Author Topic: Michelle Obama handshake  (Read 4631 times)

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Aeris

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #15 on: November 12, 2010, 10:51:45 AM »
I wonder why the world is so tolerant of people who wouldn't shake a woman's hand, when there would be screams of outrage if someone said "I didn't want to shake her hand, because of her race".

I toyally agree with you.

Anyway, from looking at the video, it looks to me like he was bringing his two hands together (I don't know what this gesture is called in the Muslim world, in Thailand it's called a wai) and he made a split second choice to change it to the double-handed shake when he saw her outstretched hand.

I give him major points for his graciousness in that instant, to not make her feel awkward. I take all those points away and then some for later tweeting about it. And I completely understand the outrage of his country men (and women) who point out his hipocracy be shaking MO's hand while he's refuses to shake the hands of his female fellow citizens.

I'll give you that the bolded is a possible interpretation of the video. I dont' personally agree with it, but I can see where opinions could reasonably differ.

But even if that's the situation, I feel strongly that in a long receiving line, where everyone else is shaking hands, and the general cultural consensus is that shaking hands is acceptable (as this prohibition is a fringe view in Indonesia), it is absolutely the responsibility of the 'non-handshaking person' to make it clear, either by having one's aides communicate beforehand, or by maintaining the 'hands together' pose, which I have faith Michelle Obama would have reacted appropriately to swiftly and with poise.

Sharnita

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #16 on: November 12, 2010, 10:59:28 AM »
I wonder why the world is so tolerant of people who wouldn't shake a woman's hand, when there would be screams of outrage if someone said "I didn't want to shake her hand, because of her race".

I toyally agree with you.

Anyway, from looking at the video, it looks to me like he was bringing his two hands together (I don't know what this gesture is called in the Muslim world, in Thailand it's called a wai) and he made a split second choice to change it to the double-handed shake when he saw her outstretched hand.

I give him major points for his graciousness in that instant, to not make her feel awkward. I take all those points away and then some for later tweeting about it. And I completely understand the outrage of his country men (and women) who point out his hipocracy be shaking MO's hand while he's refuses to shake the hands of his female fellow citizens.

Honestly, I don't see it as the same thing.  I think the idea is that he'd show an equivalent sign of respect without physical contact so it is not an idicator of superiority based on gender/race.

Aeris

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #17 on: November 12, 2010, 11:00:07 AM »
I wonder why the world is so tolerant of people who wouldn't shake a woman's hand, when there would be screams of outrage if someone said "I didn't want to shake her hand, because of her race".

Well, as vehement as I am about most things that I perceive as sexist, I actually do believe this one can go either way. The thing that gets confusing here is that handshaking is both 1) a certain level of intimate physical contact and 2) a sign of respect.

If a man refuses to shake a woman's hand because he believes that women are not worth of respect (and would similarly not bow to a woman, for example), then i think it should absolutely be treated the same way as your quoted example.

However, if a man truly simply wants to avoid what he considers an 'intimate physical contact' with a woman he's not related to (or married to), that's altogether a different kettle of fish. Similarly, if in a particular culture it is common to kiss friends on the cheek, or even the lips, in greeting, but you are uncomfortable with that level of intimate physical contact with someone of the opposite sex who is not your partner, I wouldn't think it *automatically* disrespectful to choose not to engage in that particular ritual.

A genuine problem here though is that it can be difficult to separate one stated reason from the assumption that the other is the true underlying cause....

Just Lori

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2010, 11:01:37 AM »
After watching the raw video, this is what I can come up with:

MO shook hands with several people, male and female.  Only one of those people was upset enough to tweet about it.  I do not know enough about Indonesian culture to know if the prohibition against touching women would be fairly prominent in the culture or whether it's something that depends on the person and the setting.  If it's a personal choice, then the onus is on you to find a way to greet someone without taking their hand.  It's certainly possible.  If the prohibition is fairly widespread, then everyone should have nodded or politely acknowledged her by shaking her hand.

Here's what I think happened:  The man in question was caught up in the day and shook her hand without giving it a lot of thought.  Afterwards, he was taken to task by others who share his faith for breaking an important rule.  The tweet was a major attempt to save face and put the blame somewhere else.  "She made me touch her!"  It does not reflect well on him.

Aeris

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #19 on: November 12, 2010, 11:03:53 AM »
After watching the raw video, this is what I can come up with:

MO shook hands with several people, male and female.  Only one of those people was upset enough to tweet about it.  I do not know enough about Indonesian culture to know if the prohibition against touching women would be fairly prominent in the culture or whether it's something that depends on the person and the setting.  If it's a personal choice, then the onus is on you to find a way to greet someone without taking their hand.  It's certainly possible.  If the prohibition is fairly widespread, then everyone should have nodded or politely acknowledged her by shaking her hand.

Here's what I think happened:  The man in question was caught up in the day and shook her hand without giving it a lot of thought.  Afterwards, he was taken to task by others who share his faith for breaking an important rule.  The tweet was a major attempt to save face and put the blame somewhere else.  "She made me touch her!"  It does not reflect well on him.

This is close to the mark. The man in question is quite famous in Indonesia for more conservative views on these subjects, and was castigated for being hypocritical in shaking Michelle Obama's hand, and reacted by 'blaming' her for the encounter on Twitter.

Squeaks

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #20 on: November 12, 2010, 11:09:31 AM »
The idea of a country's leader being so week and slow on his feet to not be able to deal with this does not exactally inspire confidence.  It is really not hard to deal with.  

