“Girly Dogs”!?!

Thanks to The Huffington Post for this excerpt from the Barbara Walters interview with the Obama’s.   Baraba has said she has a Havanese named ‘Cha Cha’.

Obama: “Cha Cha?”

Barbara: “It’s short for Cha Cha Cha.”

O: “What is a Havanese?”

B: “It’s like a little terrier and they’re non-allergenic and they’re the sweetest dogs..”

O: [Face suddenly changes.] “It’s like a little yappy dog?”

Michelle: “Don’t criticize.”

O: “It, like, sits in your lap and things?”

M: “It’s a cute dog.”

O: “It sounds kinda like a girly dog.”

M: “We’re girls. We have a houseful of girls.”

O [with hand gestures]: “We’re going to have a big rambunctious dog, of some sort.”

Here’s the ‘girly’ Havanese:

And my best favorite macho dog, Barney, satiated after his destruction of prized, antique teddy bears, as described here:


Perhaps Obama’s really concerned to avoid this image:

18 thoughts on ““Girly Dogs”!?!

  1. i think little dog ownership *has* become ‘feminine’. think of paris hilton. and if you lived in east london, you’d know that big burly dog was *definitely* a mark of masculinity. (bull mastiffs and this sort of thing; clearly kept, walked, as a show of force, like carrying a weapon.)

    remember in the 80s when it was cool to be a little androgynous? what the hell happened?? EVERYTHING is gender-specific these days.

  2. lp, nice points. Of course, big dogs are also practical protection; it’s hard to believe a Havanese would frighten off burglars.

    I think I’m conflicted about all this. I can see Obama could be worried about his daughters’ being swamped with gender stereotypical stuff, like very feminine clothes. But I’m wondering if “girly dogs” are more made than born.

    I heard another tape of an Obama on TV discussion about the dog that made me think they are involved in working through some large issues with it. Barack was saying that the dog was conditional on the daughters being able to behave very responsibly and being willing to walk it, etc. Michelle just said, “The dog is a done deal.”

    Anyway, in my very red state, small dogs are quite ok for men to walk around the neighborhood. In the apartment building we often go to on the weekend, guys have sometimes very little and vulnerable dogs. And this is one of those cowboy states.

  3. This just proves that all of us have been socialized to say, believe, and think in ways that perpetuate the patriarchal hierarchy in our society.

    Given that, I still support Obama and believe he is truly the best thing for this country!!

  4. is it just me or does obama sound like a man nervous about his perceived virility here? commander in chief can’t have a “girly dog?” i would think that the secret security could do the protecting and the dog could just be the girls’ best friend. silly silly.
    interesting jj, i didn’t know that there are places where manly men can have little dogs.

  5. Oh my goodness – can’t he just not like little yappy fluffy white dogs!? I don’t either! The ‘girly’ adjective was unfortunate but an accurate description of their social gendering for the most part.

  6. Rebecca, does that really make it better? So in effect this is what’s going on with him:

    I don’t like those little yapping dogs and we are not going to have around the sort of dog I don’t like. In fact, my daughters will have the kind of dog I like.”

    I really don’t think that was what was going on. His reaction is given as a reason for the sort of dog his daughters will have. I don’t think he was saying that they will get what he wants.

  7. i don’t like girly as a pejorative and i believe it is meaningful to use it that way.
    i don’t care what you think of little dogs, it’s not relevant.

  8. I agree with dk that ‘girlie’ is a problematic term, especially when used pejoratively, but people in comments were criticizing/psychobabblanalyzing his taste in dogs, which is what I was pushing back against. Also I am not quite sure I follow jj’s comment above, but I think it’s fine for parents to trump their kids on issues such as this. Indeed, my son really wants a little white fluffy dog too, and I felt perfectly comfortable telling him there was no chance as I don’t like them. Parents’ prerogative.

    Before we harsh too much on people who use the term ‘girlie’ we should do some self-examination to see if we use words indicating overly masculine things with a negative valence, like ‘macho’. Personally, I am completely put off and even creeped out by things that are socially gendered in either extreme – this includes both extremely ‘girlie’ things and extremely ‘macho’ things.

  9. Rebecca, my point, such as it was, was that “yapping and girly” seems to be functioning as explanations for why he doesn’t like them and so can’t mean or indicate just that he doesn’t like them.

  10. Rebecca, why do you assume that a Havanese would have to be “yappy?” And what is your beef with small, white dogs? I’m less bothered by what Obama said and much more bothered by your generalizations.

  11. ugh why is this such a big deal? i think the dog is “girly” because it’s all cute and fluffy and stuff like that…and girls more often than guys fall for that. It’s not “attacking gender roles” or “being gender specific”..men are kind of programmed to think that way and frankly no matter how feminist i might be…i don’t see sense in forcing men to adore cute pink fluffballs for the sake of women’s liberation. i’ts just the way we are and what makes us different from men.
    that or someone had better discover a unisexual dog. :P

  12. princess leia, the idea that women like cute and fluffy things and men dislike cute and fluffy things because `that’s just the way we naturally are’ — and the corollary that, therefore, the cute and fluffy things are inferior or bad — is exactly what the critics of Obama’s comment are challenging here. There is no natural equation between girls and cuteness and fluff, and the corollary is clearly sexist.

  13. Thanks, Noumena. Along similar lines, I was thinking it’s pretty uncontroversial that little boys often like teddy bears, and little dogs can be like alive little teddies.

  14. I totally missed this interview but dumb dumb Barbara Walters should KNOW a Havanese isn’t a terrier at all….it’s a member of the bishon family…kin to a Maltese or a Bishon Frieze…and they aren’t “yappy” in the least. Sheesh, if you are going to be the owner of a rare breed dog, at least take the time to educate yourself about their history and traits so you can accurately educate others…..what a moron…..

    Yes it’s a fluffy little lap dog….actually, it would be A great dog for the Obama family since they are good with children and I am quite confident the girls would enjoy putting little bows in their hair, etc. After all, the dog was supposed to be a reward for the children, not President Obama.

    My manly man loves our little fluffy dog…..and we live in Texas! lol! He is pretty secure in his masculinity so he has no problem taking her on a walk or for a ride in the car….

  15. Lolabelles: Recently seen at the elevator in an apartment building in Galveston: Young man and fluffy little dog wearing diapers and a pink coat trimmed with tiny pink bows.

  16. Nope, not him….first off I wouldn’t call him YOUNG..ha ha! And Lola is a big girl (and fixed) so no diapers necessary! The coat sounds cute though :)

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