March 24, 2018

When Robin Givhan violated the sacred cordon around Michelle Obama.

The other day I skimmed Robin Givhan column, "Michelle Obama wanted to gain the public’s trust. So she started with a garden,"  but I didn't post about it, because I moved on to other things, I don't want to blog every single Robin Givhan column, and I'm tired after the years and years of fawning over Michelle Obama. And I'm not a not a Michelle Obama hater — see my February 18, 2008 post, "The lovely and expressive Michelle Obama spoke in Madison, Wisconsin today." I'm just tired of all the pro-Michelle propaganda.

But now that there's a dispute about the column — discussed in the previous post — so I'm going to read it closely. The dispute is ostensibly about writing anything about the Michelle Obama/Valerie Jarrett conversation Givhan had access to, but I suspect some of the anger at Givhan has to do with the substance of the column — a failure to genuflect and adulate? — so now I want to read the whole thing carefully.
The occasion [for the Obama/Jarrett conversation] was the opening evening of Leading Women Defined, a private gathering of supremely accomplished black women organized by Debra Lee and BET aimed at networking and uplift. 
Supremely accomplished? So far, this is fawning. But the point is that Michelle Obama usually does lucrative speeches to a big audience of whoever chooses to pay to attend, and this was "a far more intimate crowd."

Topic #1: The scene at the White House on Trump's Inauguration Day. Michelle cried but didn't want to be seen looking like she'd cry, she was surprised by that Tiffany box, and when she waved from Marine One, leaving the White House, what she thought was “Bye, Felicia!” ("Bye, Felicia" has its own Wikipedia page. It means: Get out of my face!)

Topic #2: Michelle had to work at not being perceived as angry. "I had to learn how to deliver a message," basically by smiling all the time and not showing so much passion. Givhan writes: "And here the audience murmured understandingly, because they all knew what it means to be called angry when really you’re just emphatic."

Topic #3: Michelle's hurt pride. "With two Ivy League degrees and a résumé that included executive positions in hospital and city management, she was dismayed that people seemed to question whether she could handle being first lady."

Topic #4: The real meaning of the vegetable garden. “The garden was a subversive act... It was the carrot." The real carrot was a metaphorical carrot.* "You can’t go in with guns blazing until people trust you... What’s more innocent than a garden?"

Topic #5: Michelle's standing up for herself. She's writing a memoir, and it's "about refusing to place herself last, which is not just an act of self-love but is also a public, civic, political obligation."

I can see why I passed on this when I skimmed it before. It feels much like all the fluff I've seen about Michelle over the years. But I want to try to see it from the perspective of the other women — the "supremely accomplished black women" — who felt special and important gathered within the "safe"/"sacred" space within which Michelle performed intimacy.

These women — or many or some of them — must have wanted to feel that they got some material that is not available to the general public, something that related to their own status as "supremely accomplished black women."

In that light, I focus on "And here the audience murmured understandingly" — because that's where Givhan appropriated their precious intimacy, their murmur that said — just to their beloved Michelle — I know, I, like you have suffered the pain of being regarded as that angry, scolding woman when I was simply being the energetic, lovely, passionate woman that I am.

__________________

* I've talked about metaphorical carrots before, and this is not that. (Click that link to get back to one of the all-time biggest dustups on the Althouse blog.) Michelle is using carrot in the sense of the "carrot and stick."

56 comments:

Saint Croix said...

BET has really embarrassed itself. There's nothing in that piece that could upset anybody. It's acutely irrational to be upset about that. It makes me think that there's something else going on, that somebody at BET just doesn't like Robin Givhan. Or is mad about something and we don't know what that is. But to be mad about this article is to be irrational. It makes the people who are mad look really stupid.

chickelit said...

This is not about “those carrots.” This is about onion rings. Rings and circles within circles of tear-inducing onions.

Professor, what’s another word for “pirate treasure”?

madAsHell said...

"With two Ivy League degrees and a résumé that included executive positions in hospital and city management, she was dismayed that people seemed to question whether she could handle being first lady."

Imagine how much more respect she would have garnered if she just had that coveted Community Organizer bullet on her résumé!!

Humperdink said...

I thought President Obama was the one with the carrots (free healthcare, free cell phones, free, free, free) and Michelle was the one carrying the stick.

rhhardin said...