I also have a hard time seeing it as rude to *offer* your hand to someone.  You can brief people on the general culture all you want, but unless the PM staff as told the other staff exactally what the PM's position is, you really run the risk of making bad assumptions. I suspect many men in his culture/religion make the choice to adapt/make exceptions (many if not all people adapt/make exceptions as we see fit personally) so I am not sure it would be wise to assume all of them practice the same custom.  Western custom is to shake hands to be the polite thing to do is offer the hand (but not demand) as a gesture of our cultures views of good will and then adapt to what they respond. If they choose to shake hands that is their choice, if they respond with a bow, or a polite declination, go with it.  But an extended had is just an offer.  It does not have to be taken and can be declined politely. Heck had she not offered her hand people may have commented. Especially if she offered it to other people and not him.  Better to be consistent.

I think there are classier ways to respond to criticism than the way he did.  Sure he may need to respond, but he can do so without resorting to childish "They started it"

« Last Edit: November 12, 2010, 11:12:35 AM by Squeaks »

Flora Louise

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2010, 12:34:25 PM »

Here's what I think happened:  The man in question was caught up in the day and shook her hand without giving it a lot of thought.  Afterwards, he was taken to task by others who share his faith for breaking an important rule.  The tweet was a major attempt to save face and put the blame somewhere else.  "She made me touch her!"  It does not reflect well on him.

Ah yes, the old "Garden of Eden" ploy. No one will see through that.  >:D
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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2010, 12:36:13 PM »
From what I've read/heard on the matter- not shaking women's hands is not really the norm at a country level, not even among the people who explicitly identify as Muslim- but it is quite widespread among the more devout/conservative Muslims, which do represent a certain segment of the population; and the minister is known to be part of that segment.
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M-theory

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #23 on: November 12, 2010, 12:36:19 PM »
I honestly thing Mrs. President's staff really dropped the ball here. She should have been briefed about this before she went.

This very much.

Two Ravens

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #24 on: November 12, 2010, 12:39:58 PM »
I honestly thing Mrs. President's staff really dropped the ball here. She should have been briefed about this before she went.

This very much.

 ???  She should have been briefed not to shake this one particular gentlemen's hand? 

PeasNCues

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #25 on: November 12, 2010, 12:41:08 PM »
I honestly thing Mrs. President's staff really dropped the ball here. She should have been briefed about this before she went.

This very much.

 ???  She should have been briefed not to shake this one particular gentlemen's hand? 
Yes she should have. If he is known not to want to shake female's hands, it is her staff's responsibility to be aware of that and make sure she is as well.
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M-theory

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #26 on: November 12, 2010, 12:41:36 PM »
I honestly thing Mrs. President's staff really dropped the ball here. She should have been briefed about this before she went.

This very much.

 ???  She should have been briefed not to shake this one particular gentlemen's hand? 

Isn't that part of their job? Stopping cultural snafus before they start? If not, maybe it should be.

Two Ravens

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #27 on: November 12, 2010, 12:43:26 PM »
I honestly thing Mrs. President's staff really dropped the ball here. She should have been briefed about this before she went.

This very much.

 ???  She should have been briefed not to shake this one particular gentlemen's hand? 
Yes she should have. If he is known not to want to shake female's hands, it is her staff's responsibility to be aware of that and make sure she is as well.

I don't agree.  It is not the responsibility of the First Lady to know the preferences of everyone she is likely to meet.  If the gentlemen did not want to shake hands with her, there are polite ways he could have declined to.  To blame this incident on the First Lady or her staff is ridiculous.

Judah

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #28 on: November 12, 2010, 12:44:56 PM »
Was it for Michelle Obama/her staff to find out beforehand that the minister's conservative beliefs do not permit him to shake hands with ladies?
OR
Should he have let her know beforehand that he doesn't shake hands, so that public awkwardness should be avoided?
OR
Upon her attempting to initiate a handshake, should he have just smiled and tell her "Sorry, I don't shake hands for religious reasons"?

ALSO,
Once he had agreed to shake her  hand, against his beliefs, was it wrong of him to state he did not agree to it?

Mrs. Obama's staff should have known the minister's beliefs and prepared Mrs. Obama.  They dropped the ball.

And

The minister's staff should have made it known to Mrs. Obama's staff.  They also dropped the ball.

And

The minister should have gracefully declined to shake Mrs. Obama's hand.  I've seen it done and had it done to me many times.  He dropped the ball.

And

He should never have tweeted about the incident, or at least not tried to blame it on Mrs. Obama.  She made him shake her hand?  It makes him look like an ungracious weakling.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2010, 12:48:04 PM by Scout Finch »
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PeasNCues

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Re: Michelle Obama handshake
« Reply #29 on: November 12, 2010, 12:46:17 PM »
I honestly thing Mrs. President's staff really dropped the ball here. She should have been briefed about this before she went.

This very much.

 ???  She should have been briefed not to shake this one particular gentlemen's hand?  
Yes she should have. If he is known not to want to shake female's hands, it is her staff's responsibility to be aware of that and make sure she is as well.

I don't agree.  It is not the responsibility of the First Lady to know the preferences of everyone she is likely to meet.  If the gentlemen did not want to shake hands with her, there are polite ways he could have declined to.  To blame this incident on the First Lady or her staff is ridiculous.
I'm not saying it is entirely her staff's fault. Please read my original post.

I am not aware of the specifics of the event she was attending at the time, but as a representative of our country, it is absolutely her responsibility to know how to greet those she will be meeting with. It is part of international politics AND international business.

We do it all the time here and we're not even important. It just takes a quick, "Don't shake so-and-so's hand for religious reasons."

ETA: My opinion is valid. Please refrain from calling it ridiculous.
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