Obama’s conversation with barrier buster Misty Copeland in TIME is worth reading.
They talk about many an important thing, like how Misty Copeland became successful despite looking “different.” (By the way, Misty was the third woman of color to be a soloist in the American Ballet Theater’s long as hell history.) Her body is muscular rather than the various kinds of bodies that spring to mind when one thinks of a typical ballerina, so yeah it’s a BFD and they said many important things.
But the President’s comments about size launched a ton of excitement and headlines.
It also spurred this well-observed piece in Slate
“It’s part and parcel of a broader way in which we socialize and press women to constantly doubt themselves or define themselves in terms of a certain appearance. And so Michelle and I are always guarding [our daughters] against that. And the fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful.
First part, gorgeous, yes appearances don’t define the daughters of the flag. But then there was this lil’ nugget everyone is focusing on: “And the fact that they’ve got a tall gorgeous mom who has some curves, and that their father appreciates, I think is helpful.”
Uh oh, man thinking he’s providing a valuable service by saying he approves of the message sent by a woman’s strong arms and hips. Most people LOVED it.
Christina Cauterucci didn’t, and she wrote about why in an important Slate piece.
“But Barack Obama’s framing of Michelle’s role modeling—that it’s good for Malia and Sasha to see that he “appreciates” their mother’s curves—is the wrong one. No matter how the girls look or how their bodies grow, they should never have to measure their worth and beauty by what their spouses, fathers, or other men prefer. It’s also a basic misunderstanding of how body image works. Fatphobia doesn’t just stem from the male gaze, and our society’s preference for thinness isn’t all about sex appeal; it’s ingrained in the way women are taught to evaluate themselves and other women, too.”
Is there compelling evidence that plenty of how we feel about our selfies, ourselves, and our choices comes from our parental units.
Now it takes a real odd bird of a women’s publication in 2016 to swoop in with a piece about what men find attractive so that you can begin loving yourself. And the whole, “look dad approves” idea can sound a bit creepy if you tune in out of context. Unfortunately, according to most, what men say about women’s bodies sinks in, and can stay with you, even though that should have nothing to do with anything. (At RunwayRiot we dress for women in public restrooms.) But, can it be “helpful” if your dad’s not phobic about size? Yeah.
You know what else is? Visibility. It often works wonders the best for a good old body confidence boost. For other sources, check out all body types on Instagram for someone you can relate to. And plenty of women have already moved beyond this thinking — that male attention is more important than clean drinking water.
The thing that makes Michelle Obama attractive, what makes her stand tall and proud is probably her healthy, accomplished, powerful speaking self. Not just because Barack digs her the way she is, and that should help Sasha and Malia along, no matter what he says. You know Ilana Glazer would salute the flag on this note.