angry. Good for her. I'm tired of this heckling crap. Occasionally there's a place for it. But usually not just for a single, publicity seeking heckler.

Heckling tells you something when the entire crowd is into it.

Methadras said...

Michael Ryan said...

I know in debates it's vital to make your side look more important than it really is, but really? Are they claiming that 22% of the workforce is LGBT?


That number is preposterous on its face and should be laughed at for the lie that it is.

Darrell said...

I'm sticking with my first take that it was all a pre-arranged stunt to make Michelle look Presidential for 2016. Couple this with that Drudge link that Michelle won't be showing up for some important meetings with China. WTF. Since when does the FLOTUS negotiate with any foreign power?

Amartel said...

Mrs. Obama might well have been flustered when her bluff was called. Mrs. Obama didn't stand her ground and deal directly with the heckler; she left it to the audience to pressure the heckler to shut up. The heckler it seems, shamelessly, was fully prepared to NOT SHUT UP. Mrs. Obama was justifiably angered but she might have been flustered as well.
(None of this means I approve of this stupid heckler.)

Amartel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...

Mooch started out her response by shouting "I don't care what you believe"

She handled it well!!!

Fr Martin Fox said...

Absurd, but...

This reminded me of an episode of "Chopped" that I watched on the Food Network a few days ago. (For those who don't know, this pits four aspiring cooks against it each other, until three are "chopped" and the winner is awarded $10,000.)

One of the contestants was a UN chef, from the Philippines, and right away, she highlighted the fact that she's a lesbian. Then, throughout the hour, she kept bringing it up.

"Why did you choose to make a roux?"

"Because it's good--and, by the way, I'm a lesbian!"

No, not really, but almost that bad.

None of the judges got flustered, however.

But they did chop her.

YoungHegelian said...

@sydney,

The confrontation occurred in a private home. I did not realize it was such a small and intimate gathering...

The other person who probably got chewed out that day is whoever organized that event and let Ms Sturz in without knowing why she was there.

I know --- what was the organizer supposed to -- put everyone through a lie detector? But, still, I'm sure (s)he heard about it from the Obama team.

Chip S. said...

Heckling is what you get when you give fiery political speeches.

I don't think it's right to heckle the First Lady. I mean, it's not like she's someone in a position of policy authority. Which raises the question, why is she speechifying on policy?

I doubt that Jackie Kennedy was heckled, but if she was I very much doubt she went all Jerry Springer on the heckler.

Chip Ahoy said...

frustrate -->flustrate -->fluster

OED has it acause it's wrong and now that I used acause the OED can cite my usage for the word acause.

David said...

So here you have a small gathering at someone's home. People paid $500 each to be there and hear the President's wife. Sturtz decides that the event is about Sturtz and her particular issue. Michelle pushes back, hard, and very effectively rallies the crowd to her side.

Jay Carney said that Michelle handled it "brilliantly." For the first time in my life, I'm 100% with Jay Carney.

Chip S. said...

Jay Carney said that Michelle handled it "brilliantly."

Did you watch the video of him saying that, or just read the transcript?

He can barely suppress an ironic smirk when he says that.

chrisnavin.com said...

People with husbands who run on the activist platform shouldn't be too offended when they are interrupted by activists.

Down twinkles.

Michelle, the lesbian activist, a black panther or two, Code Pink, Cornel West, A Greenpeacer and Sandra Fluke should all live together.

They deserve each other.

CJinPA said...

Forget "flustered"...

"Cooked up"...."hectored"....?

This is not an WaPo opinion piece, right?

John Burgess said...

I'll argue that your seeing "fluster" as sexist may be idiosyncratic. It's been gender-neutral when I use it or come across it, even when applying it to my male self.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Sturtz Stolz geht vor Fall

Crunchy Frog said...

Maybe the 22% is governmental employees?

If so, it's no wonder we are screwed.

Marshal said...

Are gays really claiming to be 22% of the workforce now? This is the first I've seen of this figure.

