Burkinis –why wearing black makes people see red

Posted: 30 August 2016 in Understanding Others
Tags: ,
swimwear

Legal                                    Illegal

From la nation de l’amour, in the name of liberté, egalité, et fraternité  – take if all off ! (well almost all).  French local councils vow to maintain the ban on Islam appropriate swimwear.  You are at liberté to take it all off, but not at liberté to have it all on.

In UK it is an easy laugh at the land of ooo la la! France seeking to uncover women on their beaches.  The French ideal of Laïcité was made to look totalitarian (again).  Meanwhile in UK, these garments are stocked by major retailers (M&S, House of Fraser, even Sports Direct).

We can “tut tut”, and feel self satisfied at this infringement of obvious civil liberties.  And for what – women who wish to have a swim like anyone else, on popular beaches, almost always with their families?  Folk rail at Muslim societies to integrate better – What can be more “integrated” than enduring the M23 or A21, just to get out onto a beach with your kids with thousands of others.  Goodness, I look at my tum and my modest mobs and think “errr.. cover up is no bad idea, esp’ when it gets windy”.

From Australia, not Saudi Arabia

The burkini idea came from Australia, 14 years ago.  When Aheda Zanetti created it, the concept was about fitness and fun, she says. It was a way for Muslim girls and women to take part in Australia’s beach and sports lifestyle.  This sunny, hopeful garment is now banned in 15 French coastal resorts – a ban that was enforced in Nice last week by four armed male police officers compelling a conservatively dressed Muslim woman on a beach to remove clothing.  Easy to think we’d be different, but would we – it we’d suffered bomb outrages in Glastonbury Festival, Brighton Beach or Notting Hill Carnival?

But the burkini does provoke negative responses beyond La Belle France. It is the very act of covering up in a location where so so many are keen to uncover that provokes.  It is a statement of very different values in a crowded place.   It is not a poke at nudism, that naturist belief in human acceptance of ones own body shape, and respect of other people’s body shapes.

Beaches: Baked flesh or Beach Balls?

The burkini is an implicit critique of the promotion of ideal body shapes, (for men as well; as women).  It is a slight to the associated sexualisation of bodies as objects.  It is a (vain) objection to the fetishising of The Female Body.  No scope for anything flabby or that droops.  Only a shape that draws the eye and desires.

The modern torso ideal type has its origins in ancient Greek athletic ideals and associated homo-eroticism.  It is back, big time and now rampant in popular culture.  Ever since Brigit Bardot got on that French beach, Cannes 1953, in that bikini.  Flash bulbs and eyeballs popped.

Blogging as a Christian, I am sympathetic to the burkini’s implicit resistance to the promotion of ideal body shapes.  Of the triumph of the torso.  The big uncover just turns people into objects.  It is individualistic, narcissistic. Not relational.  It is unfair to so many of us non-Muslims who also want to go onto beaches, and who do not sign up for ideal body shapes.

Human meaning is relational.  It will be found with beach balls, not baked flesh.

Bill

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