Michelle Obama, will you please be less perfect, please?

This week’s Economist column describing Michelle Obama as “clever, driven, beautiful and articulate” (which she is) brought back a sinking feeling I had a few weeks ago in the U.S. presidential campaign. Every time she is asked what her first priority would be if she were to become First Lady, her reply, “Take care of my daughters, to make sure they’re OK being in the White House”, sounds like the Perfect Woman Soundbite that her campaign advisors have been insisting on, to smooth out her more bellicose statements.

I have a lot of good feelings towards Michelle Obama, but I’d probably have even more (if she hadn’t been part of that crackpot church in Chicago, and) if she came across as Occasionally Imperfect. An Occasionally Imperfect wife and mother would, once in a while, be able to admit that a meeting ran late and she got home too late for dinner with the kids. Or that there was no time in the morning for the girls’ hairdos. Or that there was a weekend when she just had to drop them off at her mom’s, and pick them up on Sunday night.

True, some of her statements have veered off in the Occasionally Imperfect Woman direction:

I don’t know about you,” Obama told women at a recent fundraiser near Austin, Texas, “but as a mother, wife, professional, campaign wife, whatever it is that’s on my plate, I’m drowning. And nobody’s talking about these issues. In my adult lifetime, I felt duped.” […]
People told me, ‘You can do it all. Just stay the course, get your education and you can raise a child, stay thin, be in shape, love your man, look good and raise healthy children.’ That was a lie.”

Is it? We, Occasionally Imperfect Women, think it is a lie. But Michelle Obama is obviously defying conventional wisdom. She’s clearly not drowning. By being systematically and ruthlessly thin, in shape, good-looking, a loving wife and perfect mother, she’s doing exactly what she claims cannot be done.

It’s not that I truly wish her to be less perfect. We know that men’s imperfections are readily forgiven (just look at John McCain), while women’s aren’t. Perfection is a job requirement for women who are public figures. So, let Michelle Obama be perfect.

Just don’t rub it in our noses, especially when we’re having a bad hair day. (Photo: Getty Images)

One thought on “Michelle Obama, will you please be less perfect, please?

  1. Being black is viewed as a type of imperfection in this society. I add being non-white is also viewed as a type of imperfection to certain extent. Not to the grave extent of difficulty black women may face. I think women of color have a tendency to over compensate for this perceived lack of perfection. The perception goes beyond intellectual level. Look at Cindy McCain. She reminds everyone of a mature version of Barbie doll. It appears that she can be her beautiful self without making any particular effort.

    For most of women of color, attaining that sort of beauty is impossible. I look at my face in a mirror under florescent light and have to wince at my yellow/brown tinge of skin and incredibly flat nose that reminds me of type of primates. For us, “good” is not simply enough. Only with unarguably exceptional performance, we may be able to seek an “equal” opportunity. Only through hard work and accomplishment, we may be able to make the beauty inside shine through our brown skin.

    Michelle Obama is my hero.

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