The mayor of Cannes and others are outraged yet again by some Muslim women’s swimming attire. How to defy the idiocy? You can wear one yourself
By Remona Aly
Wahey – it’s that time again, people! The burkini is all the rage for the ump-flippin-teenth time, and our latest dip into controversial swimwear politics comes from – you’ll never guess – the French. The mayor of Cannes is going trigger-ban happy by curtailing the right to swim while covered on the French Riviera. The ruling states: “Beachwear that ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order.” I don’t think that thought crossed Nigella Lawson’s mind, to be honest.
Nigella Lawson in her burkini on Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Matrixpictures.co.uk
Nothing says “losing the plot” to me more than demonising what is, let’s face it, a wetsuit. Is full-piece swimwear really more offensive than seeing a middle-aged bum crack? Is it really going to terrorise your Mr Whippy into a total meltdown?
‘Nothing says losing the plot to me more than demonising what is, let’s face it, a wetsuit.’ Photograph: AP
Non, they say, we must ban the burqa. Ban the burkini! Ban the bikini! Oh no, wait, the last one is OK because it’s not related to religion or politics. Apparently. Let’s not forget that back in the 50s, the itsy-bitsy bikini was not so welcome in wider society either: in addition to censure from the Catholic church, it was banned in Spain, Portugal, Australia, Italy and many states across the US. It was even banned from beauty pageants after contestants in the first Miss World scandalously wore the two-piece swimwear.
Politicians talk constantly about integration and inclusion, and then proceed to kick out to the fringes the very women they claim are oppressed and excluded from society. The doublespeak is getting beyond annoying now. There is even a clampdown on private events: recently the local mayor of Pennes-Mirabeau, near Marseilles, called to ban a private pool party hosted by Muslim women in a water park. Less than a week later the organisers received death threats, which led them to cancel.
So in defence of the burkini, here are five reasons for defying the idiocy and trying one out:
1. Launch a media frenzy
The next time you fancy a swim, remember that a burkini will ensure your doggy paddle becomes a Twitter sensation. So why not take the world’s focus away from the stuff that really matters? The rise of food banks, doctor shortages and human rights abuses just don’t get people lathered up as much.
2. Save on suncream and waxing
A burkini could be your answer to saving money on sun lotion as well as those painful trips to the beautician. All worries about skin cancer and resembling a cavewoman can be left at home, so just think what you could spend the savings on instead. A burkini picnic on the Cannes Riviera perhaps. Remember to try not to look like a threat to public safety while scoffing that jam sandwich.
3. Diversify women’s lib
Refuse to be pushed out of the debate by the ones who claim to uphold women’s lib while saying you couldn’t possibly be a feminist if you’re covered up. Women are a beautifully complex, complicated and massively diverse half of the human race. Although it may shock some that swimwear does not top the list of a woman’s life priorities, we shouldn’t be limited, silenced, patronised or pushed out of public life – and least of all women’s rights – because we choose to wear a full-body swimming costume, or a two-piece for that matter.
‘Who knew that a little trip to M&S swimwear department could result in a terrorist purchase?’ A burkini sold by Marks & Spencer. Photograph: Marks & Spencer
4. Highlight the ridiculous
Who knew that a little trip to M&S swimwear department could result in a terrorist purchase? Thierry Migoule, Cannes’ head of municipal services, claimed: “We are not talking about banning the wearing of religious symbols on the beach … but ostentatious clothing referring to an allegiance to terrorist movements that are at war with us.”
Migoule appears to believe that Muslim ladies doing their holiday shopping are thinking: “Does my bomb look big in this?” But don’t worry, ladies, the only things looking unsightly here are the overt hate and the hypocrisy.
5. Celebrate freedom
Though some are falling over themselves to restrict freedom of dress, celebrate the meaning of true democracy by buying one of many choices available to you in swimwear, and remind Monsieur le Mayor that égalité is also about diversité. They may take our lives, but they will never take our burkinis.
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About the author
Remona Aly is a journalist and commentator with a focus on faith and lifestyle. She is also director of communications for Exploring Islam Foundation.
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