Last week, what our sister site Jezebel described as a "strange, in-depth essay" on Michelle Obama's ethnically-proportioned butt, "First Lady Got Back," ran on Salon. Obviously, this was provocative enough in some circles to draw a storm of Internet criticism, which, of course, is exactly what Salon wanted. Everybody won: they got the attention and blogs got some content. But! The author of the piece, Erin Aubry Kaplan (who is African-American, has previously written about Jennifer Lopez's rather more sizable ass, and is an op-ed columnist at the L.A. Times) felt the need to earnestly respond to the disproportionate freakout her essay created.As she responded on the blog 3 Brothers and a Sister:
"When all is said and done-and written-I really want just want to be popular in high school. I want to be liked, and better than that, understood....
It wasn't really about her butt (though that was a lively starting point, for sure), it was about the psychological impact of having a First Lady who is black and, for the first time in history, who looks like me."
Right, but you can't have it both ways, which is what this sincere defense suggests. The essay wasn't offensive, just flippant and sensational. If you want to cross the boundaries of good taste, fine! But don't claim to be earnest about a hackish piece afterwards. The identity-politics angle of having a black woman in the White House was old by the time this essay was published, and really the only angle that hadn't been covered was the sensational Michelle's ass assessment.