On October 13, 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama powerfully condemned Donald Trump’s “locker room talk” in one of the most eloquent and direct speeches I have ever heard.
In her speech [watch below], she condemned Trump without saying his name. She spoke out against rape culture and aimed to raise up young women and men, showing the young women that they do not need to be subject to sexual harassment, physically or verbally. She stated that real men do not talk this way about women and that we should not elect a man who does.
I posted the speech on Facebook and applauded her for her positive use of ‘words’ – they did so much. No one could deny that, right? To me, I could not see how any of my Facebook friends could disagree with her, her points, and her authentic, heartfelt delivery. I couldn’t imagine.
But some did. This blew my mind. Not in the pedestrian “this blows my mind” colloquial and clichéd way, but in the “I’m trying to process this in my mind, but things are not connecting, or, more accurately, I think I’m losing brain cells by trying to understand this.” Pop. Pop. Pop. That’s how it felt in my brain.
The argument against Ms. Obama’s speech from one of my Facebook friends, and those I had seen floating around on other Facebook arguments: She doesn’t have the right to speak against rape culture because she has had rappers in the White House, and their language promotes rape culture, and since she let her daughters listen to that, she doesn’t have the ethos to speak on this issue and should probably just be quiet about it all. I paraphrased kindly.
One of my brilliant poet friends broke down the argument, clearly articulating that the ‘rapper’ argument had originated from Rush Limbaugh and that the artists in the discussion were activists, poets. Another friend unveiled the base of that argument by noting that using ‘rapper’ is a way to be racist without being outwardly racist, which it is. But once I learned that this argument came from Limbaugh, I was done with the discussion and ended up deleting the thread from Facebook because I would not condone that argument on my page, even if I were arguing against it. I didn’t want to give it any meat, to feed it.
But it brings up something more important.
This argument that Michelle Obama doesn’t deserve to make this speech is emblematic of how, nationwide, some people feel about the Obamas’ place in the White House.
I am not arguing about President Obama’s politics or policies over the last eight years, though I do believe that history will show us that he was a very effective president, one that history will be proud of. Instead, I’m talking about the Obama family, including Barack as a father, not as the most powerful political leader in the world.
Here’s how I see the Obama family: Michelle and Barack are good parents. You see this on the faces of their daughters, who we’ve watched grow up over the last eight years, the eldest leaving to college soon. Michelle is everything we would want in a First Lady and a mother: She is kind, intelligent, well-educated, driven, classy. I could go on and on about how she truly represents our country in all the right ways, but I promised to be brief.
As a father, Barack loves his daughters. Search the archives of speeches that show how deeply his daughters’ lives affect his life as a father and as a president.
Both Michelle and Barack—when they are most damaged by what happens in our country (school shootings, violence against women and children, gun-related violence on the streets)—are seeing these things through the eyes of parents, first. When they get emotional, they are viewing the country that threatens young women and children, like the two young ladies who live down the hallway from them in their home.
What we have in the White House right now is a loving, giving, beautiful family. We know this dynamic will not be there after the next election, no matter who we elect, so if people look at Michelle Obama and say that she doesn’t deserve to give a speech combatting verbal and physical sexual assault and rape culture in our country, no matter the crappy logic, they are saying that she doesn’t belong in the White House.
If they are saying that this family is anything less than what we should be proud of in the White House, then there is something other than politics going on here.
Watch and listen to First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech.
Photo credit: Getty Images