Michelle Obama hosted a “United State of Women” summit Tuesday at the White House. The schedule featured an interview with the First Lady conducted by Oprah Winfrey.
At one point, Winfrey asked Obama if she had any advice for men. “What can men do, leaving here?” the former talk show host asked.
Obama’s response was pretty telling.
“Be better,” the First Lady replied. As Winfrey screeched (literally) with laughter and the attendees of the women’s summit reacted with rousing cheers and applause, Obama reiterated, “Be better at everything.” And, the audience, along with Oprah shriek, howl and cheer some more.
This offers some great insight into Mrs. Obama’s view of men, as well as the overall agenda at this summit. The one message the First Lady can provide to American men is that they’re just not good enough? That men aren’t living up to her, Oprah and the audience’s expectations of what a man should be bringing to the table for these perfect women.
Obama waited for the shrieks of approval to die down a bit, and elaborated a bit:
“Be better fathers. Just being good fathers who love your daughters and are providing a solid example of what it means to be a good man in the world. Showing them what it feels like to be loved. That is the greatest gift that the men in my life gave to me.
The fact that I have never experienced abuse at the hands of any man in my life. And that’s sad to say that that’s a rare reality.”
I’m not sure the numbers bare out Mrs. Obama’s claim. I’m not trying to minimize the despicable evil that is inherent in the terror of physical, sexual or emotional abuse of women at the hands of the men in their lives. God forbid. But, is it really a “rare reality” for an American woman to have “never experienced” such abuse? Really?
At a time when Mrs. Obama could have used her platform and profile to send a positive message to American men, reinforcing the fact that American women enjoy greater freedoms than most women around the world, Mrs. Obama instead chose to tell men to step up and “be better.”
I could rhetorically ask what the reaction would be if a prominent male leader used his platform at the “Summit for Men” to admonish women that they had to be better, but there are no summits for men, are there?