Michelle Obama’s Milkshake and Other Non-Stories About Women

Want to know how women politicians accessorize? How many calories they consume? Us neither. And yet that’s exactly the kind of hard-hitting journalism we’ve been seeing from major news outlets this month.

A few weeks ago, Washington Post reporter Natalie Jennings hit us with the investigative scoop, “Michelle Obama Orders 1,700-calorie meal at Shake Shack“:

A Washington Post journalist on the scene confirmed the first lady, who’s made a cause out of child nutrition, ordered a ShackBurger, fries, chocolate shake and a Diet Coke…

Because women who support keeping kids active and serving actual food in our school cafeteria’s should never, as a matter of principle, enjoy the occasional milkshake. But just in case there was any cry of journalistic malfeasance here, the dutiful reporter adhered to reportorial standards:

Update: We made a mistake in our original calculations. The calorie-count for the first lady’s order was actually 1,700, not the 1,556 we originally reported. Our apologies.

Apology not accepted, Washington Post.

Unfortunately, Jennings’ article was just one of a slew of really irrelevant stories about prominent women.

In “Rebekah Brooks Distracting ‘Do,” The Daily Beast last Wednesday criticized former News Corps CEO Rebekah Brooks for her “wild mane of wavy auburn hair.” Writer Robin Givhan claims Brooks’ unruly hair may have sent the wrong message to juries. (Read feminist critiques of the piece at Jezebel and Slate). Givhan spends over 800 words speculating about just what kind of message Brooks was trying to send with such a bold hairstyle:

One could argue that it’s to Brooks’ credit that she refrained from dramatically altering her signature look. … Her appearance suggested she was ultimately more concerned with catering to her ego than in convincing anyone of her innocence.

One option Givhan fails to consider is that perhaps Brooks wasn’t trying to send a message. Perhaps she was more concerned with being questioned before parliament over the biggest media scandal in recent history than with what to do with her hair that morning.

While we might expect celebrity stalker blogs to update us on what Hillary Clinton’s been eating, it’s upsetting that media outlets as big as the Post or the Beast are giving us similarly useless non-news. Especially when it is women who get media coverage of what they eat and wear, rather than they’re actually doing.

Ms. readers–what other ridiculous non-stories about women have you seen?

Photo from Flickr user The U.S. Army under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. Eckhart says:

    question is how many non stories have we NOT SEEN or read about women? Modesty is a biggie – i.e. monitoring how “appropriate” women are in their behaviour, food intake (appetite + women = ugly), clothing, beauty and lifestyle choices and speech (opinion + women = bitch)

  2. The reason they write non-relevant stories about prominent women: It’s another method of dismissing the relevance of prominent women. It isn’t always the reporters fault. Editors make the assignments. And owners tell editors what they want. Clearly they want to trivialize prominent and highly visible women, as well as send a message to the rest of us: Stay out of the game or we will also become fodder for public humiliation.

  3. That story about Michelle Obama is just…ugh. Whatever issues I have with the current presidential staff, I have always felt respect for Michelle Obama. It’s disgusting the kinds of stories that the media feels is appropriate, or, as you point out, newsworthy, to write about her. And @Maye is correct – all of these bullshit stories about calorie consumption and hairstyles is just another way of keeping these women “in their place,” and attempting to reduce the very real fact that these are real-world, power wielding, prominent women.

  4. Amy Borsuk says:

    The latest and greatest of the sexist non-stories: Tim Gunn and George Lopez bash Hillary Clinton’s “cankles” and her dress-style. *eyeroll* Here: http://feministing.com/2011/07/28/hillary-sexism-

  5. Susan Brackett says:

    Ordinarily I would agree with all of the comments, however, Michele Obama has injected herself into the diets of the American people. If you dictate to citizens what they should eat to be healthy, then, yes, it is interesting what the First Lady and President Obamas’s diet includes. It seems a hypocritical intrusion into American’s lives when Mrs. Obama doesn’t follow her own edict.

  6. Jennifer says:

    The first thing that came to my mind was the way that Wendy Greuel’s 2013 campaign is approached in the media. She is running for the mayor’s office in Los Angeles on her weighty qualifications, yet, the media about her campaign too often talks about non-qualifying attributes. Authors focus on her sex/gender, the commentators talk about her short hair and clothes. One even compares her to Sarah Palin, because winning the mayor’s office would mean leaving her position as controller. This following video interview is great because it stands in stark contrast to the accompanying “article”, or rather, the weird news text that went with it, in both the Huff Post and the Local Rag. I say weird text, because it doesn’t qualify as a story.

    Both news agencies write, WG “in her campaign to become L.A.’s first woman mayor”, like it’s an oxymoron or something. Additionally, she isn’t trying to become the city’s first, she is just running for an office appropriate to her political stature. The quote at the Patch, attributed to some GOP representative (who isn’t really made relevant in the context of the ‘article’ being that she is a Democratic candidate) hints at the *unusual* nature of a female in LA politics, by noting that “LA has had a black mayor, a white Republican mayor and a Latino mayor.”, as if there isn’t more that can be said about it, and then adds, “Maybe it’s time to have a woman.” As if we are just rounding the bases of the politically correct diamond.

    If I could direct my comment to the recycled strange and only expert opinion considered by the author, I would say this: First off, GOP consultant dude, the Black (capitalized) mayor, has a name (Tom Bradley), and was voted into office more times than any other mayor in LA’s history. He would probably still be our mayor were it not for term limits and death. The author might also have mentioned that Gruel served as his liaison to the City Council for 10 years. Secondly, being a White (also capitalized) Republican is neither a minority (as being female is not), or even under-represented in LA’s past mayors. We have had several Republicans, even a radical Republican, as well as many anti-labor mayors in this city’s history. FInally, considering the city’s population is roughly half Latino, and has always been historically a heavily Hispanic, if not Latino or Chicano city, it is not an outlier that we have had (more than) one Latino as our mayor.

    At a political roast, Villaraigosa makes a crack about a man stepping into “Wendy’s high heels”. It’s not the worst thing ever said. It had an unusual context, and ultimately it was supposed to be about putting down the mans’ manhood (hysterical *eyeroll*), but despite her being a fixture in LA politics since the Bradley years, there seems to be a constant awareness of her non-maleness.

    On Mayor Sam [Yorty] blog, all other candidates are evaluated on their credibility and so-called merit, but WG is called a lackey; and a commentator informs us that she won’t be taken seriously until she changes her perceived boyish hair and brand of suit.

    Women in politics are not an oddity, or even a news angle. And reading about how they look is a snooze.



    <a href="http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:D9I8xKpv3HoJ:mayorsam.blogspot.com/2011/04/friday-free-for-all-wagging-fishwrap.html+wendy+greuel+for+mayor+hair&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari&source =www.google.com” target=”_blank”>http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=ca…” target=”_blank”>=www.google.com

  7. Not sure what kind of site this is but I think that Michelle Obama should “WALK THE TALK”. She’s busy OVERSPENDING with her 70+ house assistants and barrage of people along on every UNNECESSARY trip when most Americans are struggling to make ends meet. ….aaaah let them eat cake.

  8. WCF Foundation says:

    Name It. Change It. is a non-partisan project of WCF Foundation, Women’s Media Center, and Political Parity. Together, we will work to end sexist and misogynistic coverage of women candidates by all members of the press—from bloggers to radio hosts to television pundits.

    Visit NameItChangeIt.org to get involved!

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