Larry J said...

apt. Schmoe said...
Why is it that people who are behaving poorly get taken aback when others behave poorly to them?


The smuggness was strong in that one. She likely felt so certain not only of her fundamental correctness that she couldn't believe anyone could possibly disagree with her actions and words.

Tank said...

If Carney thinks that, then I have to re-think my own approval.

He's one of THOSE guys.

Crunchy Frog said...

Maybe the 22% is governmental employees?

If so, it's no wonder we are screwed.

CJinPA said...

Jay Carney said that Michelle handled it "brilliantly." For the first time in my life, I'm 100% with Jay Carney.

It's the first time in my lifetime that a First Lady threatened to storm off if a heckler wasn't silenced. If this was brilliantly handled, the previous Firt Ladies (or any public speaker, really) must be judged to have handled their confrontations poorly.

Mrs. Obama's attitude is undeniably different.

El Pollo Raylan said...

GetEqual sounds like an artificial sweetener campaign.

"GotEqual?" is the obvious T-shirt retort.

CJinPA said...

Are gays really claiming to be 22% of the workforce now?

Good Lord, they're reproducing. I don't know how, but they're doing it.

CJinPA said...

"the previous Firt Ladies"

Firt Ladies. I like it.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Aside from the possibility that the whole thing was an in-your-face-plant, FLOTUS deserves some credit for standing up to her own fringe leftwing.

Rabel said...

Flustered, angry, self-deprecating, whatever. The threat to leave was as ass move.

dreams said...

"Michelle, the lesbian activist, a black panther or two, Code Pink, Cornel West, A Greenpeacer and Sandra Fluke should all live together.

They deserve each other"

I'd suggest putting them all in a time capsule for those out there in the universe who someday might want to know what caused our destruction.

Chip S. said...

Are gays really claiming to be 22% of the workforce now?

This 22% thing is artful obfuscation.

She's saying that the "protections" would cover 22% of the workforce--whether they need protecting or not.

Just like I'll have contraception coverage in my newly mandated health insurance plan, despite the probability of my becoming pregnant being solidly zero w/ or w/o it.

Darrell said...

The Who was wrong. From the comments on this thread, apparently "we" will be fooled again.

MayBee said...

I think Michelle called the femaile lesbian heckler "sir" at first.

Uncle Frank said...

For the first time in my adult life I am proud of Michelle Obama.

Paddy O said...

Most people don't handle being flustered very well. Calling it for what it is doesn't mean that's a justification for the heckling or inherently insulting to Michelle Obama. Which is why it's a bit odd to see people need to defend her or raise her response to some Churchillian style retort. She's a person who responded as many people do to being interrupted. It wasn't a very sophisticated or rousing response, but it was human.

Professors get flustered when they lecture too and some get angry, some are witty, some are vindictive, some just ignore it.

It was a lame move to heckle. Mrs. Obama got flustered and angry. Decorum was restored.

Chip S. said...

Decorum was restored.

I don't generally associate the word "decorum" w/ howling mobs.

Marshal said...

Crunchy Frog said...
Maybe the 22% is governmental employees?


If this is what the 22% refers to her statement is nonsensical.

GrandpaMark said...

Beginning of vid states the event was held at the home of a lesbian couple,so, no surprise a lesbian would be invited.

Darcy said...

I can't argue that it wasn't brilliant or effectively politically and I understand the feeling of satisfaction or admiration from some because heckling is rude and it's meant to be rude. I just don't admire Michelle Obama's response. It's tough. Sure. But there wasn't a hint of grace in it. I admire grace.

Considering further, I think I probably would have had a bitchy response to this woman as well if I were in Obama's shoes. Regret would likely follow.

RonF said...

Sorry, but I'll have to contest this one. I've heard and used the word "flustered" quite a number of times in my 60 years, and this is the first time I've heard that it's connotation specifically refers to women.

Doug said...

I don't know how you get sexism out of "flustered" - that kind of knee jerk victim response is reaching a new low.

But as to the poor demonstrator who got her widdle feewings hurt by the mean FLOTUS, tough teats. That will teach you to interrupt!

ad hoc said...

