Thanks to our Co-Artistic Director Carly Bodnar for posting this image on her Facebook page earlier today. It's a spot-on visualization of the no-win situation women are all to frequently put in when it comes to their bodies and how they clothe them.
Typically we see women judged because they are not wearing enough clothes, according to our patriarchal society's standards. Skirt too short? You deserved to be sexually assaulted. Wear a crop top but don't have a six-pack? Cover up that gross tummy! Flash a nipple? At best, be told to put it away; at worst, have a word like "Nipplegate" associated with your name forevermore, other accomplishments be damned.
But now, it appears, women can also be targeted for covering up too much. In recent weeks, several beachfront towns in France have enacted bans on "burkinis" - essentially flowy wetsuits with hoods that Muslim women can wear to swim and still adhere to their religion's dress code. The burkini was invented in 2004 by an Australian Muslim woman, Aheda Zanetti, and has been used by Muslim women around the world with relatively little fuss. That is, until this summer, when French coastal towns started banning the swimwear from their city's beaches. While Villeneuve-Loubet mayor Lionnel Luca cited "hygienic reasons" for the ban, it's evident that the crackdown is a result of rising anti-Islamic sentiment in France following multiple terrorist attacks in the country allegedly masterminded and perpetrated by extremist Islamic terrorists.
The city of Cannes was more transparent about their motivations, saying in their ruling, "Beachwear which 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 (crowds, scuffles etc) which it is necessary to prevent." Of course, the ruling says nothing about whether showing up to the beach in a Catholic nun's habit, yarlmulke and prayer shawl, or bathing suit emblazoned with images of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will get you bounced from Cannes famed beaches.
These rulings are troublesome because not only do they reek of religious discrimination, once again, women's bodies are made the battleground for a larger cultural debate. Just like women who hit the beach in bikinis, whether or not they have the culturally-approved "beach body," Muslim women who wear burkinis because they want to stay true to their religious beliefs just want to enjoy their summer, soak up some sun and cool off in the waves, not be harassed and humiliated. Adding insult to injury, one French government official tried to defend the ban, saying in an interview that, like the burqa, the burkini is offensive because it's purpose is "to hide women’s bodies in order to better control them." So, the best way to prevent women's bodies from being controlled is to...control women's bodies? Did I mention these statements were made by a woman? Good luck unraveling that knot of sexism.
On the bright side (if there is a bright side) is that women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are not having this shit. And why should we? There's less than a month of summer left; let us enjoy it in peace, and when it comes to what we wear while we do it, mind your own business.