In case you’ve been averting your eyes from the news (and who can blame you at this point), French authorities have banned the burkini from up to 15 beaches in Nice and Cannes and have gone so far as to fine and make Muslim women undress outside and in public.
(Pause for rage blackout now.)
So this week, Aheda Zanetti — the original burkini inventor — has opened up about her thoughts on this racist nonsense.
“I think [the burkini] is totally misunderstood,” she told WWD. “I feel sorry for the people who are going to be affected by it. The burkini was intended to integrate and bring people together. To give them the freedom of choice to wear something modest if they choose to be modest for whatever reason they need to be modest for. It should be happy and positive. It is turning something meant to give women the freedom of participating in health and fitness into a negative thing.”
And for the record, it’s straight-up racism that is turning the burkini into a negative thing. The French court has upheld a ban on the piece after human rights groups (“human rights groups”) complained and said the ban “was necessary to avoid public disorder after a wave of attacks by Islamic extremists.” The mayor of Cannes? He went on to condemn beachwear that “ostentatiously displays religious affiliation.” And yet nuns have been able to hang on the beach wearing their garments.
And as nuns should! Because what a woman chooses to wear for whatever reason is absolutely none of our business. Which means that if a Muslim woman wants to wear a burkini to the beach, she should be able to wear a goddamn burkini to the beach. To start, it is 2016 and we have been policing women’s choices since the dawn of actual time. And it is awful and demeaning and horrible and the worst, so: if you would like to tell a woman what she can wear, you can fuck off. That’s it, that’s all, it’s really that simple.
But it also is not. Because the ban on the burkini isn’t just about policing women, it is about projecting a hateful rhetoric onto Muslims, drumming up unfounded fears, and stripping (in this case literally) them of basic human rights. How fucking dare we attribute the clothing choices of a Muslim women to anything other than choice to wear certain clothes. Especially since there hasn’t been a ban on religious wear en masse following attacks by the likes of, say, lone wolf Christian men. (Read: everybody’s still wearing crosses and no one’s telling priests to take their collars or nuns to take off their habits off because inherently, we know that to ban clothing based on the acts of a few is a gross infringement on human rights.)
Especially since we all know better. We know that extremists do not reflect the beliefs of a majority. That’s why they’re extremists. That’s how extremists work. Here’s a history lesson: the KKK are allowed to march in their robes and hoods with no bans or fines, and in their wake, Christians are not being subjected to, well, anything. And yet in France (and in so much of the western world), we watch authorities thinly veil their racist rhetoric by the lie that they are “helping” Muslim women. That they are “liberating” them. “Protecting” them.
Here’s a fun fact: we are not “freeing” Muslim women by telling them what they can wear. We are policing them and we are demeaning them and we are controlling and hurting them. We are not treating them like human beings. We are using claims that we are “protecting” them from “disaster” to fuel prejudices and hatred. It is embarrassing. It is gross. And we need to call it out when we see it, because sitting silently just perpetuates it even more.
So if you’re somebody who’s anti burkini, I’m sorry if a woman’s right to choose her own clothes makes you uncomfortable. I’m sorry if you think Muslim women shouldn’t get to hang out on beaches wearing something they feel great and super-fly in. I’m sorry if you think that “liberation” comes in the form of authorities (and the supporters of said authority) using faux sentiment to cover up their own bullshit prejudices. It makes me sad that you’ve allowed ignorance to eclipse common sense and human decency. It makes me sad that instead of educating yourself, you’ve chosen to bask in the bleak familiarity of “us vs. them” rhetoric. And even more, it makes me sad to think of how wrong you are.