How sexism still haunts the brilliant Amal Alamuddin

comment1I was astounded and disappointed on reading last week’s Hello! Magazine article about the wedding of Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney. Naturally, the magazine focused on her style, being a fashion magazine – which is fine.  But what appalled me was the complete and utter disregard of her professional achievements. Without explicitly saying so, the article implied that George has his sights set on the Oval Office, where Amal will do her duty as first lady and fulfill the role of faithful and beautiful wife.

The problem is not that a high-profile actor sees a future for himself in politics. That’s great for him. But Amal is far more qualified than her husband for a career in politics. The article slyly refers to their future together in the White House not by comparing George’s qualities to those of past presidents, or the obvious capabilities of Amal, but by contrasting her wardrobe choices to those of past, present and future first ladies of global jurisdictions – Jackie Kennedy, Carla Sarkozy, Michelle Obama, Samantha Cameron and Catherine Middleton.

Amal, being burdened with high-profile clients, must adhere to a boring working wardrobe, according to Hello! Magazine. It must be difficult, they say, having to wear “conventional” clothes everyday. But fear not, brave Amal finds a solution in “sharply cut power suits” and “neutral shift dresses”, thankfully finding room to express herself and her flair for fashion amid her busy schedule. Thank god for that. Panic over.

Amal’s success has been totally eclipsed by our obsession with women’s physical appearances and age old prejudices. Why is there so much attention being given to her looks, when she has so much more to her name than just that? It seems that we place far more value on her ability to team a Ted Baker dress with large sunglasses and a black leather handbag for an average working day, than the substantive content of her average working day. From reading news pieces and listening to the radio, I can tell you that Amal is tall, wealthy, Lebanese, gorgeous, married to George Clooney and on Vanity Fair’s best-dressed list. What I couldn’t have told you is that she is engaged in advisory work related to human rights in the Middle East, that she is fluent in English, French and Arabic, that she has worked as a legal advisor to judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, and that she was part of the legal team defending Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, against an extradition request by Sweden.

Why is Amal, and so many other wives of famous men, seen as a pretty thing to look at while her husband does the important work, when it is she infact who has made more of a difference in the world so far, she who has had a distinguished and successful political career?

I am not saying that it is wrong to admire someone’s wardrobe. We all do it; it’s fun. Fashion is fun. But why, when admiring the wardrobe choices of a successful women, is no consideration given to her actual success? Not even one sentence. Instead she is portrayed as someone who has conquered fashion and married well, as opposed to a driven lady who has triumphed in the courts of law. I know which achievement I would rather have on my skillset, as would most of my peers.

Bláithín Sheil

Bláithín Sheil is a final year Law and French student. After a year abroad in Strasbourg, she feels more French than Irish. Loves to run. She is the Deputy Comment Editor of Trinity News.