According to conservative news site TheBlaze:
Macy’s is offering a new Muslim-friendly fashion line that features hijabs and modest clothing, a move criticized by conservatives and women’s rights activists who say it promotes an oppressive culture.
Oh no! Modest clothing! Conservatives hate modest clothing!
TheBlaze quotes from Macy’s website, which describes the new line—the Verona Collection—as follows:
“Verona Collection was simply an idea, that was conceptualized by a single mom who had converted to Islam in 2011,” the company’s website states. “After embracing Islam, she had a stark realization: modest and fashionable clothing were both hard to acquire and difficult to afford. After doing a bit of research, she realized that many other women, both Muslim and non-Muslim, felt the same way.”
After growing up in a conservative evangelical homeschool community, this actually sounds very, very familiar. There was a lot of concern about “modest” clothing being difficult to find. In fact, in some cases evangelical, fundamentalist, or Mormon women created their own clothing lines to ensure that their communities had access to “modest” clothing.
Oh, but TheBlaze is concerned about more than just this clothing line.
Mattel’s hijab Barbie was modeled after Muslim Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. Mattel promotes the doll as “empowering” for young girls. But Muhammad was hardly mainstream as she was growing up, the New York Post discovered. As a young woman in Maplewood, New Jersey, her parents forced her to keep covered at all times, even while participating in her school’s volleyball and softball teams.
No girl or woman should be forced to wear clothing she does not want to wear—and no girl or woman should be told that her clothing is to blame for men’s actions or treatment of her. However, TheBlaze, as a conservative news site, is being highly disingenuous. Would TheBlaze be concerned about fundamentalist Christian and conservative evangelical girls who are required to wear shorts and shirts over one-piece swimsuits, or to special order “modest” swimsuits? I doubt it.
Conservative Muslims are far from the only religious group with a “modest” dress code that requires their girls and teens to cover up. Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists do this too. But what do you want to bet that if an evangelical “modest” clothing line (and there are many of them) was picked up by Macy’s, TheBlaze would be praising the company’s choice to honor religion and women’s dignity and modesty, in the face of all the slut-dressing “mainstream” clothing lines?
TheBlaze intersperses its negative coverage of the Verona Collection with positive coverage of anti-hijab demonstrations in Iran, as though those protests invalidate Macy’s newest clothing line. What goes unsaid is that there is a big difference between mandatory hijab-wearing and voluntary hijab-wearing. Certainly, we can talk about coercion. But if we want to ensure that women are not coerced into wearing a hijab, we need to make sure women in every community have the means for financial independence—and that means welcoming women in hijabs into educational institutions in the workforce.
TheBlaze reported positively on Jewish actress Mayim Bialik’s 2015 endorsement of modest dressing. The Blaze also offered positive reporting on two Muslim beauty queen contestants who convinced contest organizers to change the mandated outfits to accommodate their religion’s modesty requirements. In 2013, TheBlaze praised a “modest swimwear” line promoted by a Christian organization. And then there’s Matt Walsh’s 2015 modesty screed, also on TheBlaze.
I took a look at the Verona Collection’s website. Many of the clothing items there are far more “mainstream” than the “modest” clothing I wore growing up. TheBlaze’s problem isn’t “modesty” or covering up. Its problem is that it’s Muslims doing it.
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