Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Burkinis, again.

A couple of days ago I had a post about the burkini issue in the news ... Burkini beach brawl leads third French city in a week to ban the swimsuit for Muslim women

Pretty much every story I saw in the news about it was of the same opinion - that it was wrong of the French towns to ban women from wearing the burqaa-like swimsuit, and that the law restricting what women could wear was sexism.

I had the opposite opinion, though. I believe that the wearing by women (and only women) of the burkini is itself what's sexist and oppressive. I found it upsetting that so many articles and posts were on the side of restrictive garment-wearing for women. I kept re-writing my post over and over, trying to make my point, and I finally got frustrated and deleted it. But I'll try again to briefly explain my reasoning.

Arguments have been made that wearing a burkini is no more repressive than wearing a wetsuit. Not true. A wetsuit is worn by both men and women and is chosen for a specific purpose, like protection for surfing in cold water. But the burkini is only worn by women and only worn for one purpose - covering up said women. And if wearing a wetsuit is so sweet ... can you imagine being expected to wear one every single time you went to the beach, no matter what you were doing, no matter what the weather, simply because you were a certain gender? That's the byrkini situation.

Another argument is that women *want* to wear the burkini because they are modest and don't want to wear skimpy bikinis. To present the clothing choices for the beach as only the burkini or the bikini is to present a false dichotomy. If someone wants to cover up a bit at the beach, they're options are many: one piece swimsuit, tank top, t shirt, long-sleeved shirt, shorts, skirt, pedal-pushers, slacks, etc. But the burkini isn't a modest clothing choice, it's a required and standardized uniform.

The banning has been criticized as imposing unfairness, but I think it's the democratic state's duty to try to make laws that preserve the most fairness for all in a pluralistic society - and all citizens, including burkini fans, have a part in that through their votes.

But coherence doesn't seem to matter in the burkini argument, and the badness of sexism apparently pales in comparison to the badness of being thought of as a cultural bigot. As a feminist, I find that incredibly depressing. The thing is, it's not just western feminists who might look askance at coerced dress codes in other cultures .... it is the women themselves in those other cultures who are trying to change things, but they are shouted down by conservatives. Here are a couple of stories about two reporters, Asra Nomani (her comment on the burkini) and Hala Arafa, who don't want to have their clothing choices dictated ..... As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity ... and ... The Case Against Wearing Hijab To Support Muslim Women


Anonymous Richard said...

I guess I'm coming around. It's just that there are no good outcomes for the women involved; either don't go to the beach or be publicly humiliated at the beach. On the other hand; there is no choosing here, its compulsion (probably); more than a desire for modesty or a uniform like a Nun's Habit; more like chains and shackles. Is this the place where government should step in and say "no further"?...I can understand the rewrites:)

5:01 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

I just wrote something else about it, mentioning the SSPX and the Russian Orthodox Church, both of which have ideas about what women should wear. It is unfortunate that police are accosting women at the beach who are wearing burkinis, but I think what the French are trying to accomplish - keeping everything secular in public - will be painful at first. It would never happen like that here, but we are a much more religious country than France. Maybe they could try a kind of "grandfather clause" for the burkini?

11:47 AM  

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