By now you're surely familiar with the raging controversy over Michelle Obama's flagrant display of her toned arms. In funny lady Sarah Haskins' take above, she parses the guns frenzy with hilarity as usual, compiling a montage of news briefs trying to make sense of the age-old question: Are bare arms right for every occasion?
Sure, we've been poring over public figures' sartorial choices since forever. But for women, it's a different game altogether. Balancing power with femininity has always been a tricky business. Just ask Janet Reno. Not enough winking and nodding to make sure the boys still feel like men, and you're widely criticized and insulted. Too much pampering and perfuming and you're Eskimo Barbie.
As far as I can tell, Michelle Obama is playing this game with grace and poise. She downplays her femininity enough to be taken seriously--that's what the J.Crew cardigans, pencil skirts and flats are all about--but she enhances it enough to avoid seeming overly threatening. This is the social contract we seem to have entered into with men. You'll let us hold jobs and have property and stuff, as long as we don't hit you over the head too hard with how smart we are.
Sarah Palin could have ruled this balance with sophistication, but she ended up being too much of an idiot to pull it off. So maybe it's that Michelle Obama's emphasis of her physical strength over say, whipping out the gams every chance she gets or painting her face more, makes some people uncomfortable.
Or maybe it's the simple notion that a woman in her 40s can't be unapologetic about her athletic robustness. She looks like she could take most of the men I know, and I suppose all the J.Crew cardigans in the world can't soften that blow.