Got Bangs Is the First Lady of the United States of America.
Here’s a list of major news outlets that shared the scoop about Michelle Obama’s bangs today: USA Today, The LA Times, The Huffington Post, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The New York Times (not the style section). With headlines like “Michelle Obama’s Bangs are a Total Shock to The System” (HuffPo) and “The World Reacts to Michelle Obama’s Bangs,” (USA Today) these articles would be cringe-worthy/nauseauting/infuriating even on a less auspicious day, as they were on her birthday, when the bangs-buzz began over a photo she took with inaugural citizen co-chair David Hall and posted on her office’s new twitter account, @Flotus (genius). But on the day she joined her husband as he rested his hand on Dr. King’s bible to be sworn in for a SECOND term of office as President of the most powerful country in the world, you might think, maybe, we’d have more important things to talk about.
Listen, I’m just as shallow as the next guy (obviously). Back during the DNC when Michelle gave what was pretty safely the best speech of the entire campaign, I was among many who also found time to discuss her bold, blue-gray nail polish. When I received an email from Barack (don’t you love those) on January 18th with the subject “Morgan, Say You’re In,” I opened it to find a video Michelle recorded to launch the administration’s new “grassroots organization” Organizing for Action, and before clicking play, I immediately g-chatted a friend to say “ooh michelle obama got bangs. haha lolz. im a bad feminist.” I am not a great feminist, and I’ll cop to that. But I am also not a major news outlet.
I don’t doubt that Michelle herself agonized over the choice to cut her hair, as only the First Lady is expected to do. I just wish the media had also agonized over their decision to go ape-shit about it. Unfortunately, the public reaction to Michelle’s bang trim is perfectly in keeping with the artificial importance that has always been placed on women’s White House style, and for her part, Michelle has handled the stakes well. I suppose she deserves some form of recognition for gracefully navigating such a fucked up minefield of complete bullshit that has nothing to do with anything. On the other hand, she also reserves the right to exercise her personal expression through style, as all red-blooded capitalists are free to do. There has been plenty of thoughtful commentary about the impulse to trivialize fashion while other forms of expression are elevated, as the following quote from the essay “Fashion is a Feminist Issue” contends: “It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. And it’s a subtle but definite form of sexism to take one of the few forms of expression where women have more freedom, and treat it as a form of expression that’s inherently superficial and trivial. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial.”
So here we are. Michelle Obama, you look great. I also know you are a brilliant and gifted speaker, a mother, an attorney, and an advocate for military families, poverty awareness, volunteerism, and nutrition. But even your own husband rather cheekily referred to your haircut as “the most significant event of the inauguration,” so I’m not going to pretend that the way you look has nothing to do with how much America loves you. In fact, when I think about the number of Pakistani citizens killed by predator drones since Barack took office, (between 1700 and 3050 people), your bangs are a nice palliative. But I still think that on this day, of all days, we should have more important things to talk about. At the very least, we have Beyonce’s performance to discuss.