this evening, i read about the burkini issue in cannes. i should first note that i clearly recall living through post 9/11 anxieties and can only imagine what kind of desperation french leaders must feel after the multiple attacks that france has sustained, but banning burkini-clad women from beaches does not stop terror attacks. [though the move certainly does work to deepen a cultural divide, but i digress …]
i have been thinking about the bodies affected by the law. contrary to what cannes mayor david lisnard might have folks believe, these are not the bodies of extremist terrorists that are banned from this french riviera hot spot. [i know, i know, hasna aiboulahcen, but she is in a distinct minority.] the move smells of oppressive patriarchal contradiction.
in western perspective, the muslim woman often exists as a trope steeped in assumptions of submission, lack of agency and identity, even abuse. i will not begin to argue that such a role is never embodied by muslim [or christian] women. however i do point out that the west relies heavily on a damsel-in-distress narrative to justify the hatred of islam. and the burqa is the most frequently cited bit of evidence. we want to liberate these women from the religion-imposed censorship of their bodies.
does it make sense then to further oppress the bodies of those who are branded as needing western salvation?
or does this flip the script? are the formerly oppressed women now the ones to be feared?
whatever the intent, lisnard attempts to impose the ultimate act of censorship – erasure of bodies from a public place.
the muslim women in my life are every bit as smart, sassy, and self-sufficient as any of us. they are feminists, scholars, doctors, dentists, teachers, mothers, sisters, friends, and they surely don’t need me rushing to categorize or even defend them. i only add this to emphasize that faith is one facet of a full life. many women choose to wear gorgeous hijab and cover much of their bodies – not to submit to a husband or father, but because their choice pleases their god.
rape victims still encounter blame and shame about a hemline. and yet, in some backwards twist of fear/hate, women are being banned from a beach for being too modest.
what a fraught moment to inhabit the female form.
[incidentally, some of these suits are super pretty.]