Supremely accomplished black women. The one I think of is Oprah, and she's accomplished at finding a women's audience. A creator of safe spaces.

Saint Croix said...

“This is a complete violation of journalistic ethics and Black girl code"

The Uncle Tom "you're not black" thing is an ugly form of tribalism. Shameful. It's petty, like you're in junior high. I suspect junior high school people are not this mean-spirited. Maybe they are, it's been a while since I've been in junior high. Very childish. And from a former lawyer can I just say that accusing people of violating secret law ("Black girl code") would be illegal if the government tried to do it.

Weird that she feels so comfortable being racist in public. Most people know racism is bad. It's been drummed into our heads since we were little. It's just so strange, this idea that it's okay for black people to be openly racist. Not okay. Ugly and stupid, divisive and irrational.

rhhardin said...

Just accept nagging as a universal women's value, and the thing about angry fades away.

It's a truncated version of being a wife, where the wife cuts out showing the husband that she's satisfied with him.

chickelit said...

I think it’s important for Dems to test drive Michelle for POTUS in 2020 and to reject her -however gently. Even if it means not getting Mr. Kool back in the WH.

William Chadwick said...

"Supremely accomplished" doesn't mean what it used to, apparently. Nor does "beautiful," when used to describe Mrs. Obama.

Sally327 said...

I suppose it's possible that those who feel betrayed by the publicity this got, via Givhan's column, are concerned that Michelle Obama's basic message is one of deceit and manipulation. She's basically a modern female version of Uncle Tom. I also suppose that she might realize this herself, that she's explaining her "success" was by "acting white" and now has to try and justify that, it was necessary because she had to gain trust to be able to do...I'm not sure what but something.

gilbar said...

they all knew what it means to be called angry when really you’re just angry
fixed it for you

exhelodrvr1 said...

The carrots and the schtick

Michael K said...

" executive positions in hospital and city management,"

The fact that that job was deleted once her husband was no longer a state senator is irrelevant,

Bob Boyd said...

It occurs to me, Althouse often shows us pictures of Meade's yard and garden and I've never thought of Meade as an angry white man. Coincidence?

The Germans Have A Word For That. said...

"...because that's where Givhan appropriated their precious intimacy, their murmur that said — just to their beloved Michelle — I know, I, like you have suffered the pain of being regarded as that angry, scolding woman when I was simply being the energetic, lovely, passionate woman that I am."

I thought the article about Michelle O was somewhat humanizing.

I am saying this without referring to Michelle's politics: her biggest problem is she has no natural charisma.

What we have seen of her interacting with people in public seems forced, a facade. Her smile seems unnatural, close to a grimace.

If Michelle was "energetic, lovely, passionate" AND had charisma it would all work.

But then she would be Angela Basset.

Or Angela Basset playing Tina Turner.

She obviously has a chip on her shoulder. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

When you have a chip on your shoulder and have charisma you have a Hollywood Storyline.

Without charisma, you can come off like an asshole.

In Michelle's case, the chip seems to be related to race and self-worth: she doesn't get the respect and admiration she deserves because she is black.

Which is probably a key feeling shared by the 'sacred sisterhood.'

I found this quote from an attendee at the conference:

"“I absolutely thought the conversation was off-the-record,” said attendee Yodit Tewolde, who is a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst. “You could tell in the way the conversation was structured, it was more intimate, she was saying things that only we could understand and related to. The fact that we couldn’t have any phones and record the conversation was an indicator to me that this shouldn’t be shared outside of the inner circle. And the fact that it was, was incredibly violating, not to just Michelle Obama but to all of us.”"

Tewolde is a lawyer, arguing that something was 'off-the-record' when -- from the same article -- "BET made no one sign any waivers and never said explicitly that people couldn’t talk about what happens and what is said at the summit."

Which, to be fair, is kinda what a Defense Attorney does: dance around the meanings of things like 'off the record'.

But she does hit something with the quote:

"...this shouldn’t be shared outside of the inner circle."

Which is a big part of the issue: that Michelle is different in the 'inner circle' than she is to those on the outside.

And this facade is what drives many to dislike her: it is obvious she is hiding her real self. (This is actually pretty universal, I realize)

But when you have charisma you can hide your real self by projecting a bigger, better version of you.

People WANT you to be 'that person'.

