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Not to be dismissed

Michelle Obama is welcome back at the Angry Women’s Club anytime

Susan Campbell

All right, settle down, ladies. Please.

Ready? Let’s call to order the Angry Women’s Club. Bev?


Oh. I’m told that Bev’s in the bathroom, ripping doors off stalls. Fine. I’ll just borrow her hammer – so much more fun to swing than a gavel – and call to order … there!

Now. First order of business is to say goodbye to one of our newest members – now ex-member – Michelle Obama.

Early on, some people in America thought Michelle Obama looked “too angry” to be first lady. We know that because the Washington Post said so last week, in an article that was supposed to serve as a send-off as the Obamas headed overseas together.

We all know what it means when you call a woman angry, right?

And we know specifically what it means when you call a woman of color angry, right? We say angry, but we mean uppity.

We also know that the best way to dismiss a woman, no matter her race, is first to make her into a sexual suspect. You can look it up. It’s right there in “The World According to Garp.” Say she lives outside of whatever you consider the sexual norm, and you immediately bump her from the public arena.

But from all indications, the Obama marriage is strong, so we move to the second-best way to dismiss a woman: Call her angry.

Lord, if I had a dime for every time someone called me angry, I’d not be wasting my time typing this. I’d have someone type it for me. I’d have a fat retirement account impervious to the vagaries of the market. And I’d have a driver who would take me to the nearest Dairy Queen whenever I asked.

Despite the gains of the last few decades, we still mostly like our women soft, sweet and not angry. Like my mother used to say, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

Only what on Earth would I do with a bunch of flies?

Let a man exhibit anger, and he’s taking charge. Let a woman show anger, and she’s, well, scary. Let Michelle Obama say she’s finally proud of her country because the people are embracing hope, and suddenly she’s called angry. Her forthrightness, her jokes about her husband’s socks and her sleeveless dresses were enough to send some male commentators (are you reading this, David Brooks, you pasty li’l girly-man?) into a cowering crouch.

Why would a woman be angry, do you think? Just off the top of my head: the whole wage-disparity thing, the speaking up in meetings and being ignored thing, the lack of female clergy thing, the lack of female CEOs thing, the notion that you can and should have it all thing. You try bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan day in and day out, and suddenly that pan might start to look pretty good as a weapon – even to you, gentle reader.

Already, we miss Michelle Obama at the Angry Women’s Club. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll put Barack Obama’s job approval rating at 66 percent and his wife’s at 76 percent. Unless society has started to embrace its angry women – and that’s doubtful – we have to presume that, in the eyes of the American public, Michelle Obama is officially over being mad.

Ah, but our membership is fluid. The next time Michelle Obama speaks directly, asserts herself or perhaps has the temerity to go sleeveless, America may vote her back into our club, where we stand ready with open arms, and snarls aplenty.

Meeting adjourned.

Susan Campbell is a columnist for the Hartford Courant.
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