Will it be the white and dark chocolate chip cookies or the M&M cookies? For days, I anxiously awaited the results. Which cookie would win the critical, and seemingly prophetic, Family Circle magazine first lady cookie contest? The magazine has correctly predicted the results of four out of five elections and this year's winner, by the slightest margin, was first lady Michelle Obama for her chocolate chip based recipe (in 2008 she submitted a recipe for lemon and orange shortbread cookies and lost the bake-off contest, but won the White House, so go figure).
But clearly this is about more than who has the best cookie. Having a president of the United States of America, who happens to be a Black man, means a whole damn lot to me. Having the first lady be an intelligent, successful, mother of two who also happens to be a beautiful chocolate-brown complexioned woman, means EVERYTHING to me. I'm just not trying to have another first lady! I'm not ready to make that change in 2013. Probably more than President Barack Obama, I need Michelle as the first lady for another four years. It's not just because she's Black or just because she's an intellectual dynamo or even just because she's comfortable enough in her own skin to bring style back to the White House that's reflective of her own unique sophistication. It's because Michelle Obama embodies all of these attributes in one body that has over the past four years resisted the most sexist and racially charged assaults than any other FLOTUS has had to endure. Having her as the first lady represents to me and other Black women, and maybe even most women of color, the level of power and prowess we all dream of and hope to attain in our lifetime.
In terms of inspirational role models and young Black men, President Obama stands in a somewhat long line of cool brothers that includes Will Smith, Jay-Z, Denzel Washington, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Sean "Puffy" Combs, Colin Powell, and even Malcolm X (Jelani Cobb breaks this whole phenomenon down ever so brilliantly in his essay "Barack X.") The way in which Michelle Obama inspires -- intellectually, stylistically, emotionally, phenomenally -- is not as readily seen amongst the dames as it is the gents. Of course there's Oprah. There's also Toni Morrison, Gabby Douglas, Angela Davis, Beyonce, Ursula Burns, Tyra and Serena Williams. But as amazingly talented, skilled and as iconic as these women are, they do not penetrate the psychology of Black women as deeply or as radically as the FLOTUS. For all intents and purposes, Michelle Obama is our Winnie Mandela. She is our Wonder Woman. She is our very own down-to-earth, garden growing, brilliantly outspoken, history-making and supremely beautiful superhero.
In 2008 during the presidential campaign when the first lady admitted, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change," she received a great deal of flack from conservatives. But I understood her... and was even proud that she was audacious enough to say it it. When you consider the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and both John and Robert Kennedy -- all men who went against the grain of a country seemingly content with war, inequality, slavery, Jim Crow, and suffering, and then consider Obama's (victorious) run for president of that same country that not too long ago could not and would not tolerate the very existence of a man like himself, then yes, pride, real deep-down-to-the-bone-pride is a valid, honest emotion for Michelle Obama to have felt for a first time that day as a Black woman.
And now, four years later, First Lady Obama undeniably bodied the first night of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte with a passionate speech that electrified the spirits of all watching. According to a recent Gallup poll, Michelle Obama has a 65 percent favorable rating (allegedly higher than her hubs). In spite of the jabs about her booty, the comments about her wearing shorts and the over-analyzation of her "toned arms," the FLOTUS decided she was not going to be content living in the groove of Blackness and femininity that the media, politicians and the Right had carved out for her. By creating her own space through her Let's Move! initiative and through her successful push to reform public school lunch nutrition guidelines, Michelle Obama repels low-flying bullets of sexism and racism and nabs haters with her intellect, ambition and courage. Not only does Michelle Obama resist stereotypical notions of Black womanhood, but she also subverts conventional notions of what the role of the First Lady should be and also how the FLOTUS is expected to look and behave. Heroic indeed!
Yes, Kanye West is sometimes seen as a problematic in which to view and validate Black manhood, but think about how much blurrier that lens is for young women who identify with superstar Nicki Minaj who calls herself Barbie, wears blond wigs, pokes her derriere out for attention and added (sexual) affect while rapping about silly hoes. When I see young Black girls scream, cry tears of joy and get freaked out at the sight of Michelle Obama jumping double-dutch, I exhale and breathe a sigh of relief because I know that even if for only a moment, those girls probably forgot about Minaj's "Beez in the Trap" and are instead consumed with thoughts of being in the White House. If the Barbs can have their Minaj for what is feeling like an eternity, then I will vote this Election Day to have my FLOTUS for at least the next four years. In terms of agency, pride and power, Michelle Obama's foothold in our historical consciousness is like no other for Black women like me. I'm happy that her cookie won, but now I need her husband to do the same.