This has been a banner time for women to make statements,
intentional or unintentional, based on what they are or are not wearing. Veronica Partridge and Michelle Obama
have been simultaneously torn to shreds and exalted for their clothing choices just in the past 48 hours.
Partridge, a 25-year-old Christian blogger, made
headlines this month by posting her decision to no longer wear tight-fitting leggings or yoga pants outside her home. For her, this was a moral choice based on her
faith and in consultation with her husband. I’m not gonna lie, I had some fairly unkind thoughts about her blog and
interviews. I kept those pretty much to myself.
And then, just yesterday, Michelle Obama ruffled some
Internet feathers (mind you, ruffling Internet feathers is easier than buying a
cup of coffee at Starbucks) by appearing at the state funeral for Saudi King
Abdullah without a headscarf. Given that
it was a diplomatic affair, populated by numerous other heads of state mourning the death of one of our very few Mideast allies, well, my guess is that
the First Lady knew exactly what she was
doing by not covering her head, a local custom in that society where
women are severely restricted.
On the surface, it seems like it would be easy to make opposite
blanket judgments about both gals and their choices, somewhere along the lines
of Obama being a disrespectful pot-stirrer and Partridge being an
uptight puppet living a mid-century marriage out loud.
But that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?
The truth, uncomfortable as it may be, is that both women
were very purposefully using their clothing choices to say something about
their belief system, each motivated by her politics or her faith. I find it hard to fault either of them when I
think of it that way.
Who am I to say that either woman is in the wrong when she
is making a choice informed by her beliefs and values? I can easily say I don’t agree with those
beliefs or values, but don’t both Veronica Partridge and Michelle Obama have
the right to dress as they wish? Of
course they do.
In our increasingly global and diverse culture, the truth is that we spend more and more of our days interacting with folks who adhere to completely different beliefs and values and who express those values through their clothing.
With that in mind, let’s tone down the rhetoric and vitriol
we throw around so casually these days. With social media, it is easy to condemn those we disagree with. Too easy. And I am as guilty of that as the rest.
In our increasingly global and diverse culture, the truth is
that we spend more and more of our days interacting with folks who adhere to
completely different beliefs and values and who express those values through
their clothing. When I take my two boys
to the park at the end of the block, there are Orthodox Jewish women wearing
wigs and long skirts next to Muslim women wearing hijabs, burqas or
chadors. Invariably, I feel like a
heathen in my jeans or leggings, but the common denominator is that we are all
there watching our children, working to keep them safe and happy.
Our discomfort with those different than ourselves, like
bloggers who wear their faith on their sleeves (or their pantlegs, as the case may
be), or like First Ladies whose husband’s politics do not match our own, is
something for us to acknowledge and explore, not hide with dismissive,
start: wear what you want, how you want, when you want. You mind your chador, and I’ll mind my