For a moment there I was beginning to think that the “War on Women” only had upper class White women as casualities. While the decades long “War on Women” continues to fill Democratic fundraising letters and the much shorter lived (like about 24 hours) “War on Mommy” seems to have left Ann Romney and her Barbie Dream House unscathed – the other War on Women continues unabated.
What other War on Women?
The one about the most powerful Black woman in America: Michelle Obama. A few tabloids have reported that Michelle is in full diva mode and has decreed that Kerry Washington be banned from the White House for being too ‘flirty’ with President Obama. While we all know this is bunk it makes you wonder: why aren’t attacks on Michelle (or Kerry for that matter) considered part of this war as well?
Word on the political street is that due to Kerry Washington’s flirtatious nature, Michelle Obama has added her to something of a “‘hoochie’ watch list” full of women that she doesn’t want in her home because they are perpetual line-steppers with her husband. This list included other important ladies of the night like Oprah Winfrey and at one point Gayle King. What strikes me about this story is that it is part of a long line of slights against Michelle Obama, by both politicians and pundits and press that play upon still powerful stereotypes about Black women.
An African American woman has to be the Jezebel, the Harpy or the Mammy, and sometimes a combination of the two. Despite the immense popularity of Michelle Obama, these themes still permeate popular culture and pretty much explain a lot about Kerry Washington, Michelle Obama and this whole fake “Scandal.” Consider Kerry Washington’s new show Scandal, where she plays Olivia Pope, a super secret insider who does crisis negotiation for the rich and powerful in D.C. Oh, and by the way, she was a side piece to a powerful White guy running for president. What is funny about that whole storyline is twofold to me: 1st) this reaffirms most of network television’s unwritten rule over the last decade that any prominent Black woman’s romantic relationships have to be with a White man. (Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Parenthood, even cancelled shows like Undercovers, The Deep End) Something that would NEVER be done with Black Men and White women.
But 2.) It establishes the narrative that Kerry is still the Jezebel, the irresistible chocolate treat that lures White men into ruin. Trust me, you’ll hardly ever see a prominent white female lead in a show with that kind of baggage and it certainly would never be with a Black man.
Along the same lines the War on Women Michelle Obama-style has taken some time to hit its stride, but it has finally arrived. Michelle Obama can’t be a Mammy, she’s not a heavyset dark Black woman sitting around making White people feel good about themselves. Plus, Barack thinks she’s hot and mammy’s aren’t allowed to be sexual. She’s not the Jezebel since she is faithful to her husband. So clearly she must be the harridan, constantly bringing Obama down right? The war against Michelle began during the campaign when she was chastised for talking about Obama picking up after himself. And has pretty much morphed into the typical racist “Mrs. Yo-Mama”, comparisons between Michelle and a gorilla , that she emasculates her husband to more specific racially motivated attacks about her looks, personality etc. This current Enquirer story just wraps a couple of these War themes together.
For all the dalliances that Bill Clinton had during his presidency (let alone before) there were seldom stories of Hillary blocking women from coming to the White House. For all of the rumors about Condi and George Bush, there were never stories about Laura having a ‘watch list’ of women who couldn’t enter the premesis. And interestingly enough, even though a lot of noise was made about Scarlett Johannson’s personal emails with Obama you never heard of her being banned from the White House. Yet, two Black women, first Oprah, and now Kerry Washington are linked to this tabloid story. Because you know, Black women are just that dangerous and catty with each other.
Again, this is a fake story, so it won’t get much traction in any reputable outlets. More importantly everyone knows how Kerry Washington rolls, so I’m not sure why Michelle would be worried about her anyway. But, it is worth noting that this little war has other targets besides law students and rich stay at home Moms. Black women like Michelle have been on the front lines for years and no one has sent them a flak jacket yet.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson