Who'll Defend Michelle Obama?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mary C. Curtis's June 21 op-ed, "The Loud Silence of Feminists," was thoughtful but incomplete.

Ms. Curtis argued that supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have not come to Michelle Obama's defense when Ms. Obama has been subjected to sexist attacks. I wish Ms. Curtis had also asked why more black men have not stepped up to the plate on the sexism issue. I wish she had questioned those African Americans who insist that claims of sexism are the empty cries of rich white women and that there is no sexism within the black community (or even elsewhere), as well as those who use homophobia to insist that black women who talk about sexism must not be "real women."

In a fair discussion of sexism as it affects African American women, one can't simply point the finger at white women and say, "Why aren't you defending us?" I am looking forward to hearing more about how Barack Obama will acknowledge and address sexism as it affects all of us, for if a Democrat is elected, he is going to be my president, and not his very capable wife.




We take exception to Mary C. Curtis's implications that feminists and feminist organizations have not engaged in a spirited defense of Michelle Obama when she has received biased treatment from the media. We also have an answer to her wondering what Gloria Steinem is doing about it.

The Women's Media Center, a feminist media advocacy organization founded by Ms. Steinem in 2005, has been a consistent voice for fair media treatment of women, including Michelle Obama. We have been vocal from the first "proud of my country" flap through the current campaign to cast her as anti-white and un-American. As media monitors and advocates, we've written about bias, issued statements and given interviews protesting the insistence that she be "made over." We fight sexism in the media wherever we find it.

Feminists are no more a monolith than women are. Many feminists supported Barack Obama in the primaries -- hundreds signed petitions and wrote commentaries -- and many posted these declarations on our Web site. And they support Michelle Obama now.

Ms. Curtis may indeed have a complaint -- not necessarily against feminists but against mainstream media outlets that often do not let these voices demanding fair coverage be heard.



The Women's Media Center

New York

© 2008 The Washington Post Company