Words: Elena Sheppard
Former first lady Michelle Obama took to the stage Saturday night, at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she was interviewed by the poet Elizabeth Alexander in front of a packed arena. During the promotional event for her new memoir, ‘Becoming’, the former FLOTUS gave her real thoughts on the concept of leaning in.
“Marriage still ain’t equal, y’all,” Obama told the crowd. “It ain’t equal. I tell women that whole ‘you can have it all’ — mmm, nope, not at the same time, that’s a lie. It’s not always enough to lean in because that s*** doesn’t work.”
Obama quickly caught herself even as the crowd burst into cheers and applause, “I thought we were at home, y’all,” she said. “I was gettin’ real comfortable up in here. All right, I’m back now. Sometimes that stuff doesn’t work.”
The moment quickly caught like wildfire on social media, with people who were at the event tweeting about how inspirational, humanising and funny it was to hear her get so real:
Hearing @MichelleObama say shit is truly one of the highlights of my life. (Especially that it was in the context of women having it all!)
— Kyle (@kyleraquel) December 2, 2018
— Conti (@TheyCallMeConti) December 2, 2018
re the unevenness of marriage, “it’s not enough to lean in, cause that shit doesn’t work all the time.” – michelle obama at barclays 😂
— doreen st. félix (@dstfelix) December 2, 2018
Anyway I got to hear Michelle Obama accidentally say “shit” and dance tonight in front of 1000’s of people and it truly made my life. She’s a real one. So funny. So raw. So real. SO INSPIRING! pic.twitter.com/oQulqcG6nt
— Sammy (@SamanthaPaige31) December 2, 2018
While many found hearing the FLOTUS swear unexpected and charming, others were quick to point out the real importance of what she was saying, which is essentially that Sheryl Sandberg’s famous feminist advice is flawed. As writer and cultural critic Touré tweeted, “The substance of that sentence — a rejection of Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial ethos — is much more interesting.”
The moment was overshadowed by Michelle O saying shit in public which is a silly thing to get excised about & points to our fetish with civility over all else. The substance of the sentence—a rejection of the Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial ethos—is much more interesting.
— Touré (@Toure) December 2, 2018
Obama’s memoir is filled with other moments of honesty for which she’s being praised, particularly with respect to how much her words of truth have the power to help other women. In the memoir she writes about a miscarriage she had, how she conceived her two daughters through IVF and even the fact that she and former President Barack Obama have sought marriage counselling in the past.
“Marriage counselling for us was one of those ways where we learned how to talk out our differences,” Obama told Robin Roberts in a Good Morning America segment about her book. “I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there’s something wrong with them. And I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other, we work on our marriage. And we get help with our marriage when we need it.”
Although many turn to Obama for words of wisdom, one person who is not seeking her advice is the current first lady, Melania Trump. During her Good Morning America interview, Obama told Roberts that she hasn’t heard from the current first lady with any requests for counsel. Trump’s team told CNN about the matter: “Mrs. Trump is a strong and independent woman who has been navigating her role as First Lady in her own way. When she needs advice on any issue, she seeks it from her professional team within the White House.”
Obama’s book, which was released only recently, in November, is already the bestselling book of 2018.
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