Michelle Obama

How Michelle Obama's Fashion Power Conquered India's Formidable Color Prejudice

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Michelle Obama's efforts to browbeat kids at home into skinny jeans may not be everyone's cup of tea, but her

Michelle Obama
dnaindia.com

fashion power might be the biggest source for good overseas.

Before she virtually jolted the Saudi royalty out of its collective kufiya by showing up sans headscarf to pay her respect to the dearly departed beheader-in-chief, King Abdullah, she had become a fashion sensation in India.

Indian women were transfixed to their TVs from the moment she stepped out of Air Force One in her Bibhu Mohapatra suit. The Indian fashion press was abuzz with every detail of her hairstyle, accessory, and makeup. Fashion websites depicted her in various Indian outfits, trying to entice her to wear one.

But just how remarkable it is for a black woman to become the Jackie Kennedy of India, I note in my column at The Week, can't be fully digested till one understands that India is the land of skin lightening creams where blackness is regarded as an affliction.

That the First Lady could overcome all this will give her dark-skinned Indian sisters a boost up in scaling the country's formidable color wall. I note:

The most effective antidote to colorism might be confronting Indians with alternative conceptions of beauty that stretch their conventional notions. And, without actively trying, Michelle Obama did just that.

Go here for the full article.

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113 responses to “How Michelle Obama's Fashion Power Conquered India's Formidable Color Prejudice

  1. The most effective antidote to colorism might be confronting Indians with alternative conceptions of beauty that stretch their conventional notions

    “See, even Wookies can dress well, as long as they’re not ripping people’s arms off. Just let her win.”

    1. I’m getting tired of hearing people refer to Michelle as a “wookie”. We spend a lot of time trying to convince people that libertarians aren’t just a bunch of closet racists, and comments like this don’t make it easier.

      1. It’s not her race, it’s those arms.

        And the resting wookie-face.

  2. Dalmia was disappointed that Richman was getting all the flak for his Kyle = Lanza remark, so she wades in with “But just how remarkable it is for a black woman to become the Jackie Kennedy of India” to try and reclaim some?

    1. Or would “Michelle Obama’s efforts to browbeat kids at home into skinny jeans may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but her fashion power might be the biggest source for good overseas.” be a better one?

      Oy.

      1. Correct.

      2. Ya know, when your spouse’s outfits have a bigger positive impact than you do . . . .

  3. Yeah, regardless – fuck both of the adult Obamas.

  4. Alt Text kidnapped – dark-complected Indian women hurt worst…

  5. Indian women were transfixed to their TVs from the moment she stepped out of Air Force One in her Bibhu Mohapatra suit. The Indian fashion press was abuzz with every detail of her hairstyle, accessory, and makeup. Fashion websites depicted her in various Indian outfits, trying to entice her to wear one.

    So, sort of like Princess Diana.

    Yuck.

    I’m a republican. I don’t do royalty.

  6. Jackie Kennedy would puke.

  7. Paging Virginia Postrel. Ms. Postel, please pick up the glamour phone.

    http://vpostrel.com/power-of-glamour

    1. No chance, RC. We burned that glamorous bridge with our churlish behavior.

    2. Somehow, I feel this should compel us all to DRINK

      1. Roger that.

      2. workin on it

        1. After that fucking sniper thread, how is anyone not?

          1. I started a new job last week and have actually been, um, working during the day, so I missed out on Richman’s Sniper piece. Holy shit, 630+ comments? I’m sort of curious but I think even I know better than to wade into that mess now. This is why Richman should only be posted on the weekends.

            /crossposted

            1. I bailed after about a dozen. You didn’t miss anything.

              Bad Karma, all around.

  8. His visit missed an opportunity to speak up against the Modi government’s assaults on religious minorities

    Strikes me as a wee bit hypocritical. If Obama made such a statement about China Richman would be going on about US hypocrisy and how this was foreign meddling. But since India is a US then it is foreign meddling for Obama to not attack India’s policies.

  9. Go here for the full article.

    No thank you.

  10. “Before she virtually jolted the Saudi royalty out of its collective kufiya by showing up sans headscarf to pay her respect to the dearly departed beheader-in-chief, King Abdullah,”

    Did she? Did she really?

    ummmmm

    Or…

    1. Ha, nice.

    2. To be fair, the King wasn’t dead then.

    3. Dude, those weren’t real women. Those were Republican women. Republican women don’t foment change.

    4. I recall hearing that the Sauds hated having to deal with a black woman when Rice was SoS.

      It’s a little known fact that Arabs are really fucking racist against black Africans. Like old-school blacks-are-only-worthy-of-being-slaves level racist.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R…..Arab_world

      I don’t doubt it galled the shit out of them to have to deal with Condi Rice, and I also don’t doubt that Michelle showing up the funeral sans headscarf galls them too.

