The Three First Ladies of the West

Samantha Cameron (another photo), Carla Bruni, and Michelle Obama

Looking at that photo of Michelle (from the website StyleList), I’m reminded of a line from Bernard Shaw’s one-act play about Shakespeare, The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, in which Shakespeare says, “There are two sorts of women—those with excellent voices, sweet and low, and cackling hens that cannot make me dream.”

Well, Michelle in that photo not only cannot make me dream, she’s like a figure in a nightmare—or a horror movie, Michelle, Part VI.

- end of initial entry -

Roger G. writes:

What do you have against vicious, hulking, Marxist monsters?

LA replies:

They scare me, man.

Roger replies:

You’re just jealous of her delts.

Daniel H. writes:

I don’t find Michelle Obama unattractive at all. For her age, she looks pretty good. Correct, she is a bit muscular about the shoulders and neck, but she has a pleasant mien and is not grossly overweight. And she dresses well. More importantly, by all appearances she is a dutiful, faithful wife and mother. If she were not a leftist with racial grievances she would make a fine first lady.

LA replies:

A bit muscular around the shoulders and neck? She has the musculature of a male body builder.

And what about that powerful right hip and thigh, lurching forward menacingly in that tight skirt? She looks like Yeats’s rough beast, moving its slow thighs, slouching toward Bethlehem, while all about it reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

She has this large, disconcertingly masculine body, but instead of covering it up with feminine clothes, she wears tight outfits that bring out her oversized musculature. It’s unnatural and freaky. She is to womanhood what her husband’s presidency is to America.

Patrick H. writes:

I agree with Daniel H. that Michelle O. is not unattractive or ugly in any obvious sense. But she is a great big hulking muscular being, really quite imposing in some ways, and in no way feminine. What troubles me about Michelle O. is that she is so graceless and clumsy-looking, with a kind of heavy, intrusive, arm-swinging massiveness about her. Since I am a fascistic global-warming-denying racist sexist homophobic conservative, I can say that black women, while usually far too large for my tastes, can sometimes exhibit a kind of feline lightness in their movements, a graceful sensuous presence in the way they hold themselves. But Michelle O is utterly lacking in lightness, grace or poise and seems to me curiously sexless and physically unappealing. She deserves to be called a “handsome woman,” not a beautiful one.

And surly looking or what? Man … she seems ready to tackle you, or maybe knee you in the groin. One expects the next words out of her mouth to be, “Hey, whachoo lookinat?”

In an earlier communication with you, I called her the First Linebacker, and shared an anticipatory wince with you at the prospect of four years of having her hyped as a new ideal of beauty, Michelle O. to replace our old ideal First Lady Jackie (later O.). I can say that Michelle seems to have been downgraded in the glamour sweepstakes, perhaps because of the emergence of Carla Bruni, whom Michelle seems to detest and fear and envy. In any case, no one seems any more to be hammering at us that we have to think that Michelle is beautiful and desirable and feminine or else be considered hopelessly racist. Perhaps there’s hope for us yet. Perhaps the reign of plasticized fake-breasted porno-chicks on the one hand and over-exercised muscular Amazonian behemoths on the other is finally, blessedly coming to an end.

Maybe we’ll be able to say again, “Cherchez la femme!” without laughing. I have a dream!

LA replies:

For this great comment, you get a standing “O.” (pun intended).

Michael Mc writes:

I must say that I find your denunciation of Michelle Obama’s appearance spectacularly ugly and untraditional.

Would this have appeared in an Edwardian paper? In an American paper from 1950?

LA replies:
I’m doing what I always do, which is try to find words to convey the truth of things as I see them, within the bounds of decency. Do you seriously expect me in the year 2010, responding to the spectacle of weird hostile aliens in the White House and the government, to write about it as would an Edwardian in 1910 or an American newspaper in 1950? I’m not in general an admirer of the journalism of invective, but anything I write along those lines at this site is extremely mild compared to styles of invective that have been common in the West for centuries.

LA continues:

Also, there is a place in traditionalism for the vigorous and the rude, as long as it’s kept in its place. How did comedy begin in ancient Athens, but as pretty raw stuff? And that’s part of our tradition too. (Not that VFR does anything raw—this is not a Game site, after all.) But there is a place for the expression of such emotions as disgust and ridicule, especially when directed at “leaders” who are involved in a hostile takeover of this country. The Psalms have every kind of emotion including hatred and hoping for the ruin of enemies. Those are not the most elevated emotions, but they are part of what we are, and there is a place for them to be expressed, within bounds.

