Monday, August 16, 2010

Are Michelle Obama's well-toned arms a problem for some Americans?

Michelle Obama works out, and it bothers us. Never before in history have we had a first lady with toned upper arms. Why can't she just sit on the couch and smile pretty--when she's finished baking cookies?

We won't get into the question of whether the skin color of those toned arms is what really bothers Americans.

The tricky path forward for Michelle Obama

By John Blake, CNN
August 16, 2010

Now she's been called a modern-day Marie Antoinette...

The nation's first lady was recently criticized for being insensitive when she took a luxury trip to Spain with the economy still recovering from a brutal recession...

Some of the criticism may be driven by partisan politics. But others say the attacks are rooted in white resentment of the "uppity Negro." They say there is no precedent for a Michelle Obama: a wealthy, independent black woman representing America who is not an entertainer.

"There are so many white people who are not used to seeing a black woman in this position," says Aminah Hanan, a Chicago blogger and managing editor of "She's the face of America, and they can't process it."

Others, though, say recent complaints about her behavior have nothing to do with race. Sue Thompson, a corporate consultant and blogger at, says Obama's vacation choice makes her come off "as defiant and to-hell-with-you".

...Obama's challenge, some scholars suggest, is preventing her opponents from turning her strengths into weaknesses. One of Obama's strengths is her vitality.

Since she hit the national stage, much of the press has focused on her toned, athletic arms. Other widely distributed photos highlight her physicality as well: her height, her ease at skipping rope and running with kids.

Obama may be the most athletic first lady the country has seen. This is jarring to some people who are accustomed to older and more demure first ladies, says Laura Hertzog, director of diversity and inclusion programs at Cornell University in New York...

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