France’s burkini ban affects all women, not just Muslims

Last Tuesday in France, the country’s highest court voted to overturn a ruling in Grenoble, a city that broke its burkini ban and allowed women to wear full-coverage swimsuits if they so wished.

Since 2016, burkini bans have been in place at public swimming pools in France, but after protests by Muslim women, Grenoble city council voted to suspend the ban last month. France’s Council of State quashed the dispute and reinstated the ban, saying it could not allow “selective exceptions to the rules to satisfy religious requirements”.

The burkini, as we know it, was founded in 2004 by Lebanese-Australian fashion designer Aheda Zanetti, to provide a garment that would allow Muslim women to enjoy the Australian beach lifestyle while respecting their guidelines in modest clothing material.

Since then, he has become the subject of much controversy; France, for example, which prides itself on secularism, has seen it as a symbol of religious extremism.

Cover-up swimsuits, however, aren’t always religious — there are a host of reasons why women may turn to burkini-style swimsuits for trips to the public pool and the beach.

Just ask Lindsay Lohan, who wore a burkini while vacationing in Thailand in 2017. Six years earlier, British TV personality Nigella Lawson caused a stir when she wore a burkini from Muslim brand Modestly Active while vacationing in Sydney. .

Chiara Taffarello, the Italian designer behind luxury modest swimwear brand Munamer, which attended Dubai Fashion Week last year, reveals that around 20% of her customers are non-Muslim.

“Many European women who have ordered a full set of burkini sometimes don’t use the headgear or even the leggings, but buy it because they need a long-sleeved top that covers right down to their half leg,” she said. The National.

“The need to cover the body is not only driven by religion, but can also be for health or personal reasons. If you want to preserve the right to go to the beach and the swimming pool for everyone, I think you can find other solutions and compromises,” says Taffarello, who disagrees with the ban. French burkini.

“For scuba diving and other water sports, swimmers often wear wetsuits that require protection from UV rays or the cold,” she explains, pointing out that burkinis offer the same coverage as a wetsuit. surfing, which remains stigma-free in the western world.

The rise of modest fashion, thanks in large part to social media, has helped break down stereotypes about conservative clothing and swimwear. Not only have athletic brands like Nike and adidas jumped on the burkini bandwagon, but luxury brands like Cynthia Rowley and mass-market stores like H&M have also started designing stylish long-sleeved swimwear.

The UAE has its own share of modest talent when it comes to swimwear design, with brands such as Maya and Nur Swimwear leading the way in stylish burkinis. This spring, Dubai influencer Hadia Ghaleb, who has more than two million Instagram followers, launched an inclusive swimwear brand, giving burkinis a cool and colorful update.

While the fashion industry may have accepted and embraced modest dress, the image of the Muslim veil – now extended to burkini swimwear – remains a passionate political symbol, especially in France, where the country’s senate voted last year to ban the hijab for minors.

However, France’s strict swimwear policy doesn’t just target Muslims; it sends a message to all women across the country that if they want to enjoy swimming in public, they must show their skin – a requirement not all women are comfortable with, whether due to personal preference , skin-related medical issues that make exposure to the sun dangerous or common bodily insecurities.

These strict swimwear policies, which may come across as Islamophobic, misinterpret burkinis as a symbol of cultural or religious patriarchy. However, the prohibitions which oblige women to reveal their skin in swimsuits, making it more digestible for the “male gaze” – something that has influenced fashion for so long – ironically responds to the patriarchal sentiments that maintain the focus on women’s bodies.

They have also set a dangerous precedent for other Western nations when it comes to the surveillance of women’s bodies – something that American and European politicians often argue only happens in the East.

Burkini bans that prevent women from covering their skin while swimming are just as oppressive as forcing women to cover their skin against their will, and cannot be disguised as progressives in the 21st century. The vehemence with which such rulings are upheld and enforced should be extremely concerning to women’s rights advocates, no matter where you float in the burkini debate.

Updated: June 28, 2022, 10:25 a.m.

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