      1. Also, it would not surprise me if Michelle perceived some sort of racist sleight from a Saudi dignitary and that was what prompted her to forgo the headscarf.

      2. I don’t care for Michelle’s politics (and I assume very few people on this board do), but I do approve what she did in Saudi Arabia.

        Fuck those guys!

  11. I don’t really do ‘Women’s Clothes’

    But that thing Michelle Obama is wearing looks like complete shit. And its not even her fault. It would look like shit on anyone.

    Historically poor countries/cultures tend to be wild about ‘gaudy’ stuff. (see her last piece on Modi’s monogrammed-pinstripes)

    Rich, developed nations tend to consciously downplay ostentatious appearance. its a sign of confidence, and helps emphasize things people *say*

    ‘Making statements’ with clothes is about as ephemeral as it gets. No one remembers or cares 5 minutes from now.

    The only purpose i can imagine it serves is to feed the Indian tabloid media a story that will keep them from delving into any actual details of US/India policy.

    1. I don’t really do ‘Women’s Clothes’

      Why would you say that? Are you hiding something?

      1. This is Gilmore – he’s lying.
        He totally loves the women’s clothes.
        He’s a fashionista.

    2. I’m glad someone had the same reaction I did. Maybe that outfit is tasteful by Indian wedding dress standards, but not by mine.

    3. What’s up with Obama’s tie? I don’t like it. He should’ve gotten one with Shiva on it or something. Or maybe one of those old art ties with the creation of Adam scene from the Sistine Chapel.

    4. Well if they go for gaudy Michelle is their girl. Everything that woman puts on is either gaudy as hell or made for a woman with a totally different body type (she seems unaware that big shouldered women don’t look good in strapless dresses).

      1. I have noticed that black women tend to go for brighter colors, but that might have something to do with bright colors looking better on dark skin.

        Bright colors look like shit against pasty white flesh.

        1. Ever been to Africa? For whatever reason bold colors are very popular.

    5. I don’t really do ‘Women’s Clothes’

      Dude, don’t be modest. Your fashion commentary on The Independents was the only reason I waded through those threads.

    6. Gaudiness goes in and out of style. It’s not necessarily true that rich developed nations are more low key.

      The 1960s and 1970s in the US were chock full of EXTREMELY gaudy outfits, as anyone will recall.

      The point of Dalmia’s article is that Michelle broke through some racial barriers by making a dark-skinned woman look fashionable (to Indians).

  12. What is this I don’t even

    1. Neither do

  13. You know, humanity needs some help. Are there any benevolent superaliens or agents of God available? Anyone?

    1. We are their favorite comedy show, why would they ruin that?

      1. You may have hit on something. Earth is one giant reality show, dominated by beings genetically engineered solely for entertainment purposes.

        Holy shit, I think maybe I believe this.

        1. It passes the Occam’s Razor test, that’s for sure.

          1. Well, that’s a major change in perspective for me. Maybe I should start shaving on weekends.

            1. I’ve just taken to setting my beard trimmer on the lowest setting and trimming all facial hair, besides my goatee which is sacred and holy and can never be removed, down to barely a shadow. And that’s all week long. And my wife doesn’t even notice. It’s like I just shaved this morning and now it’s afternoon, all of the time. Although if I go a couple days without doing that, wifey will tell me to shave. I’m onto something with this one. It’s one of my greatest discoveries ever. It’s amazing the way us guys can find to be more lazy.

              1. I don’t really have that option, though it’s more because of work than my wife, who actually likes me with a beard on occasion (like on mountain trips, when I skip shaving altogether), but it’s nice not having to bother with it on the weekends and vacations.

    1. Meh? You’re far too charitable.

      1. I couldn’t muster more than that, it’s that … meh …

  14. Did you guys know that Michelle Obama’s fashion power conquered India’s formidable color prejudice? That it is is an actual thing that actually happened in real life?

    1. When you put it that way, it seems a silly thing to say.

    2. Gosh, millennia of embedded bigotry washed away by a few outfits.

      Impressive.

      1. A very pedantic take on the article fellows.

        1. That’s a pedantic criticism of their–well, our–pedanticism.

          This all has a very Bill & Ted feel to it. Are Barry and Michelle part of Wyld Stallyns?

