The Female Of The Species is More Deadly Than The Male
Can I just check, we are in the 21st century, aren’t we? We haven’t been transported back to a time when women were regarded as property?
I only ask because a casual glance around the place might lead you to suspect we had. Everywhere you look, women are being told what to wear. School girls being told their clothing choices are a distraction to their male peers (having been a secondary school teacher, I can safely say that teenage boys are distracted by girls, no matter what their attire. It comes with puberty). Primary school girls being made to swear shorts under their skirts or dresses lest boys see their knickers when they do cartwheels – never mind that these same children change for PE in the same classrooms (this was a rule in Bean’s former school). Women being told they must wear a burqa. Women being told they must not wear a niqāb. And now, women being told they must not be covered up on a beach. Society is telling young girls that their bodies are shameful and grown women that their bodies are the property of the law makers.
I don’t like any rules or laws which tell women what they must or must not wear. By all means, have a school uniform, but don’t set standards of “decency” which essentially tell girls that their bodies are shameful. I wholeheartedly support women who choose to wear a burqa, niqāb, hijab or any other form of covering, but not laws which say they must. Equally, a law which purports to free women who have not chosen to wear a niqāb by telling all women they cannot wear it is ridiculous. You cannot free someone from oppression by applying a different form of oppression.
And now we have the furore surrounding the ban on burkinis. What nonsense is this? In the 1920s, rules about beachwear were enforced by police. Women were routinely subjected to having their bathing suits measured (often by a man) and forced to leave, cover up or be arrested. And whilst rules also existed for men, they were not generally enforced with the same rigour. France, at the forefront of introducing the bikini to the world (so named because of the “explosive” effect it was thought to have on men, after Bikini Atoll, a site of nuclear weapons testing) are now so concerned with what women wear at the beach that cities are banning women from being too covered up. It’s OK to wear something which is essentially three tiny pieces of triangular fabric held together with bits of string, but if you try and cover your body from the world’s prying eyes, you’ll be in trouble with the police.
There are pictures all over the media this week of women at French beaches being made to derobe by make police because they are not showing enough flesh. A woman wearing a cotton beach tunic and leggings, with a headscarf (not a hijab or niqāb mind you, just a regular scarf tied round her hair, which is in a bun) was forced by male police officers (who, incidentally, were wearing far more than she was) to remove her tunic and headscarf because she was in breach of these ridiculous rules.
Just what do the French authorities think they are gaining here? Their constant theme is that women are forced into covering up by their husbands and their religion. I suspect, for the majority of modern Muslim women in France, it is their choice to cover up. France wants to free them from this choice, by taking away their right to choose at all and forcing them not to be covered up.
This is just another example of how the world thinks it has the right to comment on or legislate about what women wear and it has to stop. Women are people in their own right and their decision to bare all or cover up should be exactly that – their decision.
France thinks it is tackling unjust rules in Islam by implementing unjust laws. But they’re not taking on unjust rules, they are discriminating against women, and against one religion in particular. And whilst most Muslims will either follow the rules or defy them, as they see fit, France is playing into the hands of extremists (who often identify as Muslim, whilst simultaneously failing to follow even the most basic tenets of Islam) who will seize on any opportunity to show the Western world as at war with Islam.
Of course, it’s not the burkini itself that France has a problem with; what secular France is afraid of is any show of religious affiliation, particularly Muslim affiliation. It’s as if they think banning the burkini and the niqāb will stop extremists wanting to kill innocent people. And of course, it won’t.
They’re even misguided in their identification of the burkini as a piece of Muslim clothing. In fact it originates from Australia, developed around 50 years ago, no doubt as a way of protecting one’s skin from the sun’s damaging rays. And this is one of thoughts that passes through my head when seeing pictures of the woman on a beach in Nice who was forced to disrobe. The tunic she was wearing is the kind on sale in almost every shop that carries swimwear – sold as a beach cover-up to protect the skin. It’s a sensible piece of clothing. Underneath she is wearing a vest top, and the police – all four of them, as she was clearly a dangerous criminal requiring safety in numbers – have done nothing more than force her to expose her arms to the sun’s damaging rays. A round of applause, if you will.
The other thoughts that go through my head when seeing this picture are
- how shameful it is of these men to force a women, lying on a beach minding her own business, to take off clothes. When did it become more moral to wear less? I’m not even suggesting that wearing next to nothing is immoral – clothing does not determine who is moral and who is not.
- how oppressed this woman must feel now
- how on earth did we get here?
It is time to stop telling women – of any faith or none – what they can and can’t wear. A woman wearing a barely-there bikini or a cotton cover-up tunic is not a risk to your dignity or morality.
We need to come together, men and women alike, to stand against this oppression. Swapping one supposed oppression for a different, definite and legally enforceable oppression does not give women freedom, it gives men power. And the time has come to tell men that they cannot have power over women any more.
edit If you’d like to let France know how outrageous this is, consider signing the petition.