In response to Nicole Cox’s April 5 letter to the editor:

For 75 years, Rosie the Riveter has proudly represented the contributions of women during World War II. However, looking at the original Rosie, I notice some things about her appearance. She is white. She is probably thought to be a Christian. She is not a Muslim woman wearing a hijab. She is not black, not Asian, not Hispanic, not Native American and not disabled, at least in any visible way. She is probably not a trans woman, a queer woman or genderqueer. The original Rosie only represents one type of hero, who looks a very specific way.

Ms. Cox stated that the Portland Public Schools are promoting Islam by supporting a hijab-wearing Rosie. Is she aware that the United States Senate requires a reverence for Christianity? At the start of each session, a Christian chaplain opens with a prayer. Everyone is required to stand in respect, even though we don’t have a national religion. (I was a U.S. Senate page, so I know this from personal experience.)

Unlike the U.S. Senate ceremony, the T-shirt with Rosie in a hijab is not forcing religion on anyone. It simply reminds us that Muslim women are empowered and resilient. Despite the prejudice they face, they are standing up for the right to live in peace with equal opportunities.

Let’s support Muslim Mainers by working for equitable laws. Let’s be empathetic and aware. Let’s cultivate friendships with people who seem different from us. We need to work toward a future where all Mainers feel that they belong.

Bethany Marshburn-Ersek