Monday, April 11, 2011

Sassy, Sexy, Smart AND Feminine: Why Michelle Obama is the Greatest Role Model for Black Girls since Sojourner Truth

First Lady Michelle Obama

America has come a long way since the days of slavery.  Even so, the institution of bondage left scars on the psyche of black women that have yet to fully heal.   We mastered “sassy,”  in struggling to speak out loud and clear for the needs of our families, oftentimes in the absence of a male provider.   We even mastered “sexy,”  in an ability to convey physical satisfaction with our bodies.  And black women have always been smart.   But what about  “feminine?”  I’m not referring to the doormat,  learned helplessness that so many white housewives joined the women’s movement in order to escape.   I’m applying the term to the qualities of gracefulness, light-hearted and non-erotic playfulness,  that so many black women, in struggling to survive and feed their families never had the opportunity to cultivate.   
Sojourner Truth
Of course all men and women have both feminine and masculine sides to their personalities, encouraged or suppressed depending on a particular society’s designation of gender roles.   The great feminist and abolitionist Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) said it so movingly, when she rose from her seat at the 1851 Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio.   Pointing to one of the ministers in the audience, Mrs. Truth Sojourner declared:  
"That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody helps me any best place. And ain't I a woman?"
In our generation we’ve seen amazingly successful black women, entertainers, businesswomen  politicians and writers.  But what we haven’t seen in any large measure are  black women who can succeed in the workplace without giving up the qualities of femininity that help sustain their personal relationships. We can do little about the disproportionate number of females, vying for the shrinking pool of eligible black males.    But, perpetuating the destructive myth of "black females as superwomen," who might even prefer to "go it alone," is not a viable answer either.  

First Lady Michelle Obama presents for young girls the kind of healthy, well-balanced model of black womanhood that they need in order to overcome contemporary culture's profusion of sexual messages. For, this wife, mother, lawyer, and fashion arbiter, shows in living color that African-American women can be sassy, sexy, smart and feminine.
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