          1. Whatever else might be wrong with the article, criticizing that line is like the FB posting liberal we made fun of earlier who tried to criticize Paul’s drone comments with ‘a shotgun couldn’t take down a military drone!’ Paul wasn’t making a literal statement, and when Dalmia says ‘overcome’ she doesn’t mean ‘vanquished for all time.’

            1. I think hyperbole is a charitable word for what hasn’t happened even a little bit. We’re simply not that influential, particularly when some politician’s wife does something.

              As noted above, some of this has happened before, with equally limited influence.

              1. WTF? The Wookie’s wardrobe is preventing rapes even as we speak.

        1. Shock of shock, Swiss Miss falls in line.

          1. Oooh. Burn!

            1. Bo has been quite cranky lately – I suspect poor school results.

              1. You’re getting warmer. But this is a thread about….. women

      2. The Obamas just sort of emanate post-racialism, you know?

    3. Did you guys know that Michelle Obama’s fashion power conquered India’s formidable color prejudice? That it is is an actual thing that actually happened in real life?

      /thread

  15. First Richman’s and now this. Must be poke the right leaning commenters with a stick day at Reason. Delightful.

    1. More like “poke the commenters having an IQ above 60 with a stick day.” So you’re safe.

      1. Of course it’s an article that is about something potentially positive and even Michelle Obama, so it’s gotta be like, the worst.

        1. It’s fluff, Bo. Nothing, but fluff. Sorry that you want to waste your time trying to make it something more, but it’s not.

    2. Bo, why do you think laughing at this absurd article is something only right-wingers would do?

      We know for a fact that Michelle is just following in the footsteps of Rice and Mrs. Bush in terms of declining to wear a bag on her head in Saudi.

      Hell, a Republican Congresswoman led the charge against the Army requiring its female members to kowtow to primitive barbarism. Martha McSally actually sued the DoD over it when she was posted there.

      The idea that Michelle catching some fashion press in India is going to make any kind of difference in the lives of Indians is premature, if not actually ridiculous.

      1. Dark skinned girls are looked down on in India. Then this famous dark skinned woman comes there and the beauty industries feature her prominently and positively. That’s a good thing.

        But for some people on the right the Obama’s have become their mirror universe Bush or Palin, something to reflexively hate.

        1. I think the good thing, if there is one here, would be to say that very gradually India is moving away from centuries of caste/color prejudices as is demonstrated by the positive reaction of some fashion publications towards Michelle Obama. I’d be a lot more convinced if Michelle Obama was of dark-skinned south Indian stock, but, hey, why not be happy about baby steps.

          1. Yes, I think Ms Obama is more object of this than it being her doing, but it sounds great to me. Mores tying beauty to skin color are ugly, tradition, limiting nonsense.

            1. Mores tying beauty to skin color are ugly

              Oh bullshit. Who the fuck cares? Apparently, I’ve heard, 6’2″ skinny blondes with big boobs are supposed to be the standard of beauty round these here parts. Everyone is free to think what they want about what is beautiful and what is not. Do we need some new thought crime law to prevent that?

              1. “Oh bullshit. Who the fuck cares?”

                Really? I don’t think there’s any debate that there is a very long history in our culture, Indian culture, and some others, of promoting light skin as being more beautiful than dark skin, and while it’s not as bad today, in the US or India, as it’s been in the past, one would be a fool to think that has vanished. If you were a dark-skinned person (particularly a woman) who had to live in a society that told you your skin color was ugly, or at least less beautiful than people with lighter skin, then you might just care. Just because something doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean there’s no good reason for anyone else to care. Also, when there is colorism in a society, it very rarely is just limited to beauty standards.

                I don’t think anyone would disagree that people are free to think what they want about what is beautiful. That doesn’t mean that cultural mores about beauty are above criticism, and one can certainly critique them without calling for a thought crime law (seriously, where did Bo even imply such a thing?).

                1. Yes, who gives a fuck. Not me. It’s not important, and you can’t change it anyway.

                  So Hollywood, high fashion, and most of our culture it seems, have set a standard of beauty that I don’t agree with. I like curvy women, who were once thought of in a lot of cultures as the standard of beauty. But a lot of people today in our culture, including some here at H&R would say that means that I like fat women.

                  Do I care. Fuck no.

                2. Calidissident: a very long history in our culture, Indian culture, and some others, of promoting light skin as being more beautiful than dark skin

                  That’s why tanning booths never hit it big.

