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Was It ‘Inappropriate’ For President Obama to Call Sasha & Malia ‘Beautiful’ During His Speech?

12:44 am - 11/15/2012
Was It ‘Inappropriate’ For President Obama to Call Sasha & Malia ‘Beautiful’ During His Speech?

November 9, 2012 by Britni Danielle

It seems ridiculous, but that’s the question Oxonian Globalist writer Alice Robb recently posed.

In the President’s victory speech Tuesday night, Mr. Obama praised his family and told his daughters, “Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom, and I’m so proud of you.”

While most people watching let out a collective, “Awwww,” Robb, a third year student at Keble College, called the President’s comments “inappropriate” and said the mention of the Obama girls’ beauty “stung.”

She explains:

Obama’s comments beg the question of why a girl’s beauty should be source of pride for her father— and why beauty should be a value lauded alongside strength and intelligence.

The President may have been directing his comments at only two people, but he had the ears of the world, and on a day that should have been a triumph for women, his remarks stung.


Robb continues:

Every evidence suggests that Obama takes his role as a figurehead seriously. On Father’s Day 2008, he famously chastised fathers who fail to engage with their children. He has made a point of going on “dates” with Michelle and spending time with his daughters in spite of his busy schedule.

It is disappointing that on Tuesday, Obama— a liberal President seen as a champion for women’s rights— conformed to the ideology that sets up beauty as something young girls should aspire to. Women are voted into office with more and more regularity and Obama has appointed women to top Cabinet positions, but girls are still praised not only for their accomplishments but for their appearance.


Here’s the thing. While women are often beat over the head about our looks, a father—and a black father (yes, this matters)—praising his daughter for their beauty is a good thing.

Our relationships with our fathers are crucial to our development as women, and one component of that relationship is affirming our inherent beauty—both inside and out. Furthermore, for two African American girls on the world stage who have been repeatedly cut down by ideological nut jobs who take shots not only at their parents, but also at them, hearing your father, the President of the most powerful nation in the world, call you beautiful matters—not only to Sasha and Malia but to young black girls everywhere.

While I’m sure Robb meant well, her narrow interpretation of President Obama’s statements speaks to her inability to parse nuance. After all, beauty is more than just a physical trait. Moreover, Robb’s knee-jerk reaction—without any examination of how black girls are not often viewed as traditionally beautiful—hints at her privilege as a white woman.

I’m sure President and Mrs. Obama have taught their daughters that there is more to life than being a pretty face, but damn if it doesn’t feel good when your dad marvels at you like you are the most precious, and yes, beautiful girl in the word.

I agree with Robb on one thing: Tuesday was a great day for women. The senate is now comprised of 20 female senators, and many anti-choice laws were beaten back by the electorate. But it was also a win for black women and girls who will have four more years of the Obamas and their beautiful girls in the White House.

Source: http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2012/11/was-it-inappropriate-for-president-obama-to-call-sasha-malia-beautiful-during-his-speech/
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shhh_its_s3cr3t 15th-Nov-2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
I’m sure President and Mrs. Obama have taught their daughters that there is more to life than being a pretty face, but damn if it doesn’t feel good when your dad marvels at you like you are the most precious, and yes, beautiful girl in the word.

THIS is what every CHILD needs..... And not just from a dad, but BOTH parents.

When POTUS said this about his girls, my heart really was exploding with pride. This man is a true role model and dang if every child had this kind of parent in their lives, so much less self hatred would be in this world.
teacoat 15th-Nov-2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
This. I like to think my parents were good parents, but neither of them has ever once said they thought I looked pretty or beautiful. And if they weren't saying it, certainly no one else in my life was. So pretty much my whole life has been a battle for me to accept myself and love my body. On the other hand, they were always telling me how smart they thought I was, and now I'm really confident in my intellect. I'm no psychologist, but I feel like it's hard not to draw a connection there. I think it's really important to tell our daughters that they are smart and beautiful, because society will constantly tell them they're neither, whether it's true or not.
averigua 15th-Nov-2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
i can't with people.

soba_kasu 19th-Nov-2012 06:30 am (UTC)
this is how a quarter of the posts on here make me feel tbh
winniechili 15th-Nov-2012 03:59 pm (UTC)
What the hell? Every parent calls their kid(s) beautiful (even if they're ugly).
ladywilde80 15th-Nov-2012 04:04 pm (UTC)
MTE. This is utterly ridiculous.
layweed 15th-Nov-2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
What? I just...what? What?

eta: oh it's one of those college newspapers. figures.

