August 15, 2020

Malala Is More Than Her Jeans

posted on: Thursday October 26, 2017

Malala Yousafzai.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

by Hannah Paxton ’19

Asst. Opinion Editor

What does it mean to be a young Pakistani woman in 2017? When Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, she was one voice of the many who demanded that women be offered an education. Despite this horrific event, she did not let it stop her from speaking out for young girls, and becoming the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, her accomplishments do not matter to her meticulous online critics. What really matters to them is that Yousafzai wore jeans on a college campus.

In the grand scheme of Yousafzai’s life, the obsession with her “Western style” attire is minuscule in comparison to the sheer fact that she is currently attending Oxford University when five years ago she was severely harmed for advocating women’s education.

There is so much fear and animosity surrounding an educated young woman because she challenges centuries of unconscious prejudice.  How much of this debate around Yousafzai’s jeans is really about her wardrobe choices? How much of it is really about a Pakistani woman receiving a college education and accomplishing her goals?

We cannot claim to have attained full gender equality when women are still being scrutinized for their appearance. Nor can we claim to be free of bias when Yousafzai’s pants appear to be receiving more attention from the media than her admission to Oxford.

This equality will not be reached until a woman’s apparel is no longer the primary determinant of her value, and until she can be taken seriously regardless of her wardrobe.

Yousafzai is a force to be reckoned with, not because she is a Pakistani girl wearing jeans, but because she represents a better future; one where a woman can achieve her dreams and wear whatever she wants while doing so.

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