Just last week in D.C., I visited the Museum of American History, where the First Lady’s inaugural gowns are displayed. Because it is one of my favorite exhibits, I took my time marveling over each gown, imagining the woman who wore it and what she believed her societal and cultural role as the President’s wife. I passed by Eleanor Roosevelt’s pink rayon crepe gown and Jackie Kennedy’s yellow silk evening dress and skipped right by Michelle Obama’s 2008 inaugural dress decorated with Swarovski crystals (casually nbd) and paid a visit to my favorite part of the exhibit. A small quote stuck to the wall across from Michelle’s dress that reads:
“…there is no formal job description for the first lady of the United States, so we have the good fortune of being able to decide what we want to do” — Michelle Obama, April 28, 2011
Despite the lack of “a formal job description,” we all have romanticized visions of what the First Lady should and shouldn’t do. This article explores feminist dialogue surrounding the cultural responsibilities of our country’s first lady, especially our country’s first lady of color. This raises questions of womanhood and motherhood that are deeply rooted in racial dialogue that stem back to the beginning of feminism when there was an even larger divide between white women and women of color.
The article gives multiple perspectives from different communities. One woman praised Michelle, saying that she “refocuses the conversation around black womanhood and black motherhood away from the welfare queen and into the middle class.” Meanwhile, there are feminists who criticize Michelle as wasting her position as one of the most qualified First Ladies, choosing to combat child obesity instead of pursuing a feminist agenda (based on their definition of feminism). Why can’t we, the feminist community, just admire her for her bravery, effortless grace, cunning charm, and those powerful arms?
– Chanelle Adams, Academic Editor