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Dominique Browning Headshot

What's Really Sexist? The Way President Obama Talks About Budgets

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While the kerfuffle over whether the Bachmann Newsweek cover is sexist flaps on, here's where the real sexist talk is going on: in the Obama camp. We're starting to hear the kind of condescending talk -- demeaning toward Michelle Obama, and demeaning to the intelligence of his listeners -- that raises my hackles. Here's what the president said in Minnesota:

"In my house, if I said, 'You know, Michelle, honey, we got to cut back, so we're going to have you stop shopping completely. You can't buy shoes; you can't buy dresses; but I'm keeping my golf clubs.' You know, that wouldn't go over so well."

Whoa there. Michelle Obama is a serious person, who held a senior executive position at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she drew an annual salary of roughly $274,000. She certainly made more than her husband did, ever. The caricature of a housewife who can't stop spending on shoes and dresses, really grates. Worse is the husband who has to scold his wife.

But what really got me was the speech in the next town:

"Everybody cannot get 100 percent of what they want. Now, for those of you who are married, there is an analogy here. I basically let Michelle have 90 percent of what she wants. But, at a certain point, I have to draw the line and say, 'Give me my little 10 percent.'"

I let her have what she wants? I have to draw the line?

This stereotypical way of talking about how household budgets are managed is about as sexist as it gets. Given that in more than 50 percent of married couples, both spouses are working, I doubt Americans of either gender need an economics lesson based on what the master is giving his irresponsible, needy wife. Especially when she isn't that, in the slightest.

I wish I could say these things have a subtle, pernicious effect. They don't. They have a straightforward, and loud, effect. I fear that, in his effort to be folksy, which he sure isn't, the president is sending the wrong message, once again.