Muss A Do: First Lady Michelle Obama Lands in Saudi Arabia With Uncovered Hair

Muss A Do: First Lady Michelle Obama Lands in Saudi Arabia With Uncovered Hair

It’s a good thing First Lady Michelle Obama didn’t insist on driving the President’s motorcade. That would have been awkward.

When Mrs. Obama stepped off Air Force One in Riyadh, Tuesday, her uncovered raven locks sent a little message to the Saudis, whether she intended them to or not. Among the all male delegation which greeted Mrs. Obama and the President, some acknowledged her but avoided shaking her hand.

A Twitter hashtag in Arabic which reportedly translates as #MichelleObamaUnveiled began trending, and many of the Tweets were negative. She came under criticism for apparently covering her hair in Indonesia, but not in Saudi Arabia. Others defended her on the grounds that it was a brief, unplanned stop in the Kingdom.

Someone posted a video to YouTube which apparently blurs out the First Lady. It began making the rounds on social media, with one commentator calling it a “blurka.” The uploader claimed that Saudi TV blurred her, but others who saw the live broadcast say it was not blurred, and that it was a hoax, with the blurring added by the video’s uploader.

Republican spinmasters must be gnashing their teeth that they can’t accuse the First Lady of being a Muslim for wearing a hijab. Surely, they’re preparing a statement that she doesn’t respect other cultures.

Exceptions are made for visiting foreigners. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been photographed with her hair uncovered in Saudi Arabia.

There is something to be said for observing local customs, particularly in diplomacy. But the inherently unequal expectations of men and women in the public sphere in KSA is anathema to American values. The president and his wife represent our culture and our values abroad. The difference between our expectations of women in public is so vast, that it really becomes a conflict between being a gracious guest and representing who we are as Americans, and who she is as a woman. Though the Twitter commenters who criticized her shouldn’t be considered representative of anything other than themselves, they should also understand, Michelle Obama is the First Lady of the United States of America, and she wears whatever she damn well wants to wear.

Feature image screen cap via YouTube.

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.

ReverbPress Mobile Apps ReverbPress iOS App ReverbPress Android App ReverbPress App