                  Oh, wait…

        2. That’s a good thing.

          Sure. But Shikha’s fawning take on it is, well, mockable.

  16. For more on this story,we turn it over to our senior Indian correspondent…

    I swear, I’m starting to think this is just one big reason performance art rip off of the daily show. And by “this” I mean Dalmia’s singular focus on the country of her birth and inability to branch out to stories of more universal appeal.

    1. She wrote stories on Detroit a lot during that controversy and writes about immigration quite a bit.

    2. Like immigration?

      1. Yes, my remark was an exaggeration, however writing on immigration isn’t exactly ‘branching out’ for an, uh, immigrant.
        …and, yes, I grasp that the reason contributors have their loosely defined areas of expertise, but jeez, First Lady fashion reaction in India?
        …and yes, I may be just piling on the Shikha hate, just because its fashionable, but not Indian fashionable

    3. And by “this” I mean Dalmia’s singular focus on the country of her birth

      I think you mean “daddy issues”. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Dalmia article on India that was in the least positive toward the country.

      1. Here’s a fair amount of praise on India’s Bollywood from her.

        http://reason.org/news/show/bollywood-vs-bin-laden

        1. So India is all about Bollywood?

    4. This is sort of strange to me, in that I have Indian friends and have had Indian friends for more than 30 years now and I have rarely been able to ever get any of them to talk about politics.

      They will enthusiastically talk to you about religion, culture, food, and number of things. Mention politics and the conversation will die.

      1. My god I wish everyone was like that.

  17. Why the Shikha hate? India will soon be the most populated country on earth. It’s a fucked up place. If it weren’t for her I’d think only Muslims and Christians could be fundies. Someone’s gotta care enough about the place to trash on it.

    1. If it weren’t for her I’d think only Muslims and Christians could be fundies.

      Except Dalmia’s arguments concerning Hindutva and the supposed nuttery of Modi and the BJP are hyperbolic bullshit.

      But then again, V. S. Naipaul is my homeboy, so there’s that.

      1. Sheesh HM! Are you such a Paul fan boi that you are even supporting the Indian branch of those nuts?

        Has Naipaul ever gotten shit for his take on Kashmir and blowback?

    2. I don’t see any hate here for Shikha. I see people making fun of the seemingly silly importance being bestowed up Michelle Obamas great fashion miracle. But where is the hate? I guess I missed it.

      1. But where is the hate?

        You’ve read the comments on a Dalmia immigration thread?

        1. My favorite Dalmiaism was the cannon fodder + immigration combo from a little while back. Classy.

          1. I missed that one. What was the gist?

            1. This one.

              However, the original posting included a statement that the military could recruit more “cannon-fodder” by liberalizing immigration requirements. The re-post stripped out the offending passages.

              1. Yeesh! At least the French dress it up a little with the phrase Fran?ais par le sang vers?.

        2. Not sure. Is it that bad?

          1. Bad? Some of the shit that gets posted in the comments to those articles would have a Stormfront-er saying “I get where you’re coming from, but geez, calm down guys!”

            1. Hmm. I generally do not see comments like that around here. I mean, sure there is plenty of swearing, but the type of downright nastiness you seem to be referring to, I usually only see at HuffPo or Politico, or on the occasions that the SoCons and Proggies square off on CBS news threads.

              I can’t find the link now, but there was some coverage of this story:

              Fight in Furguson

              at CBS and omg, the fucking comments from the cop blowers calling themselves conservatives were just unreal. Stuff like how if we can just send all those negroes back to Africa and get some conservative judges elected to send all those pot smokers to the death camps, everything will be alright. And I’m not exaggerating. It was sickening. And this is typical stuff from ‘conservative’ posters on CBS.

            2. Suddenly, my theory that she’s a Stormfront false flag trying to make immigration boosters sound batshit insane and stupid isn’t so crazy!

          2. Remember the guy constantly posting the dictionary definition of ‘invaders’ over and over again while saying that’s all Mexicans are?

            1. Fun times.

  18. I think it’s charming to note that Michelle can have some positive effect on another culture just by having a fashion sense.

    She also impressed me with the head-scarf stunt. That was a better jab at Saudi Arabia than Obama could have dared by making some human right’s speech.

    If only we could keep her touring developing nations all the time.

    1. As noted above, the head scarf stunt was old when you were young.

      1. I suspect the rules are different when you’re the wife, and not the Secretary of State.

        1. When was Barbara Bush Secretary of State?

    2. If only we could keep her touring developing nations on her own dime all the time.

      FIFY

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