Media people

In praise, or not, of Michelle Obama's butt

Former L.A. Times columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan may or may not have been looking to scare up a little controversy with her piece in Salon celebrating the soon-to-be first lady's physique, but she found it. Kaplan wrote:

Barack's better half not only has stature but is statuesque. She has coruscating intelligence, beauty, style and -- drumroll, please -- a butt. (Yes, you read that right: I'm going to talk about the first lady's butt.)

What a bonus! From the ocean of nastiness and confusion that defined this campaign from the beginning, Michelle rose up like Venus on the waves, keeping her coif above water and cruising the coattails of history to present us with a brand-new beauty norm before we knew it was even happening.

Actually, it took me and a lot of other similarly configured black women by surprise....Obama’s baby (mama) got back," wrote one feminist blogger. "OMG, her butt is humongous!" went a typical comment on one African-American online forum, and while it isn't humongous, per se, it is a solid, round, black, class-A boo-tay. Try as Michelle might to cover it with those Mamie Eisenhower skirts and sheath dresses meant to reassure mainstream voters, the butt would not be denied.

Kaplan says that since slavery, the African American ass has been "vilified and fetishized as the most singular of all black female features, more unsettling than dark skin and full lips...[and] as demarcated class and stature among black society itself." The piece has generated a lot of comment, pro and con, which Celeste Fremon gathers at Witness LA with her own comment:

I understood that, in the end, the article wasn’t about butts—Michelle Obama’s or otherwise. It was about the delight in seeing in the White House a dynamic woman who seems to fully inhabit herself on a multiplicity of levels, including her girly-girl, clothes-loving, sexy self. The sight is, for many of us anyway, incredibly cool, and surprisingly freeing.

Also: Witness LA mourns the LAT's suspension of The Homicide Report.


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