Good on you, Michelle Obama
She’ll pass on the veil, thank you very much
Michelle Obama made waves this week with her decision to not wear headscarf during her visit to Saudi Arabia. Although reactions to her decision were mixed, the reaction on social media gave birth to a hashtag accusing the first lady of immodesty—a heady violation in one of the few remaining countries requiring women to cover their heads in public.
On Twitter, Saudis used a hashtag that translates to “#Michelle_Obama_Immodest” or “#Michelle_Obama_NotVeiled” to chastise the first lady for being disrespectful to Saudi traditions.
Some on Twitter noted that Obama had covered her hair during a visit to a mosque in Indonesia and wondered why she hadn’t done the same, Egypt’s Ahram Online noted, while one woman urged fellow Saudis not to “make Obama angry at us.”
The first lady’s office had no comment on her attire.
Twitter is still chirping about it:
She should be able to wear whatever. She's First Lady of a free country pic.twitter.com/z8PcSyTZZM
— Scott (@NorthCounty3303) January 28, 2015
@michelleobama I am proud of you for not bowing down to a king who oppresses woman #ميشيل_أوباما_سفور
— #Justice4Serena (@WORLDEMPATH) January 28, 2015
So Michelle obama has respect for some and not others. Booo
— Rima Youssef (@Rima_youssef) January 28, 2015
I am Saudi woman and I think her outfit is not offending . On the contrary she looks beautifully modest. #ميشيل_أوباما_سفور
— Khawla Asad (@Khawlasad) January 28, 2015
I think so too, Khawla.
This isn’t an unprecedented move by the First Lady. During their trips to Saudi Arabia, neither Hillary Clinton nor Laura Bush opted to don a head scarf. (Technically, the modesty rules people are having such a hard time with here don’t apply to visitors.) But, as the Washington Post notes, “in Saudi Arabia, the simple act of not covering your head can be political, intentionally or not.”
This is so significant, and I’m proud of her for not doing what I think most of us, if we were honest, probably expected her to do. Saudi Arabia has found its terrible human rights record thrown into the spotlight most recently over the persecution of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who dared to criticize the Saudi clerics. The world is not impressed with Saudi Arabia’s draconian culture, and with her refusal to cover her head, the first lady indicated in a very visible way that neither is she.
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She wore a headscarf when she visited Indonesia. Surely the Saudis expected her to do the same in their country. To be consistent she should have worn one on both occasions or neither. To act differently in each country you visit is a sure way to generate ill will and misunderstanding.
Well, she really should have been wearing the approved gilly suit/bee-keeper outfit to be FULLY Saudi-compliant, but…
her husband bows to the Saudis, so…
it’s kinda good that SOMEBODY isn’t kowtowing.
In the Indonesian photo she is visiting a mosque, where women are required to cover their heads. She does not seem to have visited a mosque in Saudi, and opted not to cover.
In the Indonesian photo, she’s also grabbing her crotch. Maybe that’s why no one shook her hand.
Yes, she is so, so wonderful.
Can you explain why Michelle Obama wore a headscarf while on a trip meeting the president of Indonesia? Like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia is about 90% Sunni Muslim and no Disneyland for women.
Gee, I wonder if something other than Support For Women’s Rights guides her decisions on when and when not to wear a head covering…..
She wore the head covering because they were going to visit a mosque. She could have waited and donned it just before entering, of course – but then she might not have had a taxpayer lackey available to tie it for her.
I have been highly critical of Michelle Obama over the years but in this instance, I can find no fault. There is nothing inappropriate about her clothing for this visit. In deference to their modesty standards, she wore loose fitting clothing and had her wrists and ankles covered. As the wife of the President, she was absolutely correct not to wear a headscarf.
I was a bit surprised to see video of some Saudi officials shaking her hand. You can bet they won’t be showing that in the Kingdom on the news shows.
The “rules” have always been a bit more…flexible…for members of the royal family. Many of the men and women are educated in Europe or the USA. I lived in Jeddah in the late 1970’s and when we would fly out of the country, there would be a flurry of activity once we left Saudi airspace as the women would all head for the bathrooms to ditch their Saudi garb and change into their western clothing.
No one demanded she cover her head but courtesy and respect did demand that if she was attending she ought to have a serene expression on her face. Not one that looked as tho she smelled some dead fish.
