An article about Michelle Obama as First Lady reminds me of a lot of issues around sex work. The writer (Allison Samuels) points out that public perception of black women are limited to: sassy single mothers, crack whores or victims of AIDS by thoughtless partners. Samuels can’t find portrayals of the very normal black women she knows: college-educated, in stable relationships, non-sassy. Until Michelle.

And I have no doubt that reactions to this article will include cries that Michelle Obama is a “privileged” black woman and does not represent the a majority experience (of course she can’t represent everyone – she is only one person with one life).

Sounds like sex work to me.

The CNBC show has ruffled feathers for various reasons, one of which is the expected sighs over its portrayal of a small segment of the industry. While high-end escorts are indeed a small percentage of sex work, so are street-based workers – who are often used to make sweeping statements about all sex work. The truth is the silent majority of sex workers fall in the middle.

That’s what average is.

I have hopes the show will start a needed dialogue about the spectrum of sex work, as well as change some perceptions. Samuels hopes Michelle can help change perceptions of the modern black woman by starting a dialogue.

There is needed change in the air. I have optimism.

In dealing with some recent issues of my own, a wise friend told me that change — no matter how positive or needed — is difficult and painful. We may not always see the process of change as something good or something we want. We can only focus on the end result of the process.

If Michelle Obama helps the country realize black woman are not caricatures, that’s a step forward. If the show helps the public realize there is a broad range to sex work, that’s a step forward to a realistic view of sex work, opening the possibility to realistic solutions to problems that need to be fixed.

I hope.

19 thoughts on “change is in the air

  1. “If Michelle Obama helps the country realize black woman are not caricatures, that’s a step forward”

    And that black women are just as attractive and can be just as elegant as any other woman out there. Believe me, that is a HUGE issue for black women; especially since Michelle doesn’t look like, say, Beyonce or Halle Berry…if you take my meaning.

  2. Aspasia,

    Did you read the article? Samuels did indeed point out that Michelle is not a Beyonce or Halle. Frankly, I’m glad about that. A black woman in the White House should not have to be a Barbie doll to be respected or admired. White First Ladies have certainly not been held to that standard.

    Personally, I think Michelle is a beautiful woman with an incredible presence. I’m jealous of her height though.


  3. Amanda,

    You are correct. Change is in the air. Keep up the optimism; we all need that.

    Take care,


  4. Great post, Amanda. I look forward to watching the program! (I have it set to record on Tivo this weekend.)

    I am constantly baffled by people’s apparent expectation for one woman to be able to represent an entire spectrum of women’s experiences.

  5. David,



    Thank you too! I hope you enjoy the show. I think they take the most even-handed view mainstream media has taken in a long time.

    Yeah, I don’t know why people expect one single woman to stand in for others. It is a weird thing, though, isn’t it?


  6. “White First Ladies have certainly not been held to that standard.”

    Hmmm, I don’t agree with that. I don’t think we’ll ever see a white First Lady that looks like complete crap. Name a first lady who didn’t look classy. We’re never going to have a FL, of any race, who looks like she shops at Kohl’s. Sure there were several older FL’s who dressed, well, old but they still looked classy. All First Ladies and their President husbands are expected to have poise and style. And yes, I read the article and I’ll ignore the somewhat judgmental tone about “oversexed” women (which means what, exactly?).

    What I meant about Michelle not being a Halle or Beyonce is that she does not have racially ambiguous features. This is a sore point with many (mostly women) within the African-American community where visibly mixed women like Halle or Beyonce or, say, Vanessa Williams have long been held up as the epitome of “black beauty” and anyone darker and more African looking than that often being seen as unattractive. Of course the reasons for this stretch back into American antiquity and while in public there is now a more “all colors are beautiful” view from the AA community, in private…just among “us”, in far too many AA communities it is still light skin=beautiful and jokes ridiculing people who actually have predominant African heritage. So that is why I made that contrast.

  7. Aspasia,

    Not that White First Ladies look terrible, but no one seems to expect them to look like Barbies. Whereas it DOES seem like famous black women need to look like a Barbie to get “accepted.” Look deeper into that Barbie standard and yes, one does stumble across that ambigious mix of racial features. That was a subtext I missed consciously, yet I think I was picking up on.

    Thank you for making that excellent point!

    Michelle is indeed a black woman and Samuels is right in wondering how uncomfortable it will make members of the public. After all, they voted for her husband and not neccessarily her. She’s a very classy and intelligent human being, so I’m sure she’ll smash stereotypes. That they’re still there to be smashed is a stupid, stupid thing.


  8. Amanda,

    Ah okay. And I totally agree with you wrt the Barbie look and I think that holds true for all ethnic minority women. We HAVE to look good, and while I love being a fashionista, I also know that I really can’t leave my house looking any which way as a non-white woman. But then, some of that is the Southern Belle view I was raised around and I know you can understand that being from Texas! I may not like her husband’s politics, but I really like Michelle. She reminds me a lot of my Mom when she was healthier.

  9. Aspasia,

    Oh I know well about a life of putting on makeup to go to the grocery store! I feel like a rebel every time I leave the house naked-faced. I’m not doing my feminine “duty.”

    I wonder how many other people are reminded of their mothers by Michelle?


  10. Avalon,

    I think you’ll enjoy it! And someone told me that CNBC will eventually put it online (well after the air dates, I’m sure).

    Gotta let me know what you think of it!


  11. Jay,

    There have been a lot of black models/actors/athletes who have made huge strides forward. I daresay they’re taken about as seriously as white models/actors/athletes. Having the Obamas in the White House is quite different from Vanessa or Halle or Denzel or any other black celebrity.


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