I turned on the TV this morning to be confronted with a CNN story talking about how many people are angry because of the way Michelle Obama is being portrayed in the news. Apparently, most of the news stories over the last few weeks have been on Michelle Obama’s clothing instead of about how intelligent Michelle Obama is. Feminists are up in arms and want the news media to concentrate on Michelle Obama’s intelligence and accomplishments, instead of what clothing she wears. But, my question is this. Why is it necessary for women to not be interested in fashion and clothing if they’re to be thought of as intelligent? Why can’t Michelle Obama be thought of as smart and still like to wear cute clothes? Why do the two things have to be mutually exclusive?
Of course, I’m a feminist. I believe a woman should have the same rights as a man. A woman should be paid the same money for the same job, given the same benefits in business, and promoted to the same level as men if she is doing her job to the same ability. I don’t however believe a woman has to be unattractive and frumpy to be considered ‘intelligent’ and I don’t understand women who do.
I live in Thailand where, overall, women have better opportunities in business than in any other country in South East Asia. I work for an international company where most of the high-level executives are Thai women. They are also, mostly, beautiful as well as intelligent and, being Thai women, they really care about fashion and what they wear. Looking nice at work in the latest fashions, though, has not affected their ability to do their job and it hasn’t prevented their clients from thinking of them as capable people who get the job done. So, what is it about the West? Why do so many Western women seem to think you can’t be well-dressed and fashionable to be considered smart? Why do many Western women feel they have to choose one or the other?
Personally, I think it’s because women are afraid of losing their power if they admit they like fashion too. Michelle Obama, on the other hand, really seems to be comfortable in her own femininity as well as in her intelligence. Because she doesn’t allow her power to be taken away by men because of what she wears, or by other women either.
So, the next time you start to say a woman should be taken more seriously than just being someone who looks cute in a dress, maybe you should stop and think for a minute. Because the strongest women, like Michelle Obama, understand they really can have both – an intelligent mind and a fashionable body – and there’s really nothing wrong with that.