Dear Michelle, Count me in
[Picture: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks, emphasizing that women must celebrate their strength, during a live conversation with The Women’s Foundation of Colorado President and CEO Lauren Y. Casteel at Pepsi Center on July 25, 2017 in Denver.]
Dear First Lady Michelle Obama, I heard you loud and clear.
When I watched from the audience with my wife, Lori, I heard you. As I sat next to my high school English teacher, Katherine, and her husband — the proud parents of your former staff member Franny – your voice was clear. As I looked around at the many women, particularly the young women who came with mothers and grandmothers, I saw your words resonate in each of their faces.
Too many of our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, and friends have been subject to degrading psychological “cuts” similar to those you endured. Count me in to stand beside you and yell stop.
Earlier this year, I surprised Lori with tickets to your conversation with the always impressive Lauren Casteel to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. While I once worked as a senior analyst for a presidential rival to your husband, I knew my wife would be over-the-moon excited. She loves your style, she loves your easy grace, and she loves your charming wit. She loves watching you deliver public service announcements during Jimmy Fallon skits. But most of all, she loves you for being genuine and relating to her as a woman.
When you described calling a few of your friends to spend several days eating healthy, talking, doing a few workouts, relaxing, and talking even more, my wife whispered “just like me and my net” of friends. You connected to her; you connected to every woman and girl in that crowd.
That connection tore at my heartstrings when you explained that as women “we endure those cuts in so many ways that we don’t even notice we’re cut. We are living with small tiny cuts, and we are bleeding every single day. And we’re still getting up.” Each time you said “we” I saw that connection in the women sitting around me. I saw recognition and brief flashes of their own stories sweeping around them. As much as your words, their reaction affected me profoundly.
Less than a week later a local political blog re-posted a Facebook thread between several political activists denigrating you in an escalating series of foul, misogynistic, and racist comments. Not just a single individual, but a group openly competing to make the most repulsive statement. As you said, those comments hurt the most because they are intended to hurt the most. They made me physically sick.
As my stomach twisted, I wanted to lash out at these perversions of humanity. I wanted to silence them, to make them small, even smaller than their words already did. I wanted to make them disappear. By attacking you, they attacked my wife, my teacher, my friend, and every other woman in that arena. They cut all the women I care for and love.
Ironically, the conversation arose out of a malformed attempt to defend current First Lady Melania Trump. By all accounts, she is an accomplished woman as well. But she cannot be built up by tearing you down. In fact, the personal attacks on you only serve to construct a world where she will be more vulnerable, not less. A world where local radio hosts grope international pop stars, car dealers engage in human trafficking, and one in three women is a victim of domestic or sexual violence.
Go talk to any district attorney or prosecutor in the state. Words that cut lay the groundwork for actual bruises and scars. And three times every day in America, that groundwork costs a woman her life.
I will always stand by the women in my life. Standing alongside you and any other women the world threatens to cut? Count me in.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and writes columns on law enforcement, the legal system, and public policy. Follow him @MarioNicolaiEsq