You may recall I wrote last month about the minor flap that occurred when NPR reporter Ari Shapiro broadcast a short interview with a woman named Bobbie Lussier at an American Legion meeting in Indianapolis. Referring to the Obamas, Lussier told him, “I just – I don’t like him. Can’t stand to look at him. I don’t like his wife. She’s far from the first lady. It’s about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady.”
There was no follow-up, leaving listeners to speculate on what she might have meant, with most people drawing the conclusion of color being a factor in her disdain. Yesterday, Shapiro had an opportunity to clarify things when he was approached by the same couple at a Romney event at another Legion meeting, this time just outside Washington DC. Lussier and her husband had recognized him from the previous meeting and approached him.
Struck by the coincidence, he was able to ask her what she meant by her earlier comments. Here’s the relevant part:
LUSSIER: Can you imagine, you know, Kennedys or the Bushes or anybody doing push-ups on the floor? I mean, you know, that’s just not a first lady.
SHAPIRO: A lot of people wondered if there was a racial undertone to your comments.
LUSSIER: No, it’s not. I don’t care what color she is. It’s just she doesn’t act and look like a first lady. I mean, she’s more about showing her arms off and, you know, I think that’s very inappropriate for a lot of functions that she goes to.
SHAPIRO: So do you mean it’s an issue of modesty?
LUSSIER: Well, yeah. I mean, you see her walking around in shorts and, you know, just real casual wear. And, to me, that’s – I mean, when I go to functions, I kind of dress up other than, you know, today. But you just got to look the part.
So what she objects to is Michelle Obama doing athletic stuff. And again with the disdain of bare arms, which I hear a lot with respect to Michelle Obama. What’s with this obsessive frowning on women showing their arms?
For the record, here is a photo of Jackie Kennedy showing her bare arms in both casual and formal settings.
And here’s one of Laura Bush in shorts.
I am not sure that I buy Lussier’s explanation that there is no racial undercurrent. Nowadays few people will come right out and say that they don’t like someone because of their color. They may not even consciously think that way because it has become such a taboo. But we would be kidding ourselves if race does not influence the way we all think. But the feeling surfaces in subtle ways, when people take either an unreasonably hard line on something trivial, like a woman showing bare arms, or when it is vague, expressed in sentiments like the person ‘doesn’t look or act right’ or ‘doesn’t fit’.