At this point in the 2016 presidential election coverage, it is no longer surprising to hear of racism, sexism or any other vitriol coming from the Trump camp or his supporters. Though he has not specifically endorsed Trump, political cartoonist Ben Garrison has an affinity for cartoons espousing conservative views, and his latest falls right in line with being sexist and racist.
Garrison says the cartoon — which appeared on his website Grrrgraphics.com — meant to "express our outrage at the growing tyranny of Big Government."
Featuring our first lady, Michelle Obama, and Donald Trump's wife, Melania Trump, it misses the mark in regard to addressing government tyranny and instead expresses racism, sexism and transantagonism. And while the reasons it is offensive are many in number, an age-old message reads loud and clear: black women are held to a different standard of "greatness" than white women.
Take a look:
We want to provide a very explicit disclaimer that we in no way mean any disrespect to Melania Trump. Really and truly. We have zero qualms with the fact that she has chosen to pose for nude photographs and is an immigrant in the United States (something Trump himself is not in agreement with, as his “build a wall”/ “Mexican immigrants are rapists” rhetoric makes clear).
But Michelle Obama is the pinnacle for conventional respectability (which, admittedly tends to be problematic) — she is Ivy League-educated from both Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She is happily married, a devoted mother, a snazzy dresser and an incredibly competent FLOTUS.
None of that, however, is enough to protect her. The cartoon clearly shows her stylized as a man, her real-life curves replaced by male features, including a penis bulge. It portrays her with a scowl as though she never smiles, perpetuating the "angry black woman" stereotype.
The critiques of the uber-successful tennis player Serena Williams also accuse her obviously female-professional-athlete-21-time-grand-slam body of looking manly to denigrate her. Black women are often not even seen as people, let alone attractive, so any defense that this cartoon was just a joke will never be enough. This is harmful stuff.
That Michelle Obama is still not considered “great” despite her extensive list of accomplishments is questionable enough. Add to it the fact that the woman they compare her to has literally none of the same accomplishments, save being an attractive white woman and former model, is telling.
We cannot imagine a world where the xenophobia that Obama has faced from conservatives, despite not even being foreign-born, would suddenly be acceptable in our black FLOTUS. And we certainly cannot imagine a news station that would not flock to devalue Michelle and what she's done because she chose to pose nude. Quite simply: These things are unacceptable in a black woman and especially would not be acceptable (to conservatives, the public, the media) in our first lady.
That we accept and celebrate in Melania Trump things we often shame and chastise women for, while also using problematic stereotypes and imagery to say that Michelle Obama is somehow short of greatness definitely comes from a racist and misogynistic place. It is shameful that this is still happening but not at all surprising.
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