Michelle Obama Watch

A new Web site tracks the most egregious examples of racism and sexism directed at the potential first lady.

By Kate Harding
Published June 13, 2008 3:05PM (EDT)

If we learned anything from Hillary Clinton in the '90s or the treatment of Teresa Heinz Kerry prior to the 2004 election, it's this: Woe betide any strong, mouthy wife of a Democratic presidential candidate. Turns out you don't even have to be running yourself for the media to go apeshit trying to prove you unfit for the White House. And if white people have learned anything from Barack Obama's campaign so far (because people of color have already learned it the hard way), it's that we are nowhere near a "post-racial" society. Racism still lurks not only in our institutions but in many an unexpected heart. Put those two things together, then mix in a 24-hour news cycle, a thriving blogosphere, YouTube and the extra scrutiny that comes with a historic campaign, and it's clear that Michelle Obama has one hell of a hard road ahead of her as the first African-American wife of a presidential candidate (despite Teresa's boneheaded claims to that title). Good thing she looks fabulous! Sob.

On the plus side, at least one Web site -- a spinoff of the excellent blog What About Our Daughters? -- has Michelle's back. Michelle Obama Watch, launched this week, will track the most egregious examples of racism, sexism and general WTF? directed at the potential first lady. (Heartbreakingly, there's already a category called "weeMichelles" to track those directed at Obama daughters Sasha and Malia, too.) Just a few days old, the site's not lacking for examples, and it's only going to get uglier from here.

One positive thought, though, is that sites like Michelle Obama Watch (I know loads of bloggers will informally be keeping their own watches as well) and the Obama campaign's new Fight the Smears may indicate that Democrats have finally figured out how to get ahead of the inevitable campaign mudslinging and media feeding frenzies. Getting these out there now is a strong message that the left is not going to take the same old crap -- or the special new racist crap -- this year, that both campaign officials and Democratic voters will call it out and counter it as soon as we see it, instead of just hoping it will go away. Could that really be true at long last? Fingers crossed.

Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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