All that’s wrong with the Michelle Obama, Trump, Beyoncé meme — and its weird ties to Breitbart
The meme is meant to make Michelle Obama look like a hypocrite, but it’s got a lot of problems. Let’s begin with the fact that it’s not actually quoting Mrs. Obama.
Mrs. Obama was not referring to Trumps’s “sexual boasts” as the meme claims, but to Trump bragging of committing sexual assault. The difference is significant. Here’s the actual quote:
“And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women. And I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted.”
So this meme takes sexual assault — which by definition occurs without consent — and effectively equates it with an international superstar dancing. This is shades of victim blaming; that disgusting idea that “she invited it.”
The false equivalence of sexual assault and a powerful, sexually liberated woman like Beyoncé is not only wrong, but part of the problem. Equating the two normalizes sexual assault. Don’t do that.
The picture choice is another false equivalence. According to the meme, Michelle Obama is speaking on both sides, about Trump (left) and about Beyoncé (right). To be fair, the meme should picture either the speaker on both sides (Obama/Obama), or the subject of the speech on both sides (Trump/Beyoncé).
The visual of Trump next to Beyoncé would be more accurate, both are the subject of Mrs. Obama’s comments, but it would send the wrong message. Indeed, given that the meme is meant to defend a man accused of being a serial assaulter, it might send the opposite message to pose him next to this photo of Beyoncé. That’s the price of accuracy. But an accurate meme wouldn’t have allowed the meme-maker to put the First Lady of the United States next to a suggestively posed dancer. The meme isn’t really about hypocrisy, it’s about victim blaming and guilt by association.
“Beyoncé could not be a better role model for my girls” has quotes around it. Michelle Obama has said similar things, but as far as I can tell this quote — and it’s a quote in the meme — was actually said by Barack Obama. This isn’t an earth shattering discrepancy, but failing to differentiate between a woman and her husband isn’t exactly helping the idea that Trumpism respects women.
There’s also the fact that the first time this quote is attributed to FLOTUS instead of POTUS is on the Breitbart website. You know, the website run by Stephen Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager. Breitbart lengthens the quote and switches the speaker in this 2015 story, but sources contemporaneous to the 2012 quote attribute it to Barack, not Michelle. The meme itself is reminiscent of the 2015 Breitbart story that misattributes the quote. The story is ostensibly about Beyoncé’s shoes and includes a picture of those shoes, but leads with a similarly suggestive photo of her instead.
I’m not suggesting the Breitbart created this factually deficient meme. In fact, I doubt it did. But I’d bet the meme’s creator locked himself in the Breitbart echo chamber long ago.
When I posted the video of Michelle Obama’s amazing speech eviscerating Trump, the ideas in this meme were pushed by Trumpkins almost immediately. It’s almost as if they’re all Trump surrogates. They get their messaging from some central distribution point, such as Breitbart, and spread it to the far corners of the internet. It was a woman Trump supporter who posted this meme in response to the video in the first place.
As the Trumpkins shrink to a smaller, more frenetic core of supporters, we’ll start to get an idea of how damaged our country truly is. Personally, I think we could do with a lot more women like the two pictured in the meme, and a lot less who support a serial sexual assaulter.