More to first lady than toned arms

By Molly Lynch

She’s the statuesque Ivy League-degreed hospital exec with coiffed hair and stylish outfits to match. And, like it or not, she’s created a stir unlike any other first lady.

In the few months since she’s assumed her post of what she likes to refer to as “Mom-in-Chief,” Michelle Obama seems to have found her niche in a glamorous world. She’s graced several magazine covers—becoming the only person to share a cover of O Magazine with Oprah Winfrey.

During the few times she has slightly modified her signature chin-length bob to a casually swept-up ponytail, it seems as if everyone took notice before even she did. And, most recently, her toned arms have received more Google hits than most news headlines.

While Obama’s presence in the White House is certainly a breath of fresh air compared to that of first wives past, I can’t help but notice what the chatter surrounding Obama’s fashion choices says about the priorities of Americans and, more importantly, women (present company included)—especially when much of the recent attention surrounding her has to do with her looks.

Quite frankly, it seems as if we are so infatuated with the Obamas that we barely even notice it anymore.

In The New Yorker’s bi-annual Style Issue, the cover was peppered with cartoon figurines of Obama, accompanied with a fashion commentary by renowned fashion writer Robin Givhan.

In the article, Givhan offers an extensive description of (surprise, surprise) the first lady’s arms: “Obama’s athletic arms are achievable—in between the kids’ soccer practice, the executive suite and the grocery store… the arms imply vanity and power.”

I’m all for rich descriptions and vivid scene-setting techniques in a story, but in my honest-to-goodness truest of truth, I do not care to read dramatic descriptions of Obama’s arms.

As far as I’m concerned, they are two limbs attached to a torso that can lift things, drive a car and wheel a garbage can to the foot of the driveway.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I wasn’t curious about the gown Obama wore to the Inaugural Ball or if I had a less than favorable opinion of the infamous red and black dress she wore to the Grant Park rally (I personally think it made her look like a lava lamp.

But I do know one thing—there is so much more I want to know about Obama, which is difficult to do when most of her top Google search results are fashion-oriented.

For the first time in a long while, America has a first lady people are genuinely excited about.

She is part of our cultural imagination, and she plays a key role in the ability of Americans to understand ourselves as a nation. She is an intelligent, insightful role model with a lot of valuable attributes that society can benefit from.

But by constantly honing in on what sleeveless frock she is wearing to show off her toned biceps, we are failing to realize that there is more to Obama than her looks, which make her a savvy public figure.

As of right now, let’s put things into perspective: Michelle Obama baring her arms (no pun intended) really isn’t that deep. Americans have more important things to worry about—a struggling economy? Climate change? Lowering health care?

Let’s do it, America. Let’s leave Obama’s bicep coverage and haute couture for the likes of Women’s Health and US Weekly.

I know times are tough, and we may need a little mindless news to make the time pass more quickly, but as our commander-in-chief once echoed on the campaign trail, “Hope is in sight.”

Yes, we can.