From The Editors Travel

Bikini or Burkini, My Choice

Fashion matters. It influences the imagination and drives the way people uniquely represent themselves. The evolution of the women’s swimsuit is one place where there has been a visible shift away from modesty.

In the current world of swimwear, small is often beautiful and less is considered more desirable. But designer and actress Jessica Rey asks, “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?” Rey argues that within the construct of modesty, there is freedom—that modesty isn’t about covering up what’s bad, but about revealing dignity. Women’s swimwear and more women’s attire has attracted controversy and has impelled societies to legislate or regulate women’s choices throughout these ages.

Historians, sociologists, and anthropologists have argued about it for decades, but the seemingly simplistic statement that women’s bodies are a battleground has some truth to it. Formally or informally, men in some way or the other have been making rules about women’s attire for a very long time and molding the definition of “modesty” in the society.

The idea that women in the west are the most liberated in the world. Whereas, women in the other communities live differently; and are, therefore, assumed to be oppressed. Of course, women are oppressed elsewhere, but it is a mistake to believe that “they” are oppressed and “we” are liberated. This false binary makes invisible ways in which women elsewhere are not 100% subordinated, and women here also suffer from gendered oppression.

It is a hot topic on which many debate in the society today a to which is worse: the rigid and extreme standard of beauty in the west and the way that women’s bodies are exposed to scrutiny or the idea of living underneath a burka that disallows certain freedoms, but frees you from evaluative eyes and the consequences of their negative appraisals.

“Women’s bodies should never be compared to any object to be consumed. Women deserve more credit, and so do men! When we teach women to cover up to protect and spare people from their “inappropriate,” “vulgar,” or “too-tempting” bodies, we are once again teaching them that their power is in their bodies and their displayed sexuality.

we're still reinforcing all that women's bodies exist for the male view.
we’re still reinforcing all that women’s bodies exist for the male view.

We’re still reinforcing to men and women that women’s bodies – whether deemed “modest” or “immodest” – exist for the male view. And we’re also continuously teaching the myth that men are powerless to the sight of female bodies and can’t be held responsible for their thoughts and actions.” Say the Kite sisters at Beauty Redefined.

The word “burkini” is a portmanteau of the burqa–the loose head-to-toe garment with a mesh slot over the eyes worn in public by women in some Muslim countries—and the bikini. An Australian woman of Lebanese origin created a swimsuit for Muslim women designed to permit them to keep their bodies covered while working as lifeguards on Australian beaches. Her design was dubbed the burkini or burqini. Burkinis include the head, torso and limbs much like a wetsuit with a hood.” It was about integration and acceptance and being equal and about not being judged. It was difficult for us at the time, the Muslim community, they had a fear of stepping out. They had a fear of going to public pools and beaches and so forth, and I wanted girls to have the confidence to continue a healthy life… I wanted to do something positive—and anyone can wear this, Christian, Jewish, Hindus.

It’s just a garment to suit a modest person or someone who has skin cancer, or a new mother who doesn’t want to wear a bikini; it’s not symbolizing Islam.” She said in an interview. The word conflates the words bikini and burqa, a full-body covering with only a mesh screen for the eyes. Burqas are worn primarily in Afghanistan and some other Middle Eastern countries. France being both exceptionally secular and unusually fearful of Islamic extremism following the last month’s truck attack in Nice that killed 86 people and slaying of a Catholic priest during Mass in Normandy, both claimed by the Islamic State group has put a ban on the burkini trend as t. He burkini violates France’s century-old commitment to promoting secularism in public life.

While the burkini’s defenders have argued that the wearing of the garment has nothing to do with promoting bloodshed, mayors have countered that wearing the outfits could undermine public order by making other beachgoers angry or afraid. The French, who famously ban baggy men’s swim trunks from their pools, argue that excessively large women’s swimwear poses a similar risk to public hygiene. The first article of the French Constitution enshrines this principle, while polls show French people are among the least religious in the world. France repeatedly has cited this secularist agenda when targeting Muslim practices that are seen to push religion too far into mainstream society. French Muslims say they feel stigmatized by the restrictions, while some police officers have complained that the new rules are too vague or problematic to be enforced. Major retailers in Britain sell burkinis. Elsewhere in Europe, burkinis are rare, but no municipal ban exists.

Women in Muslim countries wear a range of swimwear, from bikinis to full-length garments, reflecting their personal tastes and understanding of their faith. Religious conservatives, who have been gaining ground, say such bans perpetuate a colonized mentality by enforcing western inspired freedoms and styles. Burkini wear has generated a debate in Morocco, which has a large tourism industry. In Egypt, some resorts, elite clubs, and restaurants ban veils entirely and the wearing of burkini style outfits in swimming pools. “As a Muslim woman, I have been as captivated as much as the rest of the world with the stories in France surrounding the “Burkini” ban.

The extreme absurdity of seeing a group of gun-carrying men in uniform, forcing a woman to undress makes me weep for the state of humanity. The idea that such a simple form self- and religious expression could become such a flash point is almost beyond belief. And that it happened in one of the world’s most prominent liberal democracies is horrifying.” Says Tala Raassai who is an Iranian-American fashion designer

police appearing to instruct a clad beachgoer to remove her tunic stirred indignation.
police appearing to instruct a clad beachgoer to remove her tunic stirred indignation.

The image shows the Nice police appearing to instruct a burkini clad beachgoer to remove her tunic stirred indignation online. Human rights groups petitioned France’s highest administrative authority, the Council of State, which plans to issue its ruling on Friday on the burkini ban.

“Can’t we decide what we want to wear in 2016?” wondered Sarah Fakih from Lyon, France, in a comment, she wrote to The New York Times. “If one wishes to dress skimpily or to be almost nude or to be covered from head to toe, isn’t that a personal choice that cannot be dictated by law?”

Men and women in the West tend to have strong opinions about the attire worn by Muslim women. In the media as well as in private many bemoan the fact that Muslim women are apparently unable to wear what they want, ‘have’ to cover themselves up and are subject to what we see as external constraints imposed upon them by others, mostly men. Here in the West, we smugly tell ourselves and each other, it’s not like that; women are free to wear what they want.

This is why, in countries like France and Italy as well in the UK debate is currently taking place about whether or not women should be allowed to wear the ‘Burkini,’ a full body swimsuit, to public swimming pools or on beaches. “Freedom is not about the amount of clothing you put on or take off, but about having the choice to do so. The last time I went to a beach in France, I saw women who wore hijabs, covered from head to toe, walking on the same beaches as women in their European-cut bikinis. Their freedom of choice empowered me. I found a new respect for women who chose to cover themselves in accordance with their religious beliefs. I also respected those who fearlessly wore bikinis. All of these women had made a choice about how they wanted to present themselves.

Women all around the world should be able to wear what they desire without the fear of judgment, punishment or coercion. When these simple freedoms of choice are taken away from anyone, it takes away their independence and humanity. Allowing the government, religions or even family to dictate such things to her takes away her humanity and reduces her to an object to be controlled by others.

When I moved from a country that forced me to cover myself to a place where I had the freedom to wear what I desired, the meaning of liberty of choice stood out to me.

When I woke up in the morning and considered what I wanted to wear, I realized that I didn’t have to think about rules, restrictions, judgments or punishment. I could finally use my clothes to create an identity for myself the way I wanted to. Today, I am a swimsuit designer because I love fashion and believe that fashion is a form of freedom. While I do not choose to cover myself, I am proud of my Muslim traditions, and I applaud women who do wear hijabs and burkinis.” Tala Raassi

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