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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Feminazis Attack

Seriously, people, has Germaine Greer nothing better to do than to deconstruct Michelle Obama's Grant Park dress? It's of such amusement to me, akin to Gloria Steinem weighing in on Sarah Palin's jeans, that I have decided to post on it.

First, this is what the renowned Aussie feminist had to say in the Grauniad:

If Michelle Obama's such a great dresser, what was she doing in this red butcher's apron?

The one sour note to resound through the jubilation at the election of Barack Obama was an undercurrent of fear and loathing of the dress Michelle Obama wore on election night. Most newspapers were too high-minded to refer to it, but reaction trickled through the internet and surfaced in USA Today, where a poll revealed that twice as many people hated the gown as thought it irrelevant or OK: "It looked as if someone out trick-or-treating has thrown a can of red paint on her." It was dubbed "firework fashion", "definitely a lava-lamp look with a volcanic nod to her husband's Hawaii". "It looked like it was made from velvet, satin, Spandex and Elmo muppet fur!" One blogger complained that she could hardly listen to Obama's speech "for fear of that dress"; another accused its Cuban-American designer of duping his hapless client into wrapping herself in the Cuban revolutionary flag.

Elmo muppet fur! I mean, where do you start?

First off, that "one sour note" probably says it all. There were about 57 million Americans that were hardly jubilant on November 4, but I suppose they don't count for Greer and Co.

Secondly, "most newspapers were too high-minded" to mention the dress? Uh, no. Most newspapers are not fashionista rags who attempt to double as legitimate news reporting, like Vogue and even Vanity Fair. Mentioning this dress alongside an historic election would've struck a strange note, not a sour one. Their coverage is not a question of being high-minded, though, so much as hidebound.

Thirdly, most newspapers have given the Obamas fawning coverage. Not just fair coverage, mind you, but lickspittle, bottom-sniffing, botty-wiping, i-love-you-mannnn! coverage.

The stain that was mainstream media coverage of the Obama candidacy in 2008 will go down as one of the great travesties of our time (it'll come back to bite them, as assuredly as why they did it -- because media felt complicit in not fully investigating the claims made by President Bush ahead of his Iraq venture. This was payback).

It's almost inconceivable that the Grey Ladies would've said the least negative thing about the Obamas at the moment of their triumph, let alone mentioning the world-wide giggles about Michelle Obama's dress.

Here I have to confess yet again that I do not see what the whole fuss is about. As I mentioned, the dress didn't make an impression on me, in real-time.

It would be too convenient of me to now claim that I find the dress insufferably bad. In truth, now that I have had a chance to look at it properly, it doesn't look terribly smart, and the design is OTT, but I am smirkful that one blogger complained she couldn't pay attention to President-Elect Obama's speech for thinking about the monstrosity wrapped around his wife's bod. Come on, really?

Can you imagine if live-blogging had existed in 1961?

"Oh, that's a great line, "Ask not what your country can do for you" O.M.G! What is Jackie Kennedy wearing?! Is that a poodle on her hands! That's not a muff, that's a chinese dinner gone Pete Tong!"

Of course, I myself have never shied away from making snarky comments about the way women dress. But then, I'm not a legendary feminist writer opposed to reducing women to frills and frippery like fashion commentary.

Greer didn't just skewer the mother. She commented on the kiddies too.

At no time would what she wore be more significant than on the night of November 4 2008, when, win or lose, the eyes of the world would be upon the Obama family as the four of them processed on to the stage in Grant Park, Chicago. If Michelle had dressed herself and her daughters for defeat, she could hardly have chosen anything more saturnine. Seven-year-old Sasha was dressed from head to foot in black: black dress, black hose, black shoes. Ten-year-old Malia was just as black about the legs, but her dress was blood-red. Any colour is better than pink, but these robust choices hardly strike one as girly. The girls' odd outfits were clearly chosen as foils to their mother's dress, which was all black with an eye-burning red panel that splattered itself down the front like a geometrical haemorrhage, held in by a criss-cross sash of black.

The red extended upwards almost to the neckline, and downwards to mid-thigh, petering out top and bottom in a sort of cast-off splatter. The effect of the strong contrast was to turn a mere frock into a poster in the most disturbing colours known to man, the colours of chaos. The juxtaposition of a rectangle of red on a black field is what we might expect to find on a flag or a shield. Coral snakes and venomous spiders signal their destructive potential by the display of similarly violent contrasts.

Come on Germaine, they're just kids, and I for one thought their dresses owed something to Bakst and his onion-domed orientalism, which ushered out the funereal Victorian era, and propelled it into giddy modernity.

You'll note that even La Greer mentions the spidery connotations of Mrs. Obama's dress. That's something my own mother mentioned, as we watched her.

Personally, if I were Michelle Obama, I'd rather be connoted with a black widow spider, regardless of venomous allusion, than a muppet.

To my slight bemusement, even my very serious father had an opinion on Michelle's dress, after being told by me about Greer's article.

"She looks like she just took off Sweeney Todd's apron."

Though he and my mother are avid fans of FashionTV, I've never known him to evince the slightest comment on women's fashion.

Kinda makes you wonder what Statler and Waldorf would've made of it, eh?

P.S.: It's true that Narciso Rodriguez is not like many Cuban-Americans politically (he's a big fat liberal and anti-Bush, but then what do you expect from a Cubanazo from Newark), but it shows a distinct lack of knowledge about him to suggest he would be duping his client to make a "Cuban revolutionary" statement.

That's more Vera Wang.

ADDED: Michelle Obama = ET? If her critics are right, and her red/black number was pregnant with code, perhaps it was the foreshadowing of an exoplanet, Formalhaut B? ...B for Barack!

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  • From Wiki: Fomalhaut has had various names ascribed to it through time. One such name in common use is the Lonely Star of Autumn, because it is the only first-magnitude star in the autumn sky of mid-northern latitudes. It has been recognized by many cultures of the northern hemisphere, including the Arabs, Persians and Chinese. Archaeological evidence links it to rituals dating back to about 2500 BC. It is one of the Persians' four "royal stars". The Stregheria religion from Italy portrays Fomalhaut as a fallen angel and quarter guardian of the northern gate.

    Hmmm, a bit of a stretch. But this nails it:

    It is classified as a Vega-like star that emits excess infrared radiation, indicating it is surrounded by a circumstellar disk.

    IMO, Michelle has always given off an underlying "red" aura, and her party's agenda may reach down to the radiowaves. :)

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Tue Nov 18, 10:50:00 am GMT-5  

  • IMO, Michelle has always given off an underlying "red" aura, and her party's agenda may reach down to the radiowaves. :)

    LOL! Better red than dead, eh, Chickenlittle?

    Well, this makes more sense than the poker-faced claim by Wolf Blitzer, that she was sending a message of reconciliation to those in "Red" States...


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Tue Nov 18, 11:26:00 am GMT-5  

  • It was alarmingly mindful of some sort of blood-spray. (I watch Dexter, so don't blame me.)

    By Blogger knox, at Tue Nov 18, 07:57:00 pm GMT-5  

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