The sexual tension between men and women can be misunderstood, betrayed, and set on stage for public examination.
Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, has been coming under fire for “emasculating” her husband — in Nebraska we call it “castrating” — in order to promote her own interests as “a strong black woman” who will bow down to no man… including her husband.
Here is the case being made against her:
I wince a bit when Michelle Obama chides her husband as
a mere mortal — a comic routine that rests on the presumption that we
see him as a god.
The tweaking takes place at fundraisers, where Michelle
wants to lift the veil on their home life a bit and give the folks
their money’s worth.
At the big Hollywood fund-raiser for Senator Obama in February, Michelle came on strong.
”I am always a little amazed at the response that
people get when they hear from Barack,” she told the crowd at the
Beverly Hilton, as her husband stood by looking like a puppy being
scolded, reported Hud Morgan of Men’s Vogue. ”A great man, a wonderful
man. But still a man.
”I have some difficulty reconciling the two images I
have of Barack Obama. There’s Barack Obama the phenomenon. He’s an
amazing orator, Harvard Law Review, or whatever it was, law professor,
best-selling author, Grammy winner. Pretty amazing, right?
”And then there’s the Barack Obama that lives with me
in my house, and that guy’s a little less impressive. For some reason
this guy still can’t manage to put the butter up when he makes toast,
secure the bread so that it doesn’t get stale, and his 5-year-old is
still better at making the bed than he is.”
She said that the TV version of Barack Obama sounded really interesting and that she’d like to meet him sometime.
Is Michelle Obama making Barack human?
Or is she providing a public castration?
Is she needlessly trying to elevate her position in the home over his?
Many people I talked to afterward found Michelle wondrous.
But others worried that her chiding was emasculating, casting her
husband — under fire for lacking experience — as an undisciplined
At a March fund-raiser in New York, she tweaked her husband for not
”putting his socks actually in the dirty clothes.”
And at a lunch last week with Chicago women, she gave the candidate a
fed-up look about that melting butter and said, ”I’m like: ‘You’re
just asking for it. You know I’m giving a speech about you today.’ ”
Should Michelle Obama play the devoted wife or the hectoring mother?
Does her public criticism of her husband infantilize him?
If their roles were reversed — and he said these things about her — would he immediately be labeled sexist and repressive?
The Chicago Tribune profile of ”Barack’s Rock” on Sunday
noted that her career had caused her husband discomfort: ”Critics have
pointed out that her income has risen along with her husband’s
She sits on the board of a food company that supplies
Wal-Mart, which Sen. Obama has denounced for its labor practices.”
The Obamas are both skeptical of hype. Michelle dryly told a reporter
at her husband’s Senate swearing-in that perhaps someday, he would do
something to earn all the attention he was getting.
But it may not be smart politics to mock him in a way that turns him
from the glam J.F.K. into the mundane Gerald Ford, toasting his own
English muffins. If all Senator Obama is peddling is the Camelot
mystique, why debunk the mystique?
What is the appropriate role for a spouse in a power couple?
Must one acquiesce their position of power to propel the other upward?
Must Michelle Obama play the adoring wife — even if
she is not — because that is what the people expect from the wife of a