Michelle Obama, 'sharp elbows' and the angry black woman stereotype

OPINION - It is as though reporters are salivating at the idea that Michelle Obama must be 'angry' and hyper-masculine behind the scenes as a secret negative complement to her feminine public persona...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Michelle Obama is making national headlines for decrying a new book that she claims depicts her as “some kind of angry black woman.”

In an appearance on CBS This Morning the first lady told show co-host Gayle King that The Obamas, by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, does not accurately represent her relationship with President Obama’s political aides. Mrs. Obama explained that her East Wing staff communicates with her husband’s staff in the White House West Wing if their projects conflict. The first lady’s ire was raised at the implication that she intervenes directly in government affairs.

Critics argue that The Obamas paints an overwhelmingly positive portrait of the first lady, but this hasn’t stopped the mainstream press from latching onto the juiciest allegations in the book, which largely portray Michelle Obama in the angry black woman mold. Headlines that give Mrs. Obama “sharp elbows” to go with her supposedly bulging biceps have proliferated on blogs and in newspapers, which have repeated stories from the book suggesting that she had tense relationships with key White House figures such as former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Reporters are salivating, eager to promote the idea that Michelle Obama must be “angry” and hyper-masculine behind the scenes as a complement to her feminine public persona. In response, First Lady Michelle Obama has been on what some outlets, such at The Atlantic, believe is an overly aggressive campaign to shoot down accusations contained in a book she admits she hasn’t read.

How ironic. On top of being depicted as overly aggressive in a critical work for which she was not interviewed, the first lady is now being accused of using too much might in defending herself from what she described as “other people’s impressions of people.”

Under normal circumstances it would be acceptable to defend oneself from slander based on hearsay; given the level of unmitigated attacks the first lady has calmly endured since her husband hit the presidential campaign trail, Michelle’s desire to counter her inaccurate depiction in a highly-publicized book by a respected journalist is just an exercise in intelligent image management — not aggression.

It would appear that yet again, the mainstream media wants to portray a successful black woman who knows how to operate smoothly to get what she wants in a negative light. But if one reviews just a handful of the most offensive statements that have been made about Michelle (which we have collected below), it is more than understandable that the volleys thrown in The Obamas might have provided the proverbial straws that broke the first lady’s patience with unsubstantiated critique.