Make no mistake: Michelle Obama just made a bold political statement in Saudi Arabia

Link to article: Make no mistake: Michelle Obama just made a bold political statement in Saudi Arabia – The Washington Post.

Here is a very interesting and clear example of the power of clothing in society. This become especially apparent at cultural boundaries.  And just in case one begins to assume that this is just in cultures “over there” here’s a story about the dress of women and the male gaze from closer to home. (A woman who will henceforth not wear leggings so as not to encourage men.)

As these things go, one of the group in Iceland wrote in the last survey a comment that ended so:
“… makes me want to understand why women must cover themselves in clothing that ranges from headscarfs and conservative dress to total concealment under a burka, at least publicly. Does this have to do with male domination, religious beliefs, modesty or something else?”

To which I answered:
“All of the above, including the importance of adhering to tradition as a way of creating and maintaining a personal identity. The subjugation of women through dress and appearance is a study in itself and one worth doing. The idea that women have to maintain the purity of the cultural image is also one that is very important in many traditional cultures. (Leading to almost impossible demands on female conduct.) Like other matters in this investigation it is a complex field that resists reduction. There may be in your question a problem that Western society has ignored for a while.  For the purpose of our class, that focuses on the “here” and “now,” this may be too large a question, but the meeting place of cultures is also an important part of our here and now…”

So there we are. Layers on layers on layers of meaning and behavior and culture. (Turtles all the way down…)

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