I would move heaven and earth to give my kids all the chance in the world for them to be at the top of their game in every way, shape and form.”Then, unfortunately, the First Lady went on to discuss a time when her own daughters were considered “overweight” by their pediatrician and she made good choices- like no TV during the week and switching to water rather than soda. Michelle/Barbie made sure the First Daughters got slim and stayed that way. Mentioning her daughters has become “the issue” for many observers. The Daily Mail even ran the headline “Michelle Obama puts daughters on diet before launching anti-obesity campaign.” The article said that it was Malia, not Sasha, who was turning into a fattie. The blogs at major news sites are full of outrage. The want to know how Michelle could personalize this issue by mentioning her own family’s relationship to food and weight. Of course Michelle should not have personalized this issue- not because of the so-called traumatic effects it will have on her daughters (isn’t being children in the White House a constant exercise in the control of their self-presentation from what they wear to how they do in school to whether they chew gum or swear or pick their noses?). No, Michelle should not have personalized obesity because it’s not a personal issue. Obesity - childhood or otherwise - is an issue embedded in race, economy and geography. Obesity rates are so closely linked to income in the US that it is impossible to deny that they are about a hell of a lot more than getting the kids off soda. Poor neighborhoods often have limited groceries available, with very few fresh vegetables and fruits. Fresh vegetables and fruits and whole foods are far more expensive than the food like substances sold throughout the US and marketed as edible. When the state- as part of a larger neoliberal move to let the market solve everything- stopped regulating things like food safety, but also whether toxic substances could be sold as if they were actual food, it effected poor Americans the most since they were the least likely to be able to resist the toxification of our foodways. Poor Americans, who are also disproportionately nonwhite Americans, had neither the time, the money, nor the educational resources to push back the way many middle-class Americans did. The result is that obesity is not randomly distributed through the population. Instead, obesity is about class- and therefore race. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services,
Obesity disproportionately affects certain minority youth populations. NHANES found that African American and Mexican American adolescents ages 12-19 were more likely to be overweight, at 21 percent and 23 percent respectively, than non-Hispanic White adolescents (14 percent). In children 6-11 years old, 22 percent of Mexican American children were overweight, whereas 20 percent of African American children and 14 percent of non-Hispanic White children were overweight.But this fact- that obesity is the result of poverty and therefore racialized in the US- is something that neither Michelle nor Presidential Barbie could possibly speak about. Barbie because she has a plastic mouth and no voice box; Michelle because she must walk on ladylike pointy toes through the minefield that is being a Black, educated, and powerful woman in the Barbielike role of First Lady. Instead, both Barbie and Michelle must smile their plastic smiles and exhort us to move. Otherwise, we might not buy what the First Lady and Presidential Barbie are trying to sell us.