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The Mandela-Memorial Coverage Just Got Even Dumber

A "flirting" nontroversy gives an unfortunate example of the kind of news treatment female politicians have to lean into.

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New York Post
New York Post

Whoever was in charge of preparing dumb-controversy stories in advance of the Nelson Mandela memorial service: well done, folks.

The parade of nontroversies began yesterday with the ginned-up outrage over President Obama’s having shaken the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro. (The proper response instead being…? Slapping Castro across the face with a glove? Offering him an exploding cigar? Luring him into a locked room as a string band strikes up “The Rains of Castamere”?) Then came the explosion of reports over the selfie Obama took with the prime ministers of Denmark and Great Britain–which, OK, was questionable optics on the part of the world leaders, but not exactly the “international incident” it was headlined as.

Not to be outdone, however, the New York Post this morning, suggesting on its cover that Michelle Obama was angry over her husband’s “flirting” with the Danish leader, Helle Thorning Schmidt. The evidence? A photo seeming to catch the First Lady mid-glare. (Or not; the photographer who snapped the selfie picture reported, to much less attention, that Michelle Obama was joking with Schmidt and others moments before. Here’s a photo you’re not seeing reprinted everywhere.) The fact that Obama was smiling and engaging with a world leader at a public event. (So I assume the “Obama Flirting With Cameron” stories are right around the corner.)

Oh, and yes: that the leader the people of Denmark elected was “blonde” and “pretty,” and therefore, we must assume, part of an infernal Danish plot to destabilize world governments by stealing their men.

Welcome to 2013, female politicians of the world! There are all sorts of reasons we’ve seen these types of stories and will see them again: the ability to overinterpret momentary gestures in still photos; the increasing tendency of social-media shiny objects to drive mainstream media coverage; and the motivation of outlets like the conservative Post to get in a shot at Obama.

But underlying this story here is that if a woman has the temerity to become leader of a country while being relatively young and good-looking, some of the world and press will inevitably see her this way. Someday, if the U.S. elects a younger woman President–Schmidt is 46, just a year younger than Obama when he was elected–this may unfortunately end up being part of what she’s leaning into.

17 comments
IPFletcher
IPFletcher

Taking the selfie: not the brightest move, but whatever. The overreaction from the public at large: WAY more embarrassing. What, nobody could find something *real* to get upset about that day?

(Note: had W done it, there wouldn't have been any outrage- or even surprise, for that matter. His cluelessness was evident pretty early on.)

OlgaBabenko
OlgaBabenko

if a president of the country, then what kind of people??? he is familiar with the etiquette, good manners? this rudeness

wandmdave
wandmdave

"Slapping Castro across the face with a glove?"


I have to say that would have been pretty amazing.

ThomasHall
ThomasHall

The GOP are such bigoted, hateful, and twisted people that no mater what the Obamas are doing they will find a reason to complain or criticize. Who cares what these losers think?

LeahPetersen
LeahPetersen

Actually, the "young and pretty" bit is the exact same issue that makes people call Hillary an "old woman". Women are judged on things that are irrelevant and unrelated to anything whatsoever that men aren't.

TheHoobie
TheHoobie

It's so sad that she has to do this, but Hillary Clinton has shown some awesome sexism-deflating jujitsu maneuvers. I remember in the '08 primaries, an interviewer asked her how she felt about the phenomenon of Rush Limbaugh asking his Dittoheads to vote for her in open primaries in Ohio to try to throw a monkey wrench in Obama's ascent to the nomination, and she chuckled mirthfully and said something like, "Aw, that Rush. You know he's always had a little thing for me!"


Similarly, once when she was newly Secretary of State, someone asked about John Bolton's reaction to something, and she responded with uncontrollable laughter.

yogi
yogi

 Slapping Castro across the face with a glove?

Why must you offer such good alternatives! I'd pay good money to see a leader of the world slap another with a glove.

TheHoobie
TheHoobie

I keep reflexively mentally inserting "Carlos" in that headline and reading it as "Flirting with Carlos Dane-ger," and now I'm suddenly completely exhausted with the world.

BoatMaker
BoatMaker

If G W Bush had done any of those things he'd be excoriated and reviled by the likes of you. IN fact he was at a couple of G8 summits.  BTW: you're a Television Critic- nothing says 'I am a failure at doing anything substantive with my life' with more glaring clarity than listing this gem of job on a resume! It is preposterous and a matter of inexcusable self-presumptive importance for you to even deign to think that the televised funeral of a monumental figure like Mandela is worthy of your billet. Now run along and finish your expose on FX's editing of Green Lantern or your 1000 words on the meaning and emotional power of the Sons of Anarchy finale.

aztecian
aztecian

three words...crimes against humanity!

Poppersci
Poppersci

Talking and laughing with a woman country leader is a little different than giving them an unexpected, unasked shoulder massage.

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

@BoatMaker  Despite the number of 50 cent words you employ, your comment is no more than a logically invalid ad hominem attack on the writer.  What would be your opinion of the piece if it had been written by, say, David Koch?

BoatMaker
BoatMaker

@tfdrumm interesting that you single out my syntax and word choice. Someone chooses to employ language in a manner that offends you and that becomes grounds for staking them to the pillory. I'd bitch slap you but frankly I've not got the proper magnification on my specs to find your stubby, self-orbited world so keep shining on as an exemplar of all that is pedestrian and inconsequential.

FlowerJasmin
FlowerJasmin

And what are you doing? No, not the "ad hominem." Not the person of your intelligence. He has more then right to express his opinion on an opinion of non-issue. Teenagers doing it would be frowned upon but not by president? And your Koch referrals are beyond tiring. One would think liberal media is the free one. Obama is simpleton and has no grace whether it is issue or non-issue.  

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

@BoatMaker @tfdrumm  I am not offended by your language.  My point is that underneath all of the high-falluting word choice, there's NOTHING.  Same with this mot recent comment: it's devoid of argument on this subject or any other; it's just name calling, this time in my direction.  I'm "staking you to the pillory" because of the emptiness of your comments, not your choice of words.

tfdrumm
tfdrumm

@FlowerJasmin The point of the article is that press coverage of the "selfie" is dumb, and just got dumber witk the implication that Michelle Obama was upset or jealous.  Another photo of Ms. Obama is presented as a counter-argument.  Boatmaker comes along and does not address the issue, or even the non-issue, as you call it.  Boatmaker says that the author has no rright to make an argument because he is a TV critic.  That's ad hominem argument, which is logically invalid.  The soundness of an argument is completely independent of who makes I--if your don't like the reference to David Koch, choose ANYONE ELSE.  Mahatma Ghandi?  Mother Theresa?? The Marquis de Sade??  It doesn't matter.