Michelle Obama:First Lady, American Rhetor”

AE_Mary Windsor_Michelle Obama_courtesy of Dr. Natalle copy

Courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Natalle

Mary Windsor
   Staff Writer

Jody Natalle and Jenni Simon, both UNCG faculty members, recently wrote and released a book titled, “Michelle Obama: First Lady, American Rhetor,” and gave a presentation and introduction on the main themes of the book this past Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Natalle and Simon began working on their collaborative anthology two years ago. They had been colleagues, sharing an office, and would often talk about Michelle Obama. Natalle studies first ladies and rhetoric, while Simon focuses on rhetoric from a cultural perspective. Natalle and Simon had already done some work on Mrs. Obama before, but this was their first time working together.

For the anthology, they put out a call asking for authors and researchers to submit their ideas for chapters and topics. After looking through the proposals, they decided to focus on her rhetoric, how she spoke to the public and how she spoke for herself.

“An important part of our research is showing how Michelle Obama spoke for herself,” Simon said.

Natalle was in charge of choosing the focus, as she has more experience through her involvement with the First Ladies Scholars Network.

“A project like this hadn’t really been done,” Simon explained. “And something that was lacking scholarship was what she had to say for herself. We selected our projects based on what we wanted to do as well as having them meet a certain academia criteria.”

During the discussion, the professors spoke about the goals of the book.

“This was a study of gender through first lady scholarship,” Simone began. “It was a nice place to begin researching where rhetoric in gender was changing and how we add to the feminism aspects.”

Throughout their presentation and in their book, they stayed away from criticisms of Mrs. Obama’s clothes and who she was as a “body” instead of a speaker. Instead, they focused on how Mrs. Obama has broken new ground as being a first lady and discussed the constraints placed upon her as the first African American first lady.

“She’s using social media and the internet in ways that have never before been used by a first lady,” they explained. “In ways others haven’t, because of lack of technology or just because they haven’t used their resources.  It’s exciting to see the communities she reaches through this medium.”

The book examines how she changed from becoming a presidential candidate’s spouse to first lady, the way her media coverage was originally very negative and how her image has changed through the last eight years.

Michelle Obama has developed her own “brand” as the years have gone by, and the book focuses on how she achieved this and keeps it up. She is known as “The Mom-in-Chief.” She is called this in the press, she refers to herself as this and this is the brand she has created for herself. One of the themes that is prevalent in this book and with Michelle Obama is the importance of community and her own unelected agenda.

The book pushes the boundaries of how they are going to approach feminism in the future, not just how it relates to gender but how it relates to oppression in its multiple forms. The book can be found in UNCG’s Jackson Library.

Categories: Here & Now, Uncategorized


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