How to deal with rude people and command respect starring FLOTUS in GIFs

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So by now you’ve heard that First Lady Michelle Obama has a somewhat different strategy for dealing with hecklers than President Obama.

This week at a DNC fundraiser in D.C., Ellen Sturtz of GetEqual interrupted the First Lady’s speech yelling out demands for the president to keep his promise and sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A valid critique, to be sure, but the yelling was off putting to the First Lady and her allies, and the way she handled it has been analyzed ad nauseum.

I fiercely defended the First Lady’s response to the heckler and have since seen her reaction as instructive. The First Lady was simply putting Ms. Sturtz and the rest of us on notice that she demands respect and has no patience for rudeness. And who could blame her. Disrespect of the Obamas is nothing new and to understand why so many Americans are fed up, lets start at the beginning.

She was an incredible surrogate and supporter during the 2008 election cycle, but when she did this conservatives lamented the motion as a “terrorist fist jab.”
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Then she said something about loving her country and suddenly she was fair game for attack. And someone thought it would be a good idea to put her on the cover of The New Yorker like this,  beginning the meme that Michelle Obama is a stereotypical “angry black woman”:
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And then even after her husband won in 2008, conservatives demanded to see his birth certificate and tried to cast President Obama as illegitimate. Republican leadership in Congress blocked all legislative progress and continually failed to call out the birthers, and FLOTUS is like:
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And while conservatives weren’t busy bashing Obama for being a socialist dictator, they were calling FLOTUS authoritarian for wanting kids to exercise and eat vegetables. And FLOTUS is like:
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And despite millions of dollars being spent to smear her husband, President Obama is re-elected to a second term in 2012. Only a few months into Obama’s second term, FLOTUS is in a celebratory mood and appears to have taken some time to improve upon her Dougie.
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Which is really great because this wasn’t really quite right.
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And so this week, after years of her husband being cast as illegitimate, and being attacked for being an angry “uppity” black woman, FLOTUS is interrupted at a fundraiser during an impassioned plea for progressives coming together next year to vote in the midterm elections for the betterment of our children’s lives.

And so everyone’s like:
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And FLOTUS leaves the podium like:
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Then FLOTUS walks up to Ms. Sturtz and says, “One of the things I don’t do well is this. [L]isten to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving.” And when the crowd applauded, showing that they were going to respect her and that they wanted her to continue, FLOTUS is like:
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We could all learn a thing or two from FLOTUS. Demand respect, enforce your standards, and have a good time.
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“You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop, and what you reinforce.” – Tony Gaskins

Join the Conversation

  • Cade DeBois

    Really, Feministing? Why don’t you just tell the lesbian to go to the back of the bus while you’re at it.

    And yes–I DID JUST SAY THAT. Did you think that 2 days of people framing this is simply a white women being rude to a balck woman, while completely brushing the elitism and hetero privilege of this story under the rug, would make me forgot why Sturtz did what she did. If this had been Ann Romney you would be so on Sturtz’s side. So, SHAME. ON. YOU. And that’s a fair comparison, since Michelle was essentially channelling Mrs. Romney there. Yeah, I just said *that* too.

    Now about that elitism: this is NOT about supporting a black female public figure–it’s supporting the elitism that the Obamas embody.

    Sturtz’s comment that she is too old of wait for Obama to do what he promised resonates with me far more than anything Michelle has said EVER. Maybe it is because I’m white. Or maybe, it’s becuase I’m a middle-aged woman who really, really needs health care* NOW (still waiting) and a job NOW (still waiting) and a fair wage (still waiting) who sees her future with the way Obama will leave this country as one of oppresive poverty and very possibly homeless, unless I get “lucky” and die from my untreated heart disease before then. Barack Obama has broken more promises to the American people than he has kept, people who trusted and supported him are hurting because of his lies, his politial pandering and his inaction, he and his wife have proven themselves elitists who have contempt for the people they say they back (rferesher: “Hey, don’t think you can be rappers and ballers–you black people need to get to work! Now watch us hang out with our BFFs Jay-z and Beyonce. Sucks to be you!”) and Michelle is *part of his spin machine*. She is a legit target for DISSENT fromt eh commoners they loath, commoners lik Sturtz. And yeah, dissent is rude. It need to be. Because the elitist like the Obama aren’t going to listen any other way.

