The Obama Daughters' "Style" Should Not Be A Topic Of Discussion


As if the Los Angeles Timesinvestigation into Malia Obama’s mysterious growth spurt — “Estimates put her at 5’9″ or 5’10”,” the once-great newspaper noted, “definitely taller than most children her age” — weren’t enough, as Sasha and Malia Obama grow, they are also increasingly subject to public attention for their “style.”

The Fashion Spot — a mostly user-generated fashion-obsessed online clearinghouse for new seasonal ad campaigns and magazine editorials that maintains threads on virtually every model, designer, and even slightly fashion-y public figure known to man — has confirmed that it recently deleted a thread someone had started on the First Daughters. The reasons are simple: threads on people who are known for being the children-of are not encouraged on TFS, and the site has a rule against threads on children under 14. Which makes sense, because TFS users rarely pull any punches: the discussion is vibrant and generally informed, at least on the topic of fashion, but every aspect of a featured individual’s appearance, makeup, and styling choices is open for critique (except for weight, which is verboten). Every new red carpet photo and magazine editorial and blog candid is endlessly discussed, models have their passionate critics — “I hate her nose” — and their passionate defenders — and both kinds of attention are probably a little creepy to the people concerned.

Even more so when the people concerned are children. Malia Obama is 13; her sister Sasha is 10. Yes, they are in the public eye, and yes, they wear clothes. But that doesn’t mean their “style” needs to be scrutinized — by TFS users, or frankly anyone. Sasha and Malia Obama haven’t sought out the spotlight for personal or professional reasons; they found themselves in it because their father happens to be the President of the United States of America. And they are kids. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that people are often mean to each other on the Internet; give a person a keyboard and a Wi-Fi connection, and suddenly it becomes “funny” to speculate about a 16-year-old girl’s “future sex tape,” like one comment we had to move from a recent post.

Given their mother’s wardrobe (like her makeup, and her eyebrows, and her arms) has been the subject of numerous dedicated blogs and five separate books (and counting) — quite as though the woman weren’t a Princeton- and Harvard Law-educated lawyer and former hospital executive worthy of note for far more than her ability to pick out a dress — it’s probably inevitable that fashion critics will take an interest in Sasha and Malia. In fact, as early as 2009, Pulitzer Prize-winner Robin Givhan was arguing that the daughters’ fashion choices were a matter of public record, fit for discussion and analysis. I find that anything-goes attitude icky in the pages of the Washington Post, I find it icky in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, and I find it extremely icky in a linkbait-y style blog. “MALIA OBAMA’S TRENDSETTING STYLE” was a headline I saw a few days ago in my RSS. Now please click through our 12-page gallery of the 13-year-old who is “slowly and steadily solidifying herself as a style star”!

The Fashion Spot made the right choice. These are kids. They’re not walking the red carpet, they’re walking to school. They deserve privacy — and part of privacy is the protection from undue scrutiny.

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