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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mrs. Michelle Obama in Saudi Arabia - charisma!

In 2007, I wrote about how impressive it was for women of the world to see Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sitting with Middle East leaders, sans burka. That was 7 years ago and now Mrs. Michelle Obama is exceeding expectations - sans burka encore!

Universally, women are drawn to charismatic feminine fashions. 
Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy is a world class example. In the 1950s and '60s, women didn't need a Fashion 101 course to instantly recognize the charisma Mrs. Kennedy held with the feminine (and masculine, too) psyche.  
Beautiful Mrs. Obama, sans burka, in Saudi Arabia

"Jackie" was like a First Lady paper doll. She complimented everything she wore, including sunglasses, babushkas and jeans.  

Likewise, Mrs. Obama commands the same charisma, with an obvious exception. Mrs. Obama's persona extends beyond the Oleg Cassini high styles. Her gender and race puts her at the top of the charismatic list among women of color in the world, who are decidedly not "Jackie".  

Mrs.Jackie Kennedy in 1962 - fashion for the ages, in Newport 
Rhode Island, in an Oleg Cassini silk gown

There’s a lot of fuss over what Michelle Obama didn’t wear on a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, to offer condolences for the country’s late King Abdullah, along with her husband.

Headlining a story on the First Lady’s choice to bare her hair, the Washington Post wrote, “Make no mistake: Michelle Obama just made a bold political statement in Saudi Arabia.” 

Bloomberg claimed that her choice of attire “quietly but forcefully represented women in a land that refuses to grant them many rights.”

It’s undoubtedly true that Saudi Arabia greatly impinges on basic rights for women. Saudi women are expected to wear long sleeved, full-length abayasand cover their hair with a headscarf. The country’s male guardianship laws keep them from moving about freely without a male relative, and women are further barred from driving.

Foreign women, however, are not legally required to wear the headscarf. Still, the U.S. State Department advises American women against going with them. “Women who choose not to conform to this dress code face risk of confrontation by Mutawwa [Saudi Arabia’s religious police] and possible detention/arrest..

Michelle Obama didn’t heed that warning, but she’s in good company. Neither did Secretary of State Mrs. Hilary Clinton.

No scarf for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Hamad Al-Sabah in March 2012.

First Lady Laura Bush had tea sans headscarf with Saudi King Abdullah at Riyadh Airport in May 2008. (Looks to me like King Abdullah didn't have a problem with Mrs. Bush's hair cover!)

Even Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Michelle Obama on Twitter for “standing up for women”, by not wearing what he called, a “Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia.” 

Thank you Mrs. Michelle Obama. You have achieved bipartisan and universal praise for your fashion leadership. 

Indeed, women like Mrs. Obama and others have made Saudi Arabian ladies more powerful than ever before, even as the Kingdom suppresses their equality. Just showing up sans burka (headscarf) and "presto" women control of the media! Saudi Arabian women are intelligent...they "get it".

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