Without charisma, you are just a bad actor.

And the 'sisterhood' wants to keep the illusion of the 'bigger, better version' of Michelle, when this article actually shows the 'inner' Michelle is more relatable.

And maybe the 'sisterhood' doesn't want a relatable, humanized version of Michelle, because that might be code for: more likable by a white audience.

I can say all of this because I am a charismatic bastard.

Yet relatable.

The Germans have a word for this.





The Germans Have A Word For That. said...

(sorry for the extra space at the end - unintentional, I promise)

Paco Wové said...

"It's acutely irrational to be upset about that... Ugly and stupid, divisive and irrational."

There you go, whitemansplaining again. How dare you, sirrah!

madAsHell said...

Professor, what’s another word for “pirate treasure”?

Booty??

Sebastian said...

The fluff is some people's only nutrition.

Givhan's sin is to expose the BS as BS, the backstage to Michelle's carefully crafted front stage.

To show face as face makes her lose face.

JaimeRoberto said...

What has she accomplished? She married the guy who would become president.

"People seemed to question whether she could handle being first lady." Really. Did she give any examples? And what does it take to be a first lady? Granted it sounds like a crappy role where you lose a lot of freedom, but you don't really have to do anything unless you choose to.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Obama and his wife sure did usher in the racial healing.

donald said...

Her behavior toward Melania Trump is gutter/ghetto.

Bill said...

Here's a supremely accomplished black woman whom Robin Givhan will never write about.

Gahrie said...

I clicked on the link and went back in time. I was struck by the fact that none of today's regulars at Althouse appeared in the comments (except Meade and me) and that none of the regulars of that time still comment regularly (except Meade and me).

Those grad students that are going to analyze this blog in the future should look into the ever evolving community at Althouse.

Gahrie said...

Professor, what’s another word for “pirate treasure”?

booty. Why does it always have to be about sex?

Narayanan Subramanian said...

2020 ... Michelle v Hillary ... 2 women of accomplishment. Married to Presidents, executive experience etc. Who's more woke?

Yancey Ward said...

If the attendees signed no waivers or contracts on accepting an invitation that explicitly say it is not to be reported publicly, then it is not "off the record".

Part of me strongly suspects this "controversy" is simply and utter bullshit of the highest order- a way to bring attention to something not one person in a 1000 would give a fuck about.

The Cracker Emcee Classic said...

Sure, Michelle is a hustler but why not? If Whitey wants to hand stuff to her, she’d be a fool not to take it. That’s not on her. Black folks have to turn her into a plaster saint to rationalize the fact that the same Whiteys aren’t handing them anything other than stale chicken feed and a line of bullshit.

Bill said...

". . . about refusing to place herself last, which is not just an act of self-love but is also a public, civic, political obligation."

The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve.
Learning to love yourself
Is the greatest love of all.

tcrosse said...

Professor, what’s another word for “pirate treasure”?

Sunken chest ?

Achilles said...

Michelle Obama is nothing without the media. Condoleeza Rice is 10 times the role model.

Achilles said...

Gahrie said...
Professor, what’s another word for “pirate treasure”?

booty. Why does it always have to be about sex?

Pirates never really got rich. Maybe there were other things they took...

CWJ said...

Gahrie, Be fair. I clicked to look myself and MadisonMan and AllenS were comments 5 and 6. I take your point though, and have seen the community change over time even in the short time I've been here.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Gahrie,
"the ever evolving community at Althouse."

Except Meade and you.

Gahrie said...

Gahrie, Be fair.

Mea culpa mea culpa mea maxima culpa

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

"Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places.”

tcrosse said...

Really, isn't "Michelle Obama", the supremely accomplished black woman, a social construct ?

Yancey Ward said...

It has definitely changed over the years. I was mostly a lurker until about 2014 or 15, but am one of Ms. Althouse's original readers from almost the first month of her blog. I made a few comments under "unknown" once she opened up the comments section, but probably not more than 20 or 30 until about 2014 or 15.

chickelit said...

Gahrie asserted: I clicked on the link and went back in time. I was struck by the fact that none of today's regulars at Althouse appeared in the comments (except Meade and me) and that none of the regulars of that time still comment regularly (except Meade and me).

