Monday, April 13, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Covering the Obamas

There's nothing wrong with noticing that the Obama children are exceptionally cute. It's also reasonable to suggest that the prospect of seeing the girls playing on the White House lawn with their new puppy Bo or swinging on their new swingset outside Dad's office would be a welcome respite from the dour economic news to which we've been treated for the past several months. More than once I've heard and read political pundits likening the White House photos of 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha to photos from the Camelot days a generation ago of Caroline and John Kennedy.

As long as media coverage is respectfully restrained and the Obama girls aren't hounded and don't have everything that's on or near their bodies catalogued (like tracking down the makers of their clothing, backpacks, toys, etc.). There was a degree of media restraint afforded Chelsea Clinton when the 12-year-old accompanied her parents to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1993, but that was still in the pre-blog days, so I remain skeptical that the media can or will exercise such decorum when it comes to the First Kids.

But what has already exceeded decorum and has veered into the arena of tiresome is the coverage given to Michelle Obama, an Ivy League educated lawyer and former hospital executive, a woman with something substantive to say on many subjects. Last month I examined the type of media coverage Michelle Obama was receiving -- including the odd, fetish-like obsession with her bare arms -- in a column which noted that during the span of two weeks, the First Lady was on the cover of four national magazines.

And that was before the G-20 summit in London and the Obamas' trip abroad. Before phrases such as "fashion faceoff" were uttered and the media pit Michelle Obama with the spouse of the French president, as if the women's clothing was competing against one another. Before so-called news media outlets started running slideshows on their web sites of Michelle Obama's outfits and discussing wearing stilettos versus flat shoes on national NEWS programs.

After a week's worth of fluffy, insipid news coverage, I was steamed. My irritation yielded this week's Pop Culture and Politics column over on Mommy Track'd in which I satirically imagine what it would be like if the male leaders' attire was subjected to the type of media scrutiny that their spouses' duds, where the media pay lavish attention to pumps, not the policies and causes the women try to spotlight. How I wish the media would treat these women as women of substance, not as walking mannequins that they want to dress up in designer duds.

Image credit: Huffington Post.

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