If you be gentle, fret, fret, the coming of the might (11 March 2009)

Dowd writes, "Let's face it: The only bracing symbol of American strength right now is the image of Michelle Obama's sculpted biceps. Her husband urges bold action, but it is Michelle who looks as though she could easily wind up and punch out Rush Limbaugh, Bernie Madoff and all the corporate creeps who ripped off America." The subtext? Some people are intimidated by a first lady who symbolizes strength, instead of support.In a taxi, Brooks argued to Dowd that "Washington is a place where people have always been suspect of style and overt sexuality. Too much preening signals that you're not up late studying cap-and-trade agreements… Washington is sensually avoidant. The wonks here like brains. She should not be known for her physical presence, for one body part." [. . .] Bonnie Fuller, an ex-fashion magazine editor, thinks that Brooks and many of his muscle-a-feared Republican cohorts are resorting to verbal bicep jabs because they have nothing else to say as a party right now, are afraid of the strength of the Obama era, and unable to make actual bicep jabs ("I bet he's got jiggly girly-man arms," she jokes). [. . .] Michelle Obama is not typecast: she's playing a new role for her. She's also reinventing the role itself. Not just because of her achievements, nor her color, nor her wardrobe, but because of a combination of all three, and because of what she's communicating with that wardrobe. [. . .] With her bare biceps, Michelle Obama is carving out a new style and role for first ladies and for women generally. It's making some people, possibly those wearing tight fitting suits, very uncomfortable. But it suits her, and many other women, very well." (Vanessa Richmond, "The Right to Bare Arms." _The Tyee_. March 11, 2009)

We have here what happens when Vanessa writes about a woman whose self-assertiveness, whose refusal to kowtow to others' expectations, she respects, and NOT what happens when she writes about someone whose similar efforts to do the same, she evidently doesn't. Michelle has well-toned muscles and her own style-sense, and "your" problem with it, "your" hate-on for her, shows only "your" insecurities, lack of style, and obvious need to keep women and black people in check. Gwyneth has writing-gumption and her own quirky-style, and "your" problem with it, shows "you've" got taste (are not tone-deaf) and that "you" can see the signs that meme the end of all good things. (Vanessa's last article, on Gwyneth's "Goop": http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2009/03/04/Goop/)

David Brooks is the one who is really taking the heat on this one. Do you know who he is, Tyee readers? Yes, he is a Republican. But don't you be thinking Rush Limbaugh or the like. In fact, it'd be better if you searched across the aisle, for in demeanor, mannerisms, he's much closer to your average genteel-democrat than he is to any Republican I can think of -- he's unusually sensitive, effete, for even a Washington (brain-oriented, style-oriented) Republican. To get a good sense of him, it might in fact be best if you imagined him the sensitive English lit/composition professor, who when he listens to you, reads your work, does so with tender respect, a willingness to learn (from you), with an inkling to gently show yourself to yourself and suggest a better way you might consider taking.

Yes, he showed no such with Michelle, but because she affectively overwhelmed him. But we might find that the Obamas come to encourage this reaction not just from Republicans (who, I actually think, will not so long from now stop fretting over being courted, acknowledge their true desires, and join the Obamas in their steel and track, tanking of America) but from sensitives, the genteel, who are mostly to be found amongst the left. (I am thinking now of the elegant [but not captured] progressive, Geraldine Ferrara, and her horror at the flaggrantness of Obama operatives as they tried to destroy her reputation in a single minded effort to 'surrect their King.)

If you have a hankering for the gym/an athletic nation, populist pop-culture, seeing preppy better-than-thous wallow (and maybe worse than wallow: _Salon's_ article on this topic was, "Put away the guns, Michelle [you're scaring David Brooks!]"), you'll never tire of what Obamanation offers. But if like David you prefer quiet talks, an easeful atmosphere, letting your "opponent" have her/his say, and aren't averse to reading some Mrs. Dalloway, don't let populist elation quiet your disquiet. Like Brooks, at the very least, say something -- if not revered, you might at least be remembered for having done so before the advance of "Thunder" and "Lightning" pounded you 'to pulp.

Link: The Right to Bare Arms (The Tyee)


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