Michelle Obama Shown As A Half Naked Slave On The Front Cover Of Spanish Magazine: Why Is The World Not Ready To Accept Strong Black Women? [Updated]

Offensive front cover of Spanish magazine (left), painting of a black female slave by 19th century French artist Marie-Guilhelmine Benois (right)

Why is the world not ready to accept strong black women or more aptly why isn't the world media ready to accept us?

With all the resent positive reactions to Michelle Obama speech at the Democratic National Convention this week, which was in support of her husbands attempt to secure a second term of Presidency (see Huffington Post article here). It is very saddening to see that the world media continue to perpetuate its racist, sexist and class ideologies to the masses!

As shown in the pictures above, the Spanish magazine Fuera De Serie felt it appropriated to super impose the head of America's First Lady onto the half naked body of a female slave painting by French artist Marie-Guilhelmine Benois. Why the magazine chose to publish this I really don't know, though clearly it was to cause controversy (because no-one can be that stupidly naive). 

Sadly Michelle Obama has come under much heavy handed scrutiny, since the start of her husbands Presidency in 2009, everything from her fashion sense, muscular arms, her hair, down to her 'angry black woman' attitude has been criticised. With many agreeing that no other First Lady in history has ever come under fire like Michelle, with the only reason for this being because she's black.

What I've found most intriguing (and disturbing) about the rest of the worlds press coverage on the offensive magazine cover is the subtle comradely found in the articles. Reputable newspapers such as the America's Huffington Post asked "Is it offensive?" in their article title (do they really need to ask!); while The Week seem unconformable stating out right its offence and opted to use apostrophes in its title "The 'obviously offensive' image..."which to me moves it away from being an actual opinion into a possibly acceptable generalisation instead. The British press wasn't much better, The Daily Mail took a very clinical/ middle road approach which gave little away as to the papers position or opinion on the story. I also found it interesting that the only quote used in the article (by writer Jessica Wakeman for The Frisky) was about the covers nudity, not its racist content!
The front cover is offensive for more than one reason, this is fact, and I don't think this is (or should it be) recognisable only to those from the black ethnicity. Connecting Michelle Obama's image to slavery, as the cover does, is offensive as it attempts to dis-empower her current position as America's First Lady and return her image to that of oppression and servitude. Also considering the conservative nature of Michelle's role as the First Lady; it is without a doubt offensive and demeaning that the cover shows her to be half naked with one breast exposed.

Essentially the front cover image can be seen as giving Michelle a dressing down, in the sense that she's 'played' being a respectable and dignified woman for long enough now, and black women can't be respectable right?!
Popular culture does not deem Black women to be dignified, graceful or to have integrity (read our past post on the casting of a black actress for the film The Hunger Games character Rue, here). With the general purpose of black women in popular culture usually being for entertaining value and rarely portrayed positively (see past post Hard Being Black in Hollywood). With black women who generally make it into the public sphere conforming to racial stereotyping. Our successful black singers, actresses, models and TV personalities will either be visually appealing (in accordance to white beauty standard), or will embody the 'black behaviourism' known to 'black culture' (from a white popular cultural narrative).

I remember, around the time Obama won his Presidency campaign, there where several arguments that correlated the media's offering of diverse roles black males played in both our society and on our TV as a contributing factor in Obama being elected President. So if the likes of seeing Morgan Freeman play god and the TV show 24 having a black President helped enable Americans to envision a black man as the head of the United States of America, then surely the overtly sexual (and stereotypical) antics of the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna hinder black women's chances of being seen as anything other than the exotic property of sexist capitalism white supremacy society?

A bold statement, maybe, though what other reasons could explain why the successful and respectable first lady is continually portrayed in derogatory ways?

In essence what the Spanish magazine's controversial cover has shown is the world media's solidarity in upholding racist sexist and elitist ideals and prejudices. Michelle at present is one of a kind, a strong black successful female with style, dignity and decorum; she has no skeletons in her closet, she had a good upbringing, is a wonderful mother to two well mannered and articulate girls and is happily married to the father of her children. She is also one of the most popular and recognised female figure's in the world. Though had it not been for her husband's Presidency that propelled her into popular culture, I very much doubt the world media would have allowed such a black women the opportunity to occupy such a space in the popular culture sphere.


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