Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This Is What A Slow News Week Looks Like...

The First Lady in shorts- a fashion faux pas to some critics according to the "Today" show. But who are those critics? Any why do they care?

This morning, while I was trying to get my thick hair subdued into a bun for the umpteenth day thanks to a recent Northeast heatwave, I saw a "news" story on the "Today" show (ok, so it's not exactly the place for hard hitting news pieces, I know, but still...) about Michelle Obama's (shocking?) choice to wear shorts (GASP! EGADS!) while on vacation to the Grand Canyon recently. I watched as Matt Lauer asked the panelists their opinions of this fashion debacle (?). The odd thing that struck me was how neither of the two really seemed so up in arms about the First Lady's shorts. In fact, the "con" panelist, Robin Gihven, admitted she was merely "ambivalent" about the matter- which is far from opposing it. I sat wondering, who exactly, is so upset about her shorts? And why is this (non-) story being presented as a controversy? And quite frankly, being that I was so hot while tying up my hair while preparing for work at the time, I would not bash anyone for seeking to stay cool during summer heat, especially not Mrs. O who was facing 100+ degree heat for those fantastic views.

While the "Today" show has been on a roll lately with fashion themed stories- the danger of skinny jeans and the health scare related to wearing flip-flops come to mind- this morning's story some how upped the ante in foolishness. Why? I couldn't quite verbalize why, but luckily, this story by Kate Dailey answers it wonderfully:

"But why hide behind an anonymous attacker? Why not just come out and say, "Michelle Obama wore shorts, which most first ladies haven't done before," (Is this even true? Five dollars says there's a photo of Eleanor Roosevelt in short pants somewhere in the national archive).

Because if there's not controversy, it's just the American public gawking at a woman's form. This is something that happens all the time, but needs to be cloaked in social relevance when the woman is not a traditional target for public consumption. Models, actresses, even athletes can be the subject of objectification, but to ogle the first lady on national TV requires a bit of news-related window dressing.

By reporting on "some critics," journalists allow themselves to be the heroes. They're coming to Obama's rescue by defending her right to wear whatever she pleases—a right that was never questioned in the first place, and a right that almost everyone in America is OK with. In the process, they are able to yet again comment on her body, making her legs, her hips, her thighs, and her belly just as much a part of public discourse as her husband's health-care fight.

Never mind the fact that all this talk about people supporting Obama's shorts makes it seem like society gets a say in how one woman chooses to dress. The decisions women make about their clothing and bodies isn't something for which we need "approval" and support"—and yet we're conducting polls to reassure one another that we're ok with a grown woman exposing her legs.

Michelle Obama does not need to be rescued. She does not need you commenting on the finer points of her body. And she most definitely does not need our permission to wear shorts."

Amen, sister. Now perhaps they can get back to real news, like the battle over Healthcare Reform or the recent spate or terrorist attacks in Iran. But I doubt it.


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