Michelle Obama chided for showing her arms
Jess McCabe // 6 March 2009
Michelle Obama has apparently been coming under fire for the sin of… going sleeveless.
Natalie Hanman in the Guardian reports on this latest round in the relentless media focus on Michelle Obama’s clothes and body.
For example, check out how the New York Times opened its piece about this:
Nancy Reagan wore spangled ballgowns. Barbara Bush had fake pearls. Michelle Obama wears her bare arms.
And then this quote:
“Oh my god,” Cindi Leive, the editor of Glamour magazine, exclaimed while watching the address, she said via email. “The First Lady has bare arms in Congress, in February, at night!”
Already, a debate is brewing about just what the First Arms signify. “Post-Title IX arms,” Robin Givhan called them in the Washington Post. They represent achievement and self-control, wrote Kate Holmquist in the Irish Times. (Buff arms say: “I’m too serious a woman to show off my legs or my breasts,” she argued.)
So Michelle Obama is athletic and disciplined. Yes, fine, but that was pretty clear before we started examining her triceps on a daily basis. Instead, those bare arms seem like a reminder of everything about her we can’t see.
In two years, she has shown us a great deal of herself, more than most of us would share, and yet right now, we actually don’t know that much about her. What does she think of the White House, and what does she do all day? Does her husband consult her on any of the difficult decisions he faces? Is the “Mom-in-chief” really, totally confident that her children are going to come through this just fine? In a few years, will she still look as confident as she did last night, or will she reach for cover? And is she comfortable as she looks in those skimpy tops, or is she actually freezing?
The Washington Post reports that it has received hundreds of reader complaints on the subject. A Chicago Tribune reader wrote of her outfit during the president’s congressional address: “Does the lady not understand that these Big Speech Events are serious and important? Not a cocktail party?” — surely not, she’s just a little lady with a Harvard law degree and a successful, high-powered career! — “The season is winter. The occasion is business. Dress was wrong place and time.” My first response to that reader: Perhaps you’re in the wrong time and place. Except, take a gander at this photo (via the New York Times) from 1963 of Jackie Kennedy during President Kennedy’s State of the Union; her get-up looks nearly identical to Obama’s in her White House portrait. The first lady’s view, according to social secretary Desiree Rogers, is simple: “If I want to wear no sleeves to hear my husband speak, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Then there’s a piece on CNN, about how to get arms just like Michelle’s. Which is full of stuff like this:
Rylan Duggan, a personal trainer who runs Go Sleeveless, a blog that instructs women how to tone up flabby arms and “eliminate bat wings,” said that in addition to asking how to get “Madonna arms” or “Kelly Ripa arms,” clients are now asking about getting “Obama arms.”
And ‘reassurances’ that working out your upper body will not lead to “big muscles”. (How awful would that be, after all?! *eyeroll*).
Exhausted with work and caring responsibilities? The SF Examiner uses Obama’s example to underline that that’s just no excuse!