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April 6, 2009 | by  | in Features |
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Head to Head

Jackie O Vs Michelle

Jackie O

WWJD? This acronym spells out my new-found guiding principle in life. Nope, I haven’t found God. I’ve found Jackie. Jackie O. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. What would Jackie do? Wouldn’t you like to know. Wouldn’t I like to know. Like Jesus, she watches over us. She watches over me. Or so I like to think.

In my quest to prove that Michelle O will never reach the dizzying heights of First Lady fame a la Jackie O (not hard), I decided to conduct some thorough research. I turned to Wikipedia, where I discovered a number of interesting fun facts. These fun facts read like Jackie’s CV for the position of First Lady.

Jackie was French. She spoke fluent French. Well actually, Jackie’s dad totally exaggerated the French heritage in the family. But with a last name like Bouvier, you’d never know. Pouvez-vous parler en francais? Jackie liked riding horses. She liked ballet. Her parents divoriced in 1940. She went to posh schools. She was named “Debutante of the Year” in 1947. What a princess. What an inspiration. Hands down the best qualified First Lady ever.

JFK and Jackie mingled in the same social circles. They met at a party in 1952. I like to think that back in the old days people didn’t drunkenly meet at parties, pash in the hallway and then go home to have hot sex. They waited until marriage, or something. JFK proposed in June 1953 (how forward) and Jackie was walking up the aisle in September 1953 (keen). Suspicious much?

I asked myself—actually Wikipedia—WWJD if she was marrying a young, hot-shot wannabe Senator? Well, she’d wear a hot dress of course. She’d turn it into the social event of the season. The wedding of the year. It was love. It was a fairytale. With an unhappy ending. Dun dun dun!

So between those two young kids getting married and JFK getting shot in 1963, a few kinda important things happened. JFK became President. Jackie became a style icon. She rocked the sleeveless A-line dresses. The hats. The gloves. The bob. An idol to frumpy housewives across the United States. She was awe-inspiring. If America was ever to have a royal family, it was the Kennedys, with Jackie at the helm. How else did JFK get so popular? Barack was already one of the cool kids. He didn’t even need Michelle.

Jackie’s finest hour is also an endearing American tragedy. JFK was assasinated. Jackie was there. WWJD? Jackie screamed. Jackie wouldn’t let go. Jackie got her pink Chanel suit covered in her husband’s blood. Jackie decided that she would not take the blood-soaked pink Chanel suit off. Jackie stood beside LBJ as he was being sworn into office on Airforce One, still wearing the pink Chanel suit. What a woman. What an inspiration. What a pink Chanel suit. I don’t know if pink is Michelle’s colour.

Jackie was alone, a single mother with two kids. So WWJD? Find herself a multi-bajillionaire shipping tycoon to marry, of course. Lucky for her, the Greek guy named Aristotle (bonus points for cool name) died seven years after they got hitched and she managed to score $26 million from the Onassis estate. Guaranteed lifetime financial security. Jackie, you’re my idol.

There’s no fun in asking what Michelle would do. You could probably rock up to the White House, knock on the door, and she’d appear, ready to provide advice on your every dilemma. You may have disturbed her from tending her vegetable garden and teaching obese kids how to eat properly, but she’d probably invite you in for some quality Obama family time anyway. You might babysit Malia and Sasha and watch a DVD. Normal, mundane family things. Jackie, on the other hand, was untouchable. Kind of like God. Technically, she is untouchable. She’s dead. We don’t know what Jackie would actually do. But we can pretend to know what Jackie would do. That’s most of the fun. I mean, we don’t really know what Jesus would do, do we?

I decided to conduct some survey research to emphatically prove once and for all that Jackie O is way better than Michelle O. I went out with a couple of male friends for a drink. I figured booze would help with the formulation of some stunning arguments. We decided to apply the WWJD mantra to a number of possible real-life situations. This was the clincher.

Male friend number one asked, “WWJD if she was faced with a bear wielding a shark?”

Male friend number two replied, “She’d disarm the bear with her charm, wistfully cooing ‘Be a dear, bear, and place the shark in a secure location’.”

She’d have done this whilst wearing an amazing outfit, complete with a hat and gloves. Can you see Michelle fending off a bear wielding a shark in such a polite and graceful manner? Well, no. Probably not.

Rebuttal:

Jackie O is so cool that Jay-Z has rapped about her. The Spice Girls have lip-synched about her. There is an experimental rock band in the States called Jackie-O Motherfucker. How can Michelle possibly match the legacy left by Jackie? Those are some sky-high stilleto heels to fill. Fowler, you’ve got a point. Michelle’s an amazing lady, no doubt about it. I’d ask her over for tea and biscuits anyday. Jackie’s frivilous spending, renovations, big sunglasses and rose gardens only add to her mystique. It reminds us of better economic times. WWJD to combat the GFC? Cigarettes and martinis all round! What a woman.

