The first I learned of the Michelle Obama fashion controversy was when an email landed in my inbox from a Facebook friend who had tagged me in a post. The reference to me stated: “Michelle has a law degree from Harvard for god’s sake! Bet Marina Go has something to say…”
The message certainly grabbed my attention and directed me to the Facebook post that was building in intensity with angry comments from friends and friends of friends.
The day after the breastfeeding sit-in outside the Sunrise studios in Sydney’s Martin Place, the breakfast show had apparently asked three women to comment on the fashion chosen by Michelle Obama for her husband’s inauguration. It was the fashion police style segment that had so outraged my Facebook network.
This comment from one: “I am so over this discussion of what women are wearing in power, I’m more interested in what they represent to the rest of us and what they are doing to help make life better for the community”.
And from another: “Vanity Fair also likes to discuss the president’s wife’s wardrobe from time to time, but I notice they do it in a much more respectful, unpatronising manner, as if her wardrobe really *matters* for the future of America”.
Bizarrely, or coincidentally (or both), I watched an ABC documentary about the day of John F. Kennedy’s assassination the evening before Sunrise’s latest controversy. As well as Zapruder’s famous film that captured vividly the horror of the assassination in Dallas on November 22 1963, news footage of the before and after was used to piece together the day’s events. I was surprised by the emphasis in the news bulletins on Jackie Kennedy’s clothing. She was famously wearing a pink suit that day and its style and colour was referenced constantly.
FYI: Jackie also notably walked ahead of her President husband rather than the customary specified number of paces behind him. I found that infinitely more fascinating than her pink suit.
The regular referencing of Jackie’s fashion stood out to me as over-the-top, which I assumed to mean that it doesn’t happen so often anymore. Not in news bulletins anyway. But Sunrise and shows like it are not news programs. They are entertainment shows with a clear emphasis on celebrity. The producers of the program clearly believe it’s what their target group of viewers are interested in at that time of the morning. They are obviously not out to attract women like me or indeed the people who were commenting about this particular subject on Facebook.
As my Facebook friend was attempting to point out, Michelle Obama is so much more than what she chooses to wear on any given day. I don’t think that’s in dispute. As a fashion-interested person I like to know what people are wearing. But I am not the least bit interested in someone else’s judgment of what people wear. That is a very important difference and one of the signals to me that programs like this are not seeking my attention. So after taking some time to think this issue through, my initial response of anger subsided.
If I want to know the designer of Michelle’s inauguration outfit I can google it. If I want to see beautiful, glossy images of Michelle’s fashion choices I can read Vogue or Vanity Fair. If I want to read why Michelle is the President’s best asset then I can visit Women’s Agenda. And if I don’t want to listen to people judging the wardrobe choices of others then I can avoid breakfast television.
Do you agree? Is it best to take a personal stand against media that angers you or do you prefer to engage in a mass protest?