That’s just her permanent expression when she’s not vacationing, eating and shopping large on the taxpayer’s trough. A dish of $500 caviar and a $2,000 bottle of French champagne, all served in the finest china and crystal, would have brightened the countenance of her grouchy mug immeasurably.
Why should she “respect” people who don’t respect women as full human beings?
Respect must be earned. The Saudis have not earned it. They just had the wildly undeserved good fortune to be sitting on a huge supply of petroleum — which would be worthless to them if it weren’t for the foreigners who supply both the technical skill and the labor to extract it.
everyone knows that men don’t have to wear head coverings, so s/he didn’t
a;; this does is prove that Joan Rivers was right.
all… stupid fingers.
If you’ll look closely at the first picture you’ll find the men all have “head scarfs” with one exception, the pResident. In the second pic, there appears to be another western male without head cover and a second female without head cover.
Moochelle is still a commie. But I’m always happy to see the middle eastern religious nutcases dissed.
the Saudi head scarves are A: traditional and B: IIRC, a sign of tribal leadership.
originally, they were a practical headgear for nomad tribesmen exposed the the elements 24/7. now all they are is a vanity piece.
the mandatory covering of females is part of islime’s denigration of women as lesser beings.
those are two different things. under their laws, s/he should have been covred, if actually female.
“She should be able to wear whatever. She’s First Lady of a free country.”
“Should” really doesn’t apply. It’s not her country. It’s theirs. Their country; their rules.
“Their country; their rules.” It may be their country, but we do not have to follow their rules. The first lady certainly didn’t.
s/he’s no lady, certainly not by actions and questionable by orientation.
i’ll leave the plumbing inquiries to Andrew Sullivan.
How come that never applies to our country?
She could show respect here by just wearing a ball gag in public.
Unfortunately, Manchelle isn’t moving to Saudi Arabia as a new resident. If she was, I’d agree with you. There was nothing disrespectful about her outfit. It was ugly, but was conservative enough and covered enough to pass muster as a western guest stopping for 4-5 hours.
It’s obvious we’re the losers in the thread. That’s okay. I’m still someone who is shocked by how little respect or knowledge many folks have when attending solemn occasions in this country. Yes, black/gray/dark colors at funerals works for me. Or, not looking like you didn’t care what you put on when you go to church – as if one can’t be bothered to give G_D your best. You see, it goes a long way to just thinking about how we are as a people…
None of that really matters, except that there are expected standards in the big wide world, especially at the high diplomatic levels.
So why are the Saudis trying to compel the whole world to follow Islamic rules concerning what may be said about Islam or their “prophet”? Why are they pumping large amounts of the wealth they’re sitting on (thanks to foreigners’ labor and expertise)to fund efforts to force Islam upon infidels wherever they can?
The Saudis are the direct heirs and proud guardians of a violently coercive, totalitarian ideology of conquest. They really don’t deserve “respect” of their customs.
But “their rules” say visitors aren’t required to wear head coverings.
Disagree, and this may be a generational issue for those that think what Michelle did was acceptable, but when visiting foreign countries, especially in a high level diplomatic status, one does try to be respectful of the customs of that nation.
For those of you who don’t know this, there are religious houses of worship in this country, ie. Orthodox Jews have certain observances, including that the men sit separate from the women and that women keep their hair covered as well as wear long sleeved tops and legs coverings.
There was also a time when women wore a hair covering when they went to Mass, or even women wore hats (you’ll see this still in African-American churches)to protestant churches.
Americans have gotten so lax in observing decorum and being informal, they’re ignorant of how to be a class act in the rest of the world. Its not always about politics or making a political statement, as this author seems to think, it’s about good manners. Period.
I may prefer to wear a chapel veil to Mass. To hold myself out as superior because I do so more than smacks of the Pharisaic.
There is a huge difference between following the rules inside any house of worship and knuckling under to a medieval dress code in all public spaces. The Saudi’s don’t expect Western women to follow to cover their heads That’s because god manners also say that one does not impose one’s barbaric customs or idiosyncratic habits upon one’s guests. Personally I hate air conditioning. I do, however, turn it on when I am expecting guests in the summertime.
I don’t think I was “holding wearing a chapel veil to Mass” as a superiority point, just that in some places in the world, not the U.S. which has thrown those kind of traditions out the window for the most part, women do wear headcoverings. A countries customs and traditional dress are not always about politics.