You left out rhhardin, Dust Bunny Queen, MadisonMan, JohnAnnArbor,Paul Zrimsek, MiddleClassGuy, AJ Lynch, Pogo, and MontanaUrbanLegend (Toothless) plus others I'm sure. Some just migrated to Lem's.

chickelit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yancey Ward said...

I think I first visited the blog through a link from a commenter at Kevin Drum's old blog, but am not sure of that.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickelit said...

@gahrie: Now I see to which "old thread" you were referring. It looks like "luckyoldson" was trolling that one pretty hard. The Althouse blog comments are better without him.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickelit said...

No, Angle-Dyne, I'm Titicus!

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Michelle made all sorts of tax payer dollars in the fake-medical industry, posing as a useful bureaucrat.

Michelle a walking Potemkin village. That's why she makes Potemkin village worshipers swoon.

PB said...

Michelle only became an "executive" when her husband was elected to the US Senate. Her U of Chicago salary jumped from $50k to close to $300k. Her big contribution at U of Chicago Hospital was a program that directed uninsured patients to cook county hospital.

Francisco D said...

@ Michael K,

As a former Chicagoan, you must know that Michelle's HR position at the U. of Chicago Hospital ($250K) was a no-show job that served the usual political purposes.

I wonder what hospital expansion plans were approved while she collected a paycheck there?

That's the way business is done in Chicago. The press willingly turn a blind eye to the obvious corruption.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

chickelit: No, Angle-Dyne, I'm Titicus!

Ha, I guess you saw that before I deleted.

I was trying to make a joke, but I screwed it up twice, first with a grammatical error, and then with a formatting mistake. I figure the gods were trying to tell me it was lame, so I quite trying.

Your response, however, was funny.

bagoh20 said...

What has happened to this country? Racists used to have the decency to dress in funny costumes when they get together so as to avoid confusion.

Mountain Maven said...

These democrat navel gazers simply won't be content with their 15 minutes and the fortunes they derived from their fame.

Unknown said...

I'm having a tough time believing, or accepting, that Michelle Obama has had anything but a comfortable life.

-sw

Professional lady said...

I didn't pay a lot of attention to MO when she was first lady. Come to think of it, I didn't really pay much attention to any first lady except Hillary Clinton. I only paid attention to Hillary because she was determined to be co president and she was so corrupt and nasty - starting with having the WH travel staff fired and then unleashing the FBI on them - all so she could bestow the spoils on her political buddies. But the more MO opens her mouth the less I like her.

LakeLevel said...

This is what happens when you stop holding a certain segment of society accountable for what they say and do. They start punishing anyone who has the temerity to actually tell the truth about them. Democrats, Blacks, and Women it's a trifecta of unaccountability.

Avalon said...

Michele Obama - A low class black marxist chick who married a mysterious half black, half white and half ass bastard, conceived out of wedlock, of dubious origins, of whom we know very little of until this very day. She is extremely racist and hates all whites with a passion. An ingrate, totally incapable of thanking her lucky stars she landed where she did. "I wake up everyday thinking I live in a house built by slaves" Wrong, Mooch, no slave labor was used in the building the WH. A bitter woman, stuck on imaginary racism which seemingly possessed her during her tenure at the WH. Now she is gone, gone, gone, never to be heard of again. Regulated to the dust bin of history. Best example of the Peter principle I have ever seen. What a breath of fresh air Melania is, so much a woman and carries herself with dignity given her position as the First Lady. What a lady and quite the contrast from the last residence at the WH.

Anonymous said...

Topic #3: Michelle's hurt pride. "With two Ivy League degrees and a résumé that included executive positions in hospital and city management, she was dismayed that people seemed to question whether she could handle being first lady."

1: We've seen her "Senior Thesis". It was pathetic dreck. Further, we know Ivy League schools practice "Affirmative Action", so a "two-fer" like her getting degrees from well know "charity degree" institutions doesn't mean anything.

2: Her "executive position" at the hospital was created after her husband became a Senator, and eliminated when she left to be First Lady.

IOW, it was a sinecure given to her so her husband would send them money in the good old "Chicago Way."

Her only notable action there was keeping black girls from being part of the HPV vaccine testing, leading to a bunch of girls not being protected, leading to soem future cases of cervical cancer and death.

IOW, like Hillary, she's never actually accomplished anything of non-familial merit in her life, other than marrying Barack Obama.