In her time as first lady, Michelle Obama has directed a serious effort to end childhood obesity, worked to help troops find employment after their time of service, and called on the nation to do more public and community service. But instead of focusing on those accomplishments in a reflective interview set to roll out on the first lady’s 50th birthday, People magazine seems set on presenting Mrs. Obama with the same sexist line of questioning that so many women in power receive.
While the interview between People and Mrs. Obama is not out in full, AP on Wednesday published a preview of what will be in it. AP’s story, entitled “First lady Michelle Obama won’t rule out plastic surgery, Botox,” focuses almost entirely on the first lady’s body, dieting habits, and self-image.
Despite the provocative headline, Mrs. Obama’s answer to a question about whether she would use Botox as she becomes older actually said more about her stance on female bodily autonomy than it did about plastic surgery. “Women should have the freedom to do whatever they need to do to feel good about themselves,” she says. “Right now, I don’t imagine that I would go that route, but I’ve also learned to never say never.”
People magazine also apparently asked Mrs. Obama whether she feels that she has “peaked at 50,” to which Mrs. Obama responded by ticking off the major life events she has to look forward to — continuing her public service after President Obama’s tenure, watching her children go to college. She concludes, “At that point in life, whoa, the sky is the limit.”
It’s hard to imagine Obama, who is 52, being asked the same question. But women in power have long suffered through questions a man would never be asked. And this unfair media coverage actually has consequences; a study conducted last year by the Women’s Media Center found that a female candidate is less likely to win if the media spends more time covering her physical appearance — no matter whether the coverage is favorable or not.