Malia Obama: Yes She Can

On a recent trip to Miami, former first daughter Malia Obama came under media scrutiny for turning into a “party girl”. This encouraged Trump supporters to show similar outrage, claiming that Malia is irresponsible. Fundamentally, Malia Obama is facing criticism because she is a 20 year old female, not quite of the legal drinking age of 21. The fact that she turns 21 on 4th July is seemingly irrelevant, with her being considered to be a lavish party girl by many.

The role of being a first daughter is inevitably one under close analysis of the media, but the main question is: to what extent is it still relevant that Malia behaves in a White House friendly manner, particularly in her private life? In Michelle Obama’s recently released autobiography, Becoming, she expressed her frustration at her daughters not being treated as typical young girls. She expressed that the girls never chose to be thrust into the limelight, and the difficulties that it has caused them as they have grown up. In specific reference to Malia and the media’s scrutiny, her tone was near mocking in explaining the media’s outrage to seeing Malia so much as sneak a puff of a cigarette in her college experience. Notably, her own mother openly acknowledged in her autobiography dabbling in marijuana in her younger years.

Perhaps if Malia were to be acting in a further outrageous way, the extent of criticism would be more understandable. If she were smashing guitars or destroying hotel rooms, maybe there would be more of a reason for such fury. However, sipping at rosé on a holiday with her friends, when she is very almost at the legal age of 21 anyway, hardly seems like a reason for such controversy. The reality is that Malia is a typical 20-year-old girl growing up in an atypical circumstance. Similarly expressed by her mother, she is an ordinary girl who did not sign up to this sort of public scrutiny.

mmA further question may be why the British press are taking such pleasure in essentially following Malia around and photographing this young woman in a swimsuit. It is not the first time she has been photographed poolside, and whilst the likes of Kardashians entered into a world of show-business and glamour willingly, Malia Obama did not.

Former First Daughters Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush have both spoken out in defence of Malia, arguing in favour of her right for privacy. Chelsea tweeted “Malia Obama’s private life, as a young woman, a college student, a private citizen, should not be your clickbait. Be better.” The frustration towards Malia’s scrutiny has resulted in a sense of unity, particularly of females.

We are living in a generation of social media and newly found access to images and sharing content on a large scale through the internet. Just because we can, does not mean that we should. When did the content of what people say become less publicised than their private lives? Why do people care about whether Malia is drinking or not? What relevance has it actually got? Growing up in today’s society of Instagram likes and Snapchat videos is challenging. The addition of media scrutiny when you’re trying to make the most of your youth must be exhausting. She is a young woman trying to find herself in the chaotic world in which we live in, and she does not require people analysing her every decision.

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Malia drinking with her friends, photographed by the Daily Mail 

There is also a large sense of double-standards in the fact that women tend to be judged more harshly than men in terms of alcohol, as identified by journalist Arwa Mahdawi. Researchers at Glasgow University and Glasgow Caledonian University found that woman binge drinking is given more media coverage, despite the fact that men are more likely to binge drink. Chris Patterson of the University of Glasgow explained that it is more than just the discussion of heath, but about “social expectations about women’s public behaviour.” It certainly does seem less likely that Malia would have been under such scrutiny had she been a 20 year old man enjoying a pint of beer by the pool. A fact that is not good enough when looking at our current state of media.

In terms of the political critics of Barack Obama for raising a “party girl”, or those criticising Malia for failing to live up to the expectations of a former First Daughter, maybe it would be more beneficial for you to listen more to the content of what politicians are saying rather than criticising a young girl who has not willingly sought scrutiny of her personal life.

– Cesca Getty

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