Anyway, it’s obvious from the thread that almost everyone is glad Mrs. Obama acted as she did. Me, no. I think she could have looked a lot more attractive than in what she wore, but I’ve often thought that her designers have not served her well.
There was a time in parts of this country when black people were required or expected to go to the back of the bus, not sit at the same lunch counters as white people, etc. Those rules were widely considered correct and proper — either by law or by custom.
Today we honor the courage of those who stood up for principle and broke the rules and customs. (How rude!) They sent a powerful message that they would not accept being treated as inferior creatures.
I view Michelle’s scarfless head in a somewhat similar light, even if it didn’t require the same courage. If she’s going to keep talking about empowering girls and women, then it was correct to make a visible statement against the gender apartheid of the Saudi regime. (And I don’t remember another time when I said that Michelle was correct about anything.)
It was perfectly acceptable. Her arms and legs were covered and there’s no cultural requirement for western women to cover their hair or faces.
Do orthodox Jewish women risk stoning or beheading for failing to properly cover up? Sorry, but there really is no comparison.
No one was asking her to “properly cover up” according to strict Islamic covering. I notice no one seems to remember how even Hillary has worn a headscarf (we’re not talking veils here), when going out and about in the M.E. Frankly, I don’t care what they do, she looked tacky in the outfit (and frown) she wore, and that hasn’t changed from many of the outfits she has chosen to wear when meeting heads of state of other country.
Words like graciousness and good manners still have some meaning in this world, America’s Exceptionalism not withstanding.
No, but we’re not talking stoning here, we are talking that if you visit an Jewish Orthodox House of Worship or even attend a religious ceremony there are certain niceties observed, including for men, whether Jewish or not, wearing a yarmulke.
And I see I wrote two responses comments to you, certainly not at war with anyone on this, just trying to give another perspective that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with decorum, good manners and observing the formal rituals that go with being members of one culture visiting another country/culture.
You may be suffering under the misconception that the Obama’s were there to attend a funeral. That was not the case. The actual funeral was on the same day Abdullah died. They take the body to the Mosque, say prayers and bury the body in an unmarked grave. There is no western equivalent of a state funeral or state mourning because the Saudi’s just don’t do that. The Obama’s were there to pay their respects to the new king, nothing else.
“Americans have gotten so lax in observing decorum and being informal, they’re ignorant of how to be a class act in the rest of the world.”
If the Saudi’s require women to stand on their heads in the presence of men, then we should do so to be a “class act”? I travel all over the world, including muslim dominated area’s. I follow my customs and never have a problem.
Poppycock, Lady P.
Rather than worrying about offending their sensibilities over their culture (we do a lot of that) how about them not applying their culture to our behavior so they don’t offend us?
However the pants suit was tacky.
Just to keep it real, when Saudis visit here, they don’t insist that all women they encounter be kosher.
She should have taken that hideous jacket off, turned it inside-out, and used it to cover her head and grim sour puss entirely. obola could have made himself useful for the first time in six years by serving as her guide dog.
For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of Michelle Obama.
I am waiting for the day a top female American official arrives in Saudi and orders her driver “Move over. I’m driving”.
There are Western educated Saudi women who would loudly applaud. Can you imagine trying to practice medicine when one is always waiting for one’s husband’s employee to get somewhere?
For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of this First Lady.
Shucks, why was this allowed to happen? I dislike both Obama adults and now you cause me to like how Michelle M’Belle behaved in Saudi Arabia. Curses!
Still, hooray for Michelle Obama, this one time!
I’m disgusted by some of the responses I’ve seen to this. I get it, many of us don’t like her policy positions. But she did the right thing here, so give her credit. Mocking or insulting responses to this are completely in appropriate.
To me it isn’t about covering her head, it’s about her ugly frown. She could have said she was indisposed and stayed out of sight rather than be so insulting to those attending.
Michelle Obama wore the head covering in Indonesia because she was visiting a mosque I believe. That is appropriately respectful.
Conforming to Wahhabi Islamism in public life outside of a house of worship would not be respectful of the customs of the free world. I personally prefer the wife of the leader of the free world to follow the customs of the free world rather than Sharia mandates.
Good for her. That jacket was hideous, though.
I like the picture of Condi and the President. He looks like he’s sucking a lemon. (Of course, Condi was wearing black, which seems appropriate).
I also like the picture of the queen in the 70’s wearing a cute hat and a pantsuit!