    Now let’s talk about hetetro privilege.

    You failed to mention that Sturtz said that she would have taken the mic but she was escorted from the room, so you basically made her look liek coward who didn’t have anything to actually say. Yet they just could not get that lesbian out of there fast enough! I’ve read so many comments from gay and straight people alike how someone like Sturtz ought to be grateful for what the Obamas have done. Yeah, let’s recap that: Obama punted DADT to Congress, played hands-offsies while Congress dragged the LGBT commnity through months and months of thoroughly vile, sadistic political theather, where their rights, dignity and earnest emotions were treated like a political footballs. Obama was pretty silent through all of that, and certianly did not come out to support the individual servicemen and woman who came forward to force Congress to do what Obama said he’d do. Then when it was all over, Obama waltzes in and everyone seems to think he’s the hero of the day. For what exactly? That’s pretty much how Obama plays the LGBT community. And that’s how he will keep playing them, and Michelle will keep spinning that for him. They both deserve to be heckled by every LGBT person in this contry, in my opinion. Maybe have a few shoes thrown at them too. The hetero-privileged Emperor and his wife have no clothes and gawddamn will someone please stand up and say so! (Oh wait, that gray-haired lesbian did…oops.)

    * Obamacare isn’t all that and we poor people know it. So don’t bother to get out your pom-poms.

    • Penny White

      I completely agree. It’s frightening how blind we can be to our own privilege while attacking others for theirs.

    • Angel H.

      I’m just gonna leave this here:

  • Aislin Kageno

    Hold on – back up –

    This was a thing that happened?
    “She was an incredible surrogate and supporter during the 2008 election cycle, but when she did this conservatives lamented the motion as a “terrorist fist jab.””

    I mean…what? That doesn’t even make any sense. Have conservatives and pundits never heard of fist-bumping? Do they not know that that’s a thing people do? Since when did the brofist become a terrorist gesture?

    This just makes absolutely no sense to me. Maybe I am missing some context here, and I am obviously several years too late, but I am amazed by the kind of crap people will try to say.

  • Willy Banjo

    I look forward to Feministing’s next article in the “Putting Queers In Their Place” series. Hopefully it’ll come out before I’m fired from my job for being gay and can’t afford internet access anymore.

    • Angel H.

      I’m sure it will be right after their series on GetEqual’s “stellar’ record on racism. Oh wait…

      • Angel H.


  • Takeitlightly

    I truly agree with the first commenter. This post disgusts me. Since when did politeness become a strong feminist value? Did any progression toward women’s equality ever come about because of politeness? Well, the queer community, of which I am a member, is taking a page from feminists’ playbook. I am also a feminist. The so-called heckler–I call her a protester–took direct action on a justice issue that has real, painful, critical consequences for individuals and families of all races all over this country. I don’t think it shows respect to the POTUS/FLOTUS to think that anyone needs to treat them with kid gloves. I respect both people a lot, but I agree with the Cade that the President has broken many promises and abandoned whole communities of people who put him in office, whose money he was more than happy to beg for. His record on human rights and liberties is atrocious (Guantanamo? Drones? NSA spying on EVERYONE?) I’m really disgusted with liberals slavishly defending Obama as if to criticize him is to disrespect him. As if we somehow owe him unwavering support for everything. Bullshit. Did you even think about maybe trying to in touch with the woman who protested or maybe reading more about her to find out her injustices? She wrote a WP op-ed laying out her reasons very clearly. Try reading it.

    • Angel H.

      The outburst didn’t bother me so much as the fact that she was “taken aback” when FLOTUS called her out. A commenter from Racialicious says it beautifully:

      I think heckling the first lady and then being scared b/c she was “in your face” is chock full of racist undertones. I would say not even undertones, just straight up racism.
      I find that some white women like to start battles with black women and then hide behind the stereotype that we are masculine, scary, and intimidating. They want to hit us and then start crying at the the thought that we might respond in kind.
      And there is no WAY I’d be allowed to be so disrespectful to Laura Bush or Hilary Clinton as a black woman, and certainly I would not be permitted to hide behind this idea that I was fearful of them or intimidated by them. I’d have been not so gently handled out of there by the Secret Service.
      You heckled someone and they responded. Don’t start battles with black women and then say you are afraid of them when they rightfully put you in your place.