Michelle Obama: Most Powerful Mom?

According to Working Mother’s Top Ten Moms of 2011, Michelle Obama ranks as one of the ten most powerful moms in the world. 


As much as I respect Working Mother magazine, and delight in Michelle Obama (along with most of the world), I beg to differ. 


Michelle Obama IS popular, with approval ratings close to seventy percent. But popular flies a different flag than powerful.  Of all the women in the world I admire, Michelle Obama is the one from whom I’d like to see a little more power-flexing -- and a whole lot less bicep-flexing.


The last interesting quote from Michelle Obama was her now-infamous February 2008 campaign cutline that America’s support of a black presidential candidate made her proud of her country for the first time in her adult life. I was intrigued by her heartfelt words. As an educationally and economically privileged white American woman, I wanted more on the subject from her.  Of course it’s harder to be proud of this country if you are black, given our history of slavery, economic discrimination and voter intimidation  -- but as a white woman, I’d rarely thought about patriotism in that vein. 


Obama opened my eyes to the still-prevalent prejudice black moms face in the workforce, in the polling booth, and in raising children.  She made me think long and hard about what it would be like to be a black mom, holding a child’s hand on the first day of kindergarten at an underfunded and overcrowded public school, or driving with kids in the backseat through a predominately not-black neighborhood, or taking a gravely sick black child to a hospital staffed mostly by white doctors and nurses.


But instead of praising her candor, conservative media and rival politicians portrayed Obama as the stereotypical “angry black woman.” These howls effectively silenced Michelle Obama for the rest of the campaign and the first four years of her husband’s presidency.  She’s hardly spoken up since - in public, at least.  Probably to the satisfaction of her husband’s press office, but to our collective loss.


We see Michelle Obama plenty.  She’s regularly smiling and pumping her arms on the cover of Vogue, People, Ladies Home Journal and Reader’s Digest. We know the contents of her closet and where she shops. We know her height, her weight and her shoe size.


But do we know the contents of her mind?  We rarely hear her opinions on any subjects of substance.  I for one have seen enough of her upper appendages and her designer clothes, and read enough bland dogma on home-grown vegetables and aerobic exercise, to last me several lifetimes.  Are fashion and body-toning tips all we can expect from one of the most highly educated First Ladies in history?