The First Lady was flustered because she was rudely interrupted and challenged about something when she was addressing an audience she expected to be sympathetic.

The activist was flustered because, although she did rudely interrupt the First Lady, she expected that they shared the same cause and that the first Lady would be sympathetic.

Unmet expectations on each side.

Renee said...

I wish I had 500 dollars, I would pay my bills though instead of a fundraiser.

Julie C said...

I loved the "You have one choice" comment by Michelle.

Um, one choice? Wait, that's not a choice in my book. Maybe she meant one chance?

Or, you have "a choice"?

Personally, the activist sounds like a rude child who, upon threatening to run away, is told by her parents, go ahead, if you must. And the child is then shocked.

Chip S. said...

Darcy said...

I think I probably would have had a bitchy response to this woman as well if I were in Obama's shoes.

I doubt that.

I think that after 5 years in the national spotlight you'd have acquired whatever composure you may have previously lacked.

We expect composure from our First Ladies. And we expect it to be manifested in dignified responses to rude people.

I don't think that's asking too much.

Darcy said...

Good call, Chip S. I think you're right and you said it better than I. My first response was bitchy. (See? :) )

Paddy O said...

I don't generally associate the word "decorum" w/ howling mobs.

Elitist.

Clyde said...

Oh, please! This woman was a plant. The LGBT folks and this administration are on the same sheet of music, just playing good cop, bad cop.

Chip S. said...

Elitist

Fuckin' A, Bubba.

phx said...

From the New Yorker:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Today, President Obama issued the following letter to all Verizon customers:

Dear Verizon Customers,

Yesterday it came to light that the National Security Agency has been collecting millions of phone records from you each and every day. Since that news was released, many of you have called the White House with questions and concerns about this new program. To save my time and yours, here are answers to three of the F.A.Q.s (Frequently Asked Questions) we’ve been hearing from you:

1. Will I be charged extra for this service?

I’m happy to say that the answer is no. While the harvesting and surveillance of your domestic phone calls were not a part of your original Verizon service contract, the National Security Agency is providing this service entirely free of charge.


2. If I add a phone to my account, will those calls also be monitored?

Once again, the answer is good news. If you want to add a child or any other family member to your Verizon account, their phone calls—whom they called, when, and the duration of the call—will all be monitored by the United States government, at no additional cost.

3. Can the National Security Agency help me understand my Verizon bill?

Unfortunately, no. The National Security Agency has tried, but failed, to understand Verizon’s bills. Pease call Verizon customer service and follow the series of electronic prompts.

I hope I’ve helped clear up some of the confusion about this exciting new program. But if you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to call the White House. Joe Biden is standing by.

God bless America,

President Obama

el polacko said...

it's 22% of the workforce that is under government contract, not that 22% of the workforce is gay.

as for the heckling, i'm not a big fan but it's something that comes with the territory when you are a politician, stand-up comedian, or some other type of public speaker. flying into a rage, getting into the heckler's face, and threatening to take your ball and go home is not really the best way to handle the situation...especially, as in this case, when it's at a small, private event that the 'heckler' paid to attend...and in which both the speaker and the 'heckler' are, essentially, on the same side of the issue in question. the first lady could have handled the woman's concerns in a more genteel manner rather than becoming angry and threatening her and the other attendees.

Sam L. said...

"Taken aback"? Really? No idea/thought beforehand that MO seems to be a "take no prisoners, shoot first, questions later" type?

I don't believe her.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Who knew the First Wookie was so homophobic?

I find your defense of First Lady Camacho to be ugly Ann.

Ugly I say.

Fr Martin Fox said...

el polacko said...

it's 22% of the workforce that is under government contract, not that 22% of the workforce is gay.

And how does that happen?

Gays and lesbians are approximately 2-4% of the total population.

It may not be nefarious; but it is curious, isn't it?

Chip S. said...

First Lady Camacho does a terrific Beef Supreme impersonation.

MayBee said...

"Flustered" isn't sexist and Mrs Obama was not self deprecating. And the little "she doesn't understand" at the end seemed one comment too many.

But whatever. I'm sure Michelle raised a lot of money for whatever.

MayBee said...

That speech sounds mind numbingly dull, though. I'll bet the people there were happy for the distraction.

Rich B said...

Damned insubordinate lesbians!

DADvocate said...

Fluster.

Must we agonize over words.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Inga, she was justifiably irritated, but hardly flustered. That's quite sexist of you to say that.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Inga, she was justifiably irritated, but hardly flustered. That's quite sexist of you to say that.

madAsHell said...

Where does a lesbian activist find an extra $500??

I am clearly in the wrong line of work.

madAsHell said...

Gays and lesbians are approximately 2-4% of the total population.

I'm thinking it's a bit closer to 10%, but they may be due to living on the left coast.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

edutcher,

PS The Blonde uses the word, "flustrate".

So do I! And a state of advanced dither, where there's some small-scale crisis and I go into disproportionate panic about it, is a "flustrum."

I confess that it never occurred to me that I was a sexist bigot against myself. Thanks, Ann, for enlightening me!

Shanna said...

And I don't see anything sexist about "flustered". "Hysterical" it ain't.

Yeah, I don't get that either.

The white girl was all scared of the black girl.

She obviously didn't go to my high school!

David said...

Did you watch the video of [Carney] saying that, or just read the transcript?

He can barely suppress an ironic smirk when he says that.


He can barely suppress an ironic smirk no matter what he says. I give his smirks no weight at all. For him it's like breathing.

David said...

By the way, do you suppose that the notion that Michelle "came right down on my face" was an intentional double entendre?

If so I give Stultz great credit for that.

Either way it's funny.

Michelle (staring sincerely into the camera): "I did not come down on that woman's face!"

Fr Martin Fox said...

I said:

Gays and lesbians are approximately 2-4% of the total population.

madAsHell said...

I'm thinking it's a bit closer to 10%, but they may be due to living on the left coast.

The ten percent claim has been around for awhile, but either it was driven by sketchy data, or else driven by a PR-based desire to speak of a more meaningful share of the population: "one in ten" sounds a lot more compelling than "one in twenty-five" or "one in fifty."

A few years ago, some data was published that spoke of 2-4%, or maybe 2-5%, I don't recall. But I did find this at Wikipedia; I wouldn't cite it, except that the article gives its source, so you can see if that bears out.

Dante said...

I'm not certain how quotations are meant to work, but from the article:

“She came right down in my face,” Sturtz said. “I was taken aback.”

Sturtz said she told Obama she was happy to take the microphone to plead her case, which, Sturtz said, appeared to fluster the first lady.


So "fluster" is not in quotations. Perhaps the person writing the article used a different word than was used, originally, and replaced it with "flustered", to try to draw the sting out of the "She came right down in my face." Which sounds very aggressive, while, as Ann notes, "flustered" seems weak and feminine.

Or maybe Sturtz did. But coming down and getting in someone's face sounds more like Michelle was ready for a girl fight. Is it OK for the first lady to pull hair?

edutcher said...

She doesn't seem to like someone else having the spotlight.

She won't meet with Red China's First Lady, who is a real looker.

The Godfather said...

This whole thing is kind of fun. I love to think of the DC Dems who put up $500 a head -- which is $1,000 a couple! -- to meet and hear the First Lady, and then because of this loud-mouthed activist the First Lady may WALK!!!! Have I gotten my picture taken yet? (That usually costs extra, but maybe in this case it's included.)

Michelle's response isn't going on anybody's list of great put-downs, but come on give her a break -- it doesn't prove she's a queen, a bitch, or a saint.

Just for the record, I agree with those who say "flustered" is not a sexist word. I've gotten flustered from time to time, and yet I am a guy. Prof. Althouse, on the other hand, probably has never been been flustered, yet she's a gal. QED

KLH said...

Never once have I considered flustered or hysterical to be terms describing only women... in my experience those words are used equally about men and women.