Forward Thinking

Michelle Obama Is More Than Bangs and Broccoli

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share

I suppose there’s no end to commenting on the public behavior of the First Lady of the United States, whoever she may be. I’m old enough to remember griping about Nancy Reagan and Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a previous job, I once had to arrange a visit for Laura Bush when her husband was President — nice lady, maniacal staff.

Michelle Obama has the distinction of being the first African American FLOTUS and the burden of holding the position in the Age of Twitter, so it’s no wonder that her every move is catalogued and critiqued. I’ll admit to paying lots of attention to her myself, though I am agnostic on her bangs and was asleep during her Oscars presentation.

But I will defend her campaign against childhood obesity and her passion for physical fitness against all who deride it. Usually that criticism comes from the right — those who worry about a “nanny state” and forget that her voice is only a counterweight to the well-funded orchestrated efforts by the junk food industrial complex to keep Americans filled with fat, salt and sugar and hungry for more.

Sometimes it comes from the newspaper columnists you would think would be more sympathetic.

“Enough with the broccoli and Brussels sprouts,” wrote Courtland Milloy, a local columnist for The Washington Post. Milloy argued that the Princeton-educated, Harvard graduate, intellectually gifted First Lady ought to be engaged in more substantive subjects.

Excuse me? Childhood obesity is not a frivolous development. It is a public health catastrophe in the making. And more: In an editorial I wrote last year, I noted that a nonpartisan group of 100 retired military leaders issued a report in September warning that 27% of America’s 17-to-24-year-olds are “too fat to fight,” making obesity the greatest threat to national security.

This is an issue I wish we would discuss more in the Jewish community — how to promote healthy, sustainable diets in our homes, schools and synagogues. You only have to glance at the kiddush table on a Saturday morning to see how much this is needed.

I can’t help but wonder whether Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and her focus on healthy eating is dismissed in part because it seems like a less-than-serious women’s thing. While it’s true that we women have traditionally been the ones to feed our families, this issue has far more national consequence than the immediate question of what’s for dinner (and I’m sure there are men who worry about that, too.)

Obama is using her unique celebrity to get us all to focus on a genuine epidemic that has public health, economic and even military consequences. And if she shows off her awesome arms to get our attention — good for her.

And did you see her dancing with Jimmy Fallon? Brilliant.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: michelle obama, let's move, jimmy fallon

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.