The jacket was typical of her entire hideous wardrobe. The woman is a fashion disaster. In all the photos of her during the last six, long, miserable years, I’ve only seen three in which she was dressed in something appropriate, tasteful and flattering.
I wonder if the 1st Wookie brought along a slab of bacon and a rack of ribs ….
I’m certainly no fashion expert, as anyone who has seen me will attest.
Since the occasion was a funeral for a dead king, my thought would be that Ms. Obama would wear what she would wear if the funeral were in DC — and she had taste, of course.
A simple black, calf-length funeral dress, complete with hat and black peacock feather, for example. No veil required. That would communicate to one and all a sympathy for the dearly departed and the family, which is about all you can do.
The dress itself would be some hideously expensive designer thing — that’s our Moochelle, the dear — but I wouldn’t complain too much on this occasion.
One walks a line here — she’s not required to wear a burqa as she’s not a Saudi woman, but she should wear what would be considered appropriate and tasteful by the large majority of our citizens. While she shouldn’t be unduly provocative, she isn’t required to hew to the whims of overly-sensitive Saudi men.
I somehow think Nancy Reagan and Laura Bush both would have carried this off properly.
The three days of mourning were over. Muslim burials take place within 24 hours, so this was not a funeral, it was a visit to the new ruler.
I often don’t care for Michelle Obama’s fashion choices, either as to appropriateness for the occasion or whether her clothes flatter her. However, I see nothing whatever wrong with this outfit for the occasion. Shoulders, arms, and legs were all covered in reasonably loose-fitting clothing. Visitors are not required to cover their heads or faces and her choice not to do so is appropriate. I even think this outfit is more flattering to her figure than many others I’ve seen her wear.
Having lived in both conservative Hindu and conservative Muslim areas, I would personally not have attempted to shake hands with any of the Saudi men. A polite nod and smile would be sufficient.
More than 20 years ago a female American military officer fought for the right for American servicewomen to NOT be subjected to the “requirement” that they wear a full hijab, veil, and sit in the back seat when off US military bases while stationed in Saudi Arabia.
I don’t much approve of Michelle Obama, but this time I applaud her for upholding the long-standing agreement that American women in an official capacity in the Saudi kingdom are NOT subjected to their religious “requirements” vis-a-vis “appropriate” female dress.
I salute the First Lady for not bowing down to the Saudi’s. I am proud of her.
Although I have to admit having her cover her scowling mug does have a certain appeal. Just sayn’
As I’ve observed a few times, whoever invented nuns was a secret benefactor of mankind.
(Yah, yah. I repudiate myself.)
It wouldn’t bother me if she followed local custom or if she refused in support of oppressed women over there – the story is a tea pot tempest to me in that regard. I just want to know why she refuses to wear a head covering in one Sunni Muslim country (Saudi Arabia) while complying in another Sunni Muslim country (Indonesia).
A commenter (Kate?) earlier said MO was visiting a mosque in Indonesia and didn’t in Saudi Arabia, but there are photos of her in Indonesia wearing a head cover while not at a mosque.
If her refusal to scarf was in support of oppressed Saudi women, are Indonesian women just not worthy for some reason?
The potential for hypocrisy or plain old protocol ineptitude concerns me more than her choice to follow/not follow local custom.
Any trips planned for Glasgow? I’d love to see Dear Leader in a kilt.
You have a knack for writing perfectly rational posts and then ending them with a major GAG factor. You were the kid who put the turd in the punchbowl, werncha?
Just a talent, I guess. 🙂
Two words: Norway. Sauna.
What irony: of all the female faces the Saudi’s had to suffer viewing, it had to be Michelle Obama’s.
and I’m proud of her for not doing what I think most of us, if we were honest, probably expected her to do.
I didn’t expect her to grovel. That’s one of her husband’s more blatant personality flaws, not hers. On the other hand, I doubt that she fantasized about striking any symbolic blows for sartorial freedom, either; I am aware of no hints that she’s one of modern America’s leading political philosophers. I suspect that she’s merely domineering, unimaginative, and stubborn. But if she managed to punch some of the Faithful square in their sensibilities, then she probably did the right thing, whether for the right reasons or not.
It is actually more surprising that Barry didn’t wear one.
Michelle was NOT having a bad hair day! It would make no sense to wear a head scarf. Because? If she did people would wonder why she just didn’t wear a hoodie.
PS: She actually looked great! And, she got to wear jeans.