Sunday, May 20, 2018
On Saturday morning, millions of Americans (some, somewhat guiltily) tuned in early to watch the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. One of the many celebrities in attendance was Amal Clooney, the British human rights lawyer and law professor who is married to actor/director/activist George Clooney.
In her day job, however, Clooney is a visiting professor at Columbia Law School and a practicing human rights attorney, currently handling an important case on freedom of the press in Myanmar.
The Washington Post recently ran an interesting piece suggesting that Amal Clooney's fashion prominence is a calculated means to elevate attention to the human rights causes that she champions as a working lawyer. In a May 2018 Vogue cover story, for example, Clooney highlighted not only her fashion choices, but a case on genocide and violence against women that she has been handling.
For most of us in the human rights field, this would be a tough juxtaposition to manage. And really, how many of us are even making fashion choices?
Importantly, not all of Clooney's public appearances involve fashion. For instance, just a few weeks before the royal wedding, Clooney moderated a substantive Columbia Human Rights Institute discussion with the outgoing UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. As reported by the Institute, Zeid and Clooney discussed the serious problem of the lack of fair trials around the world: “I know we both feel that governments are increasingly using courts as a tool for repression and able to do it quite successfully, unfortunately so far,” said Clooney. “We’re collaborating on a project now where the UN High Commissioner’s office and my foundation are developing training in international human rights standards so we can have some monitors: people in courtrooms watching trials and reporting on the fairness of trials all over the world.” Zeid also emphasized the importance of human rights study in law schools, and encouraged schools in other fields to similarly start human rights centers.
No mention was made of the label responsible for Clooney's sensible black outfit. In this instance, fashion was not the point.
But, just days before the law school's final exams, the event was held in a packed auditorium.
So is Amal Clooney's stealth fashion-human rights strategy working? Should more of us up our fashion game just a bit, in service of human rights?