Michael Mc replies:

I did think for a minute, before writing what I did, that the western tradition of political invective is far more developed than the current cries for “bipartisanship” let on—but I stuck with my criticism because of the following suspicion:

As the culture continues to coarsen and decline, as the murky water sinks, let us say, dragging the fronds and foam down with it, one island that will begin appear more prominent will be that of the traditionalists, and one of our most conspicuous qualities will be a comparative lack of sexual coarseness, or rather, of coarseness between the sexes.

While your comments are nothing compared to current standards, neither do they make this difference as conspicuous as I might prefer.

LA replies:

Interesting point, but, just to make sure we’re on the same page, how have I expressed sexual coarseness in the Michelle discussion?

Michael Mc replies:
You wrote:

Also, there is a place in traditionalism for the vigorous and the rude, as long as it’s kept in its place. How did comedy begin in ancient Athens, but as pretty raw stuff? And that’s part of our tradition too.

Point taken—one mustn’t mistake traditionalism for mere fussiness. I still, however, think that commenting on this woman’s appearance in this manner doesn’t make much of a point, at least when considered next to the possible charges it opens us up to.

LA replies:

This is an issue that has come up from time to time. While some people disagree with me on this, I and others think that commenting on the physical appearance of public figures is legitimate. A society expresses itself through the personae, the manners, the dress, of its members, particularly its leading public figures who are the models that others follow. A conservatism that declines to comment on that dimension of human society is not looking at the whole. A major problem with American conservatism is its abstractness, treating society as though it were a collection of principles. But a society is a living, organic thing, and right now the living organic thing that is our society is very sick and distorted, but conservatives are largely blind to this cultural and life-style dimension of liberal society because they themselves are a part of it.

Gary Moe writes:

Michelle Obama as one of the “Three First Ladies of the West?” More like the third Williams sister (as in Venus and Serena), if you ask me.

Michael Mc replies:

You wrote:

“how have I expressed sexual coarseness in the Michelle discussion?”

The idea that Michelle is too masculine or unattractive to be considered a “First Lady” in the sense of Carla or Samantha, and must rather be treated as an abberant form relating to cultural collapse (as the Yeats quote implies) is, to my eyes, an over-the-bounds speculation into the sexual and married life of the current President.

LA replies:

I did not intend any speculation into the private married life of the president and his wife. That wasn’t part of my thought. I was commenting on the public persona and the physicality of Michelle O., and particularly on its impact on me, not on the impact of her private persona and physicality on her husband, which is something I would rather not think about.

Michael Mc replies:

Fair enough. This is certainly one of the more interesting boundaries and discussions that a traditional stance will introduce and engender.

Roger G. writes:

My apology to Michael Mc - I’m sorry that Michelle Obama is a vicious, hulking, Marxist monster.

Roger G. writes:

And if I’m going to keep reading your site, you’ll have to censor all hints of the Obamas’ sexual activity. The flapping ears, the trapezius rhythmically flexing and unflexing - it’s like contemplating Charles Johnson’s modern art.

LA replies:

Roger is referring to this entry: The profound thought process of Charles Johnson; and a discussion of H.R. Giger

Richard O. writes:

I just don’t see what someone’s appearance has to do with anything. To me, Michele looks quite elegant and has nice lines and a nice smile. Chacun a son gout, and all that.

I have my doubts about where her and her husband’s hearts lie and long for the day for them to be gone but I think a simple line to draw is between public conduct and speech one side and appearance and private life on the other.

I check your site five times a day to see what new insights you come up with. I just don’t think I learn anything useful from a discussion about appearance.

LA replies:

For the most part, we’re not talking here simply about a person’s physical features and body type, but the person, how that person is presenting herself to the world. Michelle doesn’t just happen to be disconcertingly large and muscular, she dresses and moves in a way that pushes those qualities forward. And because she is the most visible woman in America and setting trends and so on, that is a legitimate topic.

But even if we were talking only about physical appearance, people’s physical appearance is part of what they are, and is naturally of interest when we’re talking of public people who are being put before us every day.

At the same time, you are right. It’s subjective. Your reaction to Michelle—she’s elegant—will be different from my reaction—she’s threatening-looking—and therefore the meaning I find in that photo will not be the meaning that you find, and no argument can bridge that gap. So I acknowledge that this is a lower-level discussion than a purely intellectual discussion. However, those who have more or less the same subjective reaction to Michelle that I have will find my comments meaningful.

Richard O. replies:

Fair enough. She seems to have an odd walk, I admit. Merely to look at either of those freaks is to be reminded of the morons who voted them there.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 18, 2010 11:26 AM | Send

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