Edited at 2012-11-15 04:14 pm (UTC)
lamardeuse 15th-Nov-2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
Yeah, schooling the President of the United States on whether he's allowed to call his daughters beautiful? Your privilege is so white you make everyone else reach for their sunglasses.
astridmyrna 15th-Nov-2012 04:14 pm (UTC)
Your icon with that comment is a masterpiece.
jocelyncs 15th-Nov-2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
And of course, a father calling his child beautiful couldn't possibly refer to anything other than their physical appearance. *eyeroll* Some people are really desperate to find cause for offense.
xochitl 15th-Nov-2012 04:22 pm (UTC)
That was my thought! 'Beautiful' could be referring to personality and every aspect of a person, not just their face. :/
darth_eldritch 15th-Nov-2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
Michelle is the most stunning First Lady we've had in a long time.

Not only is she glamorous, she's got tons of inner beauty that shines through.
hammersxstrings 15th-Nov-2012 04:06 pm (UTC)
oh ffs

theartistprince 15th-Nov-2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
omg that's ridiculous. What kind of parent doesn't call their kids beautiful? God knows I'm not the end all and be all but you better believe my beauty rivals Heidi Klum in my parents's eyes.
the_physicist 15th-Nov-2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
Sadly far too many parents pick on their kids looks.

Edited at 2012-11-15 04:11 pm (UTC)
azur_blue 15th-Nov-2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
You have got to be fucking kidding me!
callmetothejedi 15th-Nov-2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
What the hell? How is what Obama said a bad thing? Speaking from personal experience, I would have loved it if my father had said that he thought I was beautiful/strong/smart when I was growing up, and that he was proud of me, but he never did.
astridmyrna 15th-Nov-2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
No, it's not inappropriate. It's not inappropriate to make his girls feel good about their bodies. It's not inappropriate to acknowledge the inner beauty either.
fishnet_hamster 16th-Nov-2012 04:05 am (UTC)
It's not inappropriate to make his girls feel good about their bodies.

I like the way you worded this. It's not a problem to be called beautiful. As the responder to this article said, it's a big deal for black females to hear that they're beautiful in a society that still regards dark skin as something other than ideal. Being called beautiful is a problem when that becomes the sole criteria for how people judge you.
rex_dart 15th-Nov-2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
I like this piece. Saying that parents shouldn't tell their daughters that they're beautiful is short-sighted and ignores the reality that women live in in favor of an ideal that doesn't exist in any kind of meaningful way. All girls are beautiful and all of them deserve to be told that they are. Of course I can't speak for the experiences of women of color and all the extra issues they face, but as far as I can see, all women - including conventionally attractive women - are criticized, put down, and told they're not good enough and never can be. The solution is not to pretend that appearances don't matter - to most of us, appearances will always matter, whether or not they should. It's not an expectation or a judgement most women can just ignore and refuse to be brought down by. imo, as a woman who's struggled with poor self-image and self-loathing since childhood, the practical solution is for parents is to do everything they can to make their daughters feel as beautiful as they are, not to take some ridiculous position of never assuring them that they're beautiful (a trait that is in and of itself not a negative) because in a world that doesn't exist and that their daughters will never live in, ~it wouldn't matter~.
thenakedcat 15th-Nov-2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you for saying this and I think it's worth pointing out that even women who are held up to the masses as beautiful get bombarded with criticism and ridicule about their bodies. Our cultural ideal of beauty is COMPLETELY FUCKING UNATTAINABLE. ON PURPOSE. So that every woman feels ugly and shameful and in need of a place to hide, no matter how closely they approximate conventional beauty.

