January 23, 2021

Sasha Obama’s 19 and acting like it. Why are so many bothered by that?

Sasha Obama’s gone viral twice now recently — and she doesn’t even have public social media accounts.

First, in late November, a fifteen-second TikTok featuring the 19-year-old dancing with a group of friends to Popp Hunna’s Adderall (Corvette Corvette) was posted and then deleted.

Many loved the teen’s urban outfit. They thought she seemed glam and adult in a crop top, bikini bottom and sarong. They saw it for what it was — a beautiful 19-year-old girl being a beautiful 19-year-old girl. Others, however, felt that her look was way out of bounds, not the appropriate character a child of the former President of the United States should display. Some begged the teen to put on clothes as though she was naked. They laughed about the older man lurking in the corner. Then came the racist theories. Somehow expressing one’s style correlates to having “daddy issues.”

Why are we so shocked Sasha Obama grew up? And why are we judging her for it?

Why are we so shocked Sasha Obama grew up? And why are we judging her for it?

Sasha and her sister Malia were only 7 and 10 when they moved into the White House. They were the beautiful little girls in J. Crew dresses with satin sashes and bows swept up into their father’s idyllic, picture-perfect presidential win.

“There’s been no wiggle room to be a normal teenager [for Sasha and Malia Obama],” Jennifer Turner, Ph.D., a women’s and gender studies assistant professor of sociology at Hollins University, tells Yahoo Life. “There’s a situation where Black women are hypersexualized, then there’s what you call respectability politics that middle-class Black people, privileged Black people, like Sasha Obama are expected to adhere to.”

This also isn’t the first time Sasha has been trolled. She and her sister, Malia, were viciously attacked in 2014 by Elizabeth Lauten, communications director for then Tennessee Rep. Stephen Lee Fincher, for “coming up short in the role model department.” They were only 13 and 16, being criticized for their dress and demeanor. Malia, now a student at Harvard University, faced criticism for happening to be in a bikini in a paparazzi snap and most recently went “absolutely mental” at a music festival. Mind you, she may or may have not been smoking a cigarette.

“[They say Sasha] should be a role model for young girls, which is an unfair expectation put on her because of her status and because she’s a public figure,” Turner says, noting the expectations and criticisms of Black girls and women are amplified because of their race and gender.

It’s misogynistic and racist.
Lucy Keith

Lucy Keith, half of a duo of the new pop culture podcast Bingeable, highlights how Black women are held to different standards by noting the difference in how the Bush twins were treated. “I think people are gross and disgusting. [Sasha’s] 19, smart and not hurting anyone. The Bush twins faced unfair criticisms during their college years but the treatment [of Sasha and Malia] is on another level when you add the climate that we’re in and see how people associate certain [styles of] dancing and nail styles, you can’t pretend there isn’t a racial tone in what people are saying. It is inherently there in the way she’s talked about; her sister is talked about and how her mother is talked about. It’s misogynistic and racist.”

Turner also compared the Bush twins, pointing out that “they were drinking and driving and didn’t seem to get the same virility that Sasha got just for posting TikTok videos and taking a picture.”

Misogynistic because why can’t a girl have a little fun and dress cute without people thinking she’s problematic? Racist because Sasha Obama was given no grace at all. Despite being a college student at one of the best universities in the country, her innocent actions and displays of young adulthood became offensive and too much. Is it us or is it the culture?

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