Daily Archives: August 4, 2009

A Badass in Tight Pants vs. the Morality Police

This is an amazing story about Lubna al-Hussein, a Sudanese journalist and former UN employee, who was arrested in a restaurant on July 3 along with 18 other women when they failed to pass the random clothing check by the Sudanese Morality Police. “At the time of her arrest, al-Hussein said she was wearing pants that police deemed too tight, a blouse they said was too sheer. She said she was also wearing a hijab — or headscarf.” If found guilty, she will face 40 lashes.

Although al-Hussein’s trial has been delayed until September 7 so that the judge can determine whether or not she has immunity as a former UN employee, al-Hussein is pressing for a public flogging. She’s even sent out 500 invitations! In her words, “I’m not afraid from pain . . . but flog is not pain, flog is an insult, insult to humans, insult to women. . . This happened in Khartoum and under the eye . . of media and all over the world . . . to a girl from Khartoum for only wearing trousers and sitting in a restaurant. I want people (to) imagine that. What can be happening to women in Darfur? This is my message.”

EDITED TO ADD: Here is an additional quote from al-Hussein from The Guardian: “Islam does not say whether a woman can wear trousers or not. The clothes I was wearing when the police caught me – I pray in them. I pray to my God in them. And neither does Islam flog women because of what they wear. If any Muslim in the world says Islamic law or sharia law flogs women for their clothes, let them show me what the Qur’an or Prophet Muhammad said on that issue. There is nothing. It is not about religion, it is about men treating women badly.”

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Filed under (AD)DRESSING GENDER & SEXUALITY, STYLE POLICE & STYLE GURUS

RIP Naomi Sims

“Naomi Sims, whose appearance as the first black model on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal in November 1968 was a consummate moment of the Black is Beautiful movement, and who went on to design successful collections of wigs and cosmetics for black women under her name, died Saturday in Newark. She was 61, her family said, and lived in Newark.”

— Eric Wilson, “Naomi Sims, 61, Pioneering Cover Girl, Is Dead,” New York Times

“Appearing on the cover of Ladies’ Home Journal—and Life magazine, too—was not some esoteric coup noted only by the fashion-obsessed. It was a cultural revelation. Sims pushed black beauty into the mainstream in a way that was more provocative and resonant than a million ‘black issues’ of Italian Vogue.

Sims was also a successful businesswoman with a line of wigs aimed at African-American women. She was a model-turned-entrepreneur long before Tyra Banks ever uttered the word ‘fierce,’ long before Banks was even born.

Those twin cover achievements are far more important and lasting than being able to strut down a runway in 4-inch heels without toppling over or being a designer’s muse. The title ‘supermodel’ is too limited, too modest for what Sims really managed to do. She initiated a dialogue on how our culture defines beauty—a dialogue that continues to this day. She proved that a pretty face does not mean an empty head—a fact that continues to roil our assumptions. And ultimately, she let the world know that a black face—a black woman—is someone to be reckoned with.”

— Robin Givhan, “Naomi Sims Was No Supermodel,” The Root

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Filed under FASHIONING RACE, ON BEAUTY