By Sarah Robson

Michelle

Michelle Robinson Obama and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis are two fine First Ladies: young, educated, intelligent and stylish, with agendas of their own. We should applaud them both. That said, Michelle comes out way on top in any battle head to head. She’s been in office less than three months and already proves herself far more socially minded and outspoken than Jackie ever was.

First, look at the barriers Michelle overcame to get to the White House in the first place. No gentle waltz from debutante ball via society dinner parlour for Mrs. Obama, no sirree. She grew up in the Chicago South Side, in a one-bedroom brick bungalow. Her father was a pump worker, her mother a secretary who stayed home to raise the kids. Compare that to the childhood of Jacqueline Lee “Debutante of the Year” Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, gallivanting around the family estate on thoroughbred ponies and slaughtering foxes.

After pushing past racial divides at high school, Michelle battled it out for acceptance at Princeton University. In an interview with Newsweek on 25 February 2008, buddy Angela Acree talked about how white classmates would ignore them outside of the classroom and the segregation of social life on campus. Michelle was equally aware of socioeconomic segregation, writing her final thesis on “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” and teaching local kids how to read in her spare time.

Michelle graduated with merit and was accepted to Harvard Law School. She campaigned for minority representation on campus, and helped other black undergraduates get recruited. She’s the third First Lady to have a master’s degree, after Hilary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush.

After Harvard, Michelle got work at a Chicago law firm and met Barack when he was assigned to her as a hot young intern. Corporate law didn’t satisfy her social ideals, so she switched over to the public service and started up the Chicago chapter of non-profit youth leadership organisation Public Allies. Before bailing to go on campaign, Michelle worked on a program placing University of Chicago doctors in poor neighbourhoods.

Compare all that to Jackie’s one claim to pre-Kennedy fame: a brief cameo as “Inquiring Camera Girl” for the Washington Times-Herald. What’s that, Robson? Things were different for women back then? At least Jackie never needed to deal with racist taunts from the mainstream media. Even in the relatively enlightened ‘00s, Fox News couldn’t help themselves from referring to Michelle as Obama’s “baby mama” or referring to her and Barack’s victory knuckles as a “terrorist fist jab”. She’s been called “trashy” on the Talk Radio Network, called a “bitch” and compared to James Brown on the Town Hall opinion site. A New York Magazine blog captioned a photo of Obama saluting a marine with “looks like Obama might just be blocking the sun’s glare as he checks out Michelle’s booty”.

Actually, being a high-profile black woman in the modern USA is probably just as hard as being a high-profile white woman in the 1960s. Betty Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique was doing the rounds, the National Organisation for Women started up in 1966, and middle-class women were becoming radical. Jackie could have joined their ranks if she’d wanted to. Instead, she actually reinforced feminine stereotypes.

Take Jackie O’s only major project as First Lady—renovating the White House. She infamously forked out $12 000 in donated funds for the dining room wallpaper panels. Why not give the dosh to charity, eh? The President’s home may have needed a bit of sprucing up, but Jackie went way OTT. Antique furniture, fine art and impeccable rose gardens may impress foreign delegates, but they do nothing to keep a president in touch with his people.

Michelle, in comparison, is all about keeping it real. She’s making her mark on the White House with a massive kitchen garden project, helped by her daughters and local kids from Bancroft Elementary School. Not just a few token tomato plants, the Obama garden is a botanical extravaganza. The first crop rotation includes lettuces, peas, spinach, broccoli, fennel, radishes, onions, shallots, mint, chard, carrots, kale, and assorted perennial herbs. She’s a garden goddess, Maggie Barry with a Harvard Masters and designer gumboots. Even better, the produce from the garden gets cooked up by the White House chef and sent to a Washington homeless shelter. Her background suggests this will be the first of many affirmative social initiatives as First Lady.

Plus, it’s not just about Michelle’s actions. Even if she morphs into a total Stepford wife, she’s still the dark-skinned wife of the first African-American US President and a powerful role model for black women everywhere. Actually, she’s a powerful role model for everyone.

Michelle Robinson Obama proves you don’t need to be rich and white to have a glittering academic career, you don’t need a white woman on your arm to become president, and you don’t need to spend your time as First Lady hosting dinner parties and sniffing roses.

Rebuttal

WWJD? Jackie would order in a dozen crates of Dom Pérignon as the world economy burns, invite Mugabe round for a quiet $250,000 soiree or three, and arrange a billion-dollar bailout for the world’s leading fashion houses Maybe you can’t make ‘fun’ out of Michelle Obama, but you can rearrange her name to make words like ‘meal’ and ‘beach’. Wholesome goodness is far better for the constitution, so aguante Michelle! Long live the quiet, prudent and conscientious revolution!

By Nina Fowler

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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

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