Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Isn't that a girlie dog?

Just a short note to say that as much as I think President-Elect Obama is terrific for our country, I couldn't help but find some of his interactions with Michelle on ABC's Barbara Walter's special interview a wee bit grating. It's just my gut reaction, but I'd be willing to bet there was a bit of a ruckus off-set, since I dearly hope Michelle wouldn't let him get away with calling her "unreasonable" on national television (as in "we only get in arguments when she's unreasonable")! And what the heck's wrong with a "girlie" dog???

Along these lines, there's an interesting op-ed in today's Washington Post by Ruth Marcus about Michelle Obama and her role as "mom-in-chief":
"No matter how liberated I liked to see myself as . . . the fact was that when children showed up, it was Michelle and not I who was expected to make the necessary adjustments," Barack Obama writes. "Sure, I helped, but it was always on my terms, on my schedule. Meanwhile, she was the one who had to put her career on hold."

Expected to -- by whom? Had to -- says who? I remember reading this passage two years ago, when the book came out, and thinking: Hey, buddy, she has to scale back only because you're not willing to.

And yet, Barack Obama could have been describing so many women today when he explained that, for Michelle, "two visions of herself were at war with each other -- the desire to be the woman her mother had been, solid, dependable, making a home and always there for her kids; and the desire to excel in her profession, to make her mark on the world and realize all those plans she'd had on the very first day that we met."

This is where the identification comes in. The brutal reality is that, like our president-elect, most men do not wrestle quite so strenuously with these competing desires. So when the needs of our families collide with the demands of our jobs, it is usually the woman's career that yields.

(By the way, I'm a little sidetracked by the holidays and family-time, so blog-posting will be light this weekend. I will be posting my fourth wave "manifesto" in the next few days, but, in meantime, don't forget to check out Brianna's take on modern feminism.)

Update (12/01/08):Check out Billy Kimball's take on Obama's dog comments over at The Huffington Post, Barack Obama Insults Dog, Jumps Shark:
The semiotics of dog ownership, for presidents and paupers alike, are equally well established. By saying that he wanted a "big, rambunctious dog," Obama was trying to don the mantle of the "guy's guy." Big rambunctious dogs, through their genetic link to working and hunting breeds, establish one's bona fides with the masses. Those toy breeds who don't have to work for living probably belong to people who don't either - or so the conventional wisdom would have it.


To give Michelle Obama credit, she attempted to give her husband some cover by suggesting that a "girly dog" would be entirely appropriate for "a houseful of girls." It was a nice try, but clearly Mr. Obama meant "girly" in the pejorative sense, not as an adjective denoting "nice for girls," but rather to suggest a dog that lives in conflict with its own manly nature or the manly nature of dogs in general.
Uh, yeah, what he said.


AD Miller said...

I, too, find it a bit tiresome to constantly see "girlie" used as a derogatory term. I also prefer large and slightly unrefined dogs and am not a big fan of the small ones who fit into designer outfits, can be totted around in a handbag, and do a lot of excess barking. Is that what he would call a "girlie" dog? And I would hardly call dogs like mine--50 pounds of affectionate, awkward and unglamorous fur and slobber--"boy-like." In fact, he's a bit of a wimp, dare I say a "pansy," and most "girlie" dogs could handily kick his ass. Notice how there's no similarly diminutive masculine adjective for me to use here? I must admit that I hope Mr. Prez. got a bit of a talking to from the "girls" in his household after that interview wrapped up! said...

Yeah, it's certainly seems unnecessary to be so disparaging, especially on national television. Check out Billy Kimball's article (I just linked to it in an update of the post). Many of the commentators on his post think he's over-reacting, but I think he makes a good point. Sure, it's stupid to get too worked up over a White House dog, but the fact that comments like that can be made so casually are symptoms of a larger issue.