The only way to break down a system that closed and asphyxiating is to tell girls "beautiful is what you already are".
hippie_chick 15th-Nov-2012 04:12 pm (UTC)
This is just stupid. And it's getting REALLY tiring.

STFU and go sit down.
dvdsky81 15th-Nov-2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
OMG!! GODDAMNIT STFUSTFUSTFUSTFUSTFUSTFUSTFUUUUUUUUUUUUPPPP!!! "Journalists" STFU!!!!! /the sound of my brain exploding. fucking nitpicky motherfuckers. God. STFU!!!
layweed 15th-Nov-2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
It's a college newspaper written by a college undergrad who isn't even majoring in journalism. Calling her a "journalist" is such a huge f'ing stretch.
cuterabbit33 15th-Nov-2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
Sheesh, people will get upset at Obama for anything.
bushy_brow 15th-Nov-2012 05:04 pm (UTC)
MTE. Can we not criticize EVERY word that comes out of the man's mouth, please?
sunktheglow 15th-Nov-2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
There is so much reaching in this that I'm surprised this Robb woman didn't hyper-extend something. Since when is the word 'beautiful' only used to describe physical beauty? And even if it was, he called his daughters strong and smart before he ever used the word, so it's not like he was up there talking about his pretty little daughters.
kaizopp 15th-Nov-2012 04:19 pm (UTC)
In general, it'd be great if physical appearance were less of a go-to compliment for women, and especially little girls, because let's face it, little boys don't get the same amount of "you're so pretty", etc etc. In this particular instance, what the fuck ever.
rex_dart 15th-Nov-2012 04:29 pm (UTC)
Little boys also aren't told over and over every single day from every direction that they're ugly and not good enough just because they're boys.
ceilidh 15th-Nov-2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
my parents never told me I was pretty. if my dad told me I was "strong, smart, and beautiful" on worldwide TV my head would have exploded of happiness.
strixluna 15th-Nov-2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
My dad recently referred to me as his "beautiful daughter" on FB and I'm not going to lie, it made me cry tears of joy. And I'm 36 and he's just a dude. Had I been 12 and he were POTUS, I'd probably never forget that moment.
gashinenai 15th-Nov-2012 04:34 pm (UTC)
shortsweetcynic 15th-Nov-2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
^ exactly what i came in to say.
anamatics 15th-Nov-2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
I need that Grandpa Simpson Walk in Walk out gif.
amethystcitrine 15th-Nov-2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
Nope.
thepuddingcook 15th-Nov-2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
Almost everything everyone has said, and also, I love that he says they are beautiful like their mom. Women need to be told they are beautiful just as much as little girls. It reminds me of this article that really spoke to me:
http://offbeatmama.com/2012/11/telling-daughters-im-beautiful
thepuddingcook 15th-Nov-2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
And I also think by beautiful he means strong--maybe I am reading too much into what he said, but I do think he means strong, resourceful, intelligent---all markers of true beauty.
pleasure_past 15th-Nov-2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
Or, you know, maybe he reassured his daughters of their beauty because they are growing up in a world that constantly tells women that our worth lies in our beauty and if he doesn't tell his daughters that they are beautiful they will grow up not thinking that it isn't important but rather thinking that they're not beautiful and thus that their worth as women and as human beings is decreased. This is even more a problem for Sasha and Malia than for any other president's daughter(s) because they're growing into young Black women and that means that they are constantly being told, no matter what their father says, that they are ugly and worthless based purely on the color of their skin.

Idk. It seems fairly privileged to want parents to stop reassuring their daughters that they are beautiful. Like, I would expect someone who says that to be the sort of girl who doesn't need a whole lot of reassurance of her beauty. *googles* Yup. Conventionally attractive blonde girl. I'm not surprised.

While I do think the valuing of girls based on their appearance is a problem, it's looking at the problem backwards to propose not telling girls' they're beautiful as a solution. The real solution here to put end the idea that women's worth comes from their beauty--something that begins not with parents but with the media and the patriarchy.

Edited at 2012-11-15 04:48 pm (UTC)
4eyedblonde 15th-Nov-2012 05:12 pm (UTC)
A+++ comment
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