What Obama Had To Note About Michelle Running For President Exemplifies Casual Sexism


If you're looking for a frustrating example of casual sexism, here's one: when women's own statements about their lives, their ambitions, and their future plans aren't taken as seriously or firmly as they should be. And, for all the compelling lessons about life in the spotlight the Obamas have already taught us, something the president once said about Michelle illustrated this point pretty well — consider this one Barack Obama quote about Michelle's political future, or lack thereof, and ask yourself: did I really need to hear this from him?

Here's the background: in the aftermath of Donald Trump's upset electoral college victory — the immediate aftermath, in fact, as the interview happened on Nov. 9, just one day later — Barack gave an interview to Rolling Stone's Jann Wenner, in which (among many other things) he stated that he was sure Michelle would never run for office, calling her "just too sensible" to throw her metaphorical hat in the ring.

Michelle will never run for office. She is as talented a person as I know. You can see the incredible resonance she has with the American people. But I joke that she's too sensible to want to be in politics.
US First Lady Michelle Obama speaks following a screening of the movie, 'Hidden Figures,' in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington, DC, December 15, 2016.SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Now, there's nothing whatsoever wrong with him saying this, provided it accurately reflects Michelle's views. But the thing is, everyone already knew it reflected her views, or at least they should have, because this isn't a topic she's been shy about. Back in March, in fact, she punctured the bubble in unceremonious fashion, telling an assembled audience at the annual South by Southwest festival that she would never run for president. Here's what she said, in case you're wondering just how firm the shoot-down was.

I will not run for president. No, nope, not going to do it.

That is not a subtle or hedging statement. Of course, it's no surprise why people keep asking — Michelle is one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, albeit one with no experience holding elected office (much like our president-elect, for that matter), and therefore someone who hasn't had to take many hard, politically costly stands.

But this does raise the question: how many times does a confident, intelligence, experienced and composed adult woman need to make herself plainly clear for people to take it seriously? Apparently, to her mind, at least one more time — in her much-publicized exit interview with Oprah Winfrey, she again reiterated that she wouldn't seek public office after the end of her husband's administration.

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No... look, that's one thing I don't do, I don't make stuff up, I'm not coy. I've proven that, I'm pretty direct. If I were interested in it, I would say it, I don't believe in playing games.

Michelle also noted that she believed the swell of people hoping she'll eventually run might simply be reflecting "regret about the outcome of this election." In other words, if you really do believe Michelle to be a woman of honesty, integrity, and clarity — all the sorts of qualities that have led people to wish she'd enter politics in the first place – it's time to start listening instead of hoping.