In today's Daily Beast, Tina Brown wrote a positive review of "Mighty Michelle" Obama's taking Europe by storm. But this one thing irked me. The post is titled "Is Michelle the New Oprah?"
American women already admired Michelle Obama before she left for London—her popularity rating had risen 18 points, to 72 percent, since September—but the TV coverage in the last two days has dialed her up dramatically to another level. Suddenly she has zoomed past Oprah as the inspirational It Girl and iconic female African-American role model. Read more...
Yes, Michelle and Oprah are both successful, black women who have lived in the Windy City and support Barack Obama. But, by that criteria, Michelle Obama is the new ME. Exactly how is the First Lady like the First Lady of Daytime Television? Their successes have come in different realms. Their educational backgrounds are different. Their family backgrounds are different. Their personal lives are different. Their fame is different. One woman is a single, billionaire TV star with a media empire. One woman is an Ivy League-educated attorney, corporate star and mother, whose husband manages an "empire" (so to speak). They are both awesome women and national icons, but so is, say, Hillary Cinton, a Seven Sisters-educated attorney, corporate star and mother, whose husband managed an "empire" (after which she came damned close to managing it, too). Brown's comparison seems like one based more on race than anything else.
I could be biased. I think every POC has experienced that thing where a person wants someone to compare your looks, abilities or situation to and settles on some random other POC that really isn't all that similar in looks, ability or situation to you. You can tell by the conversation that it is your race that the person sees as your most salient trait. And it is annoying to no end. And it is marginalizing.
I agree with rpmosby, one commenter at The Daily Beast:
There is no need to compare Oprah and Michelle. The world is big enough for two brilliant, accomplished black women.