When First Ladies Clap Back: Michelle Obama vs. Hillary Clinton

When Hillary was a wife-of-a-politician trying to get her man through the primaries, a few glimpses of old YouTube clips show a white woman who twists her neck when she speaks and evokes some of the mannerisms typically ascribed to the angry-black-woman persona that news organizations in recent years have analyzed and parsed, and offered up as reason for why black women are manless, bitter and unfriendly. Hillary Clinton as First Lady (of both Arkansas and eventual the U.S.) engaged the Sturz-esque antics and came off as fiery as a result. Political observers credit that disposition for why she had a hard time getting that healthcare bill through Congress in ’94. Nearly two decades later, it seems the first African-American First Lady is performing like a tried-and-true political veteran who has been groomed to handle these sorts of ruptures, despite having been bred far away from Washington, in a Southside Chicago working class neighborhood at that.

Most people will never get the opportunity to get up and close with public figures to look into their eyes, so these off-the-cuff moments act as the windows to the soul. They reveal what politicians are made of when they have to go off of script and respond to stuff that might make them uneasy. And while Hillary Clinton has certainly matured through the years, and has her eyes fixated on 2016, lest we forget the time when she was rough around the edges and would’ve went toe-to-toe, figuratively, with Ms. Ellen Sturz, a waltz that would have knocked down that pristine-white-woman stereotype with each word and neck-roll exchanged. And who doesn’t like steamrolling over those pesky stereotypes? The annoying idea that a characteristic can be pinned on an entire group for the lifetime of their existence. I encourage Hillary, and Michelle—and while we’re at it, the “southern belle” Reese Witherspoon—to continue to show their—ahem, derrières—so we can get the full, beautiful breadth of white women and black women and southern belles alike. People are not cracked up to what society’s perception of their race, gender and status would have them be. When they come from around that veil, one might be surprised by what we see.

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