There should be no Controversy as Dressing is ones personal Choice
On the one hand, you can’t police what women wear. On the other hand, what if what they wear is a result of policing? Surely, many a young girl in France longs to peel off the burqini and do a Bardot-on-the-beach, but cannot because of coercive pressures from her community and family. We are confronted with the conundrum of civil rights- versus- civil liberties. The ‘burqini’ made a quiet entry on the beaches of Australia in 2004, in contrast with the explosive impact of the ‘bikini’ on the French coast in 1946. The hijab-on-the-beach has now registered on the Richter Scale of Twitter consciousness and is raising blood pressures across the globe, but not in a good way. French officials don’t want the mini-shrouds paraded on their beaches; Leftists say that’s moral policing in reverse. The question that comes powerfully to mind, when faced with the spectacle of burqini-clad women on the beach, is — how on earth do they get their Vitamin D? A quick google search shows that burqa-wearers are indeed afflicted with chronic Vitamin D deficiency. Having said that, there’s no denying that women have a right to wear what the please, when and where they please. But — if a bikini is inappropriate office-wear, it may be argued that a burqini is equally out of place on the beach (especially one sanctified by the divine Bardot in a bikini in 1953). When French prime minister Manuel Valls says the burqini is not in consonance with French values, he has point. It isn’t. Any more than hot pants are in consonance with Saudi values.
Is that a reason to banish the burqini? Well, Syria banned burqas in its universities in 2010. Turkey banned them way back in 1826. France and Belgium have already banned the veil. The Olympics committee, however, has no problem with hijab. At Rio, Kariman Abuljadayel made history by running in what looked like a wetsuit. She didn’t qualify, having placed 7th in a field of 8th, a spectacle that evoked mixed responses — sympathy for a gifted athlete handicapped by a patriarchal culture and triumph among those who saw her as a symbol of diversity. That she may have done better in sensible running gear is apparently beyond the scope of discussion. The psychology behind the burqini ban could well be the established principle that dress is not just an interface between the individual and the social environment, but a means of communication. It not only affects the wearers’ thoughts about themselves, but significantly affects the behaviour of observers. It is a modification of the human body, either as a protective covering or a means of signalling to other members of the species. While most of us use dress as a way of asserting our individuality (and thereby attracting — and keeping — a mate), the reverse may also be true: by wearing a uniform, we downplay our individuality. Schools and workplaces thus regulate dress through formal or informal dress codes.
The burqa certainly downplays individuality. Alas, security concerns in many countries do not allow us to obscure our individual identities, which makes face-covering impractical and in France, illegal. The fact that several Muslim countries have banned the hijab or at least its more extreme body-shrouding forms, while others make it mandatory, seems to indicate that it is not a religious imperative, but a matter of choice. Legally speaking, that is (horribly, we find little girls sexualised through tightly-fitted headscarves even in countries where burqas are not mandatory). Some Muslim women say they choose to wear the burqa because it not only symbolises their religious identity but frees them from sexual objectification. No kidding – research has shown a link between burqas and obesity, bolstering the notion that a burqa, does indeed, free women from having to conform to stereotypical notions of beauty (Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, body, sexuality and health, Vol. 3, Suad Joseph & Afsaneh Najmabad, 2006). On the flip side, it may create practical and psychological impediments to physical exercise, which is unhealthy.
Dress may also be affected by the state of the economy. Strangely, the Hemline Index postulated by economist George Taylor says women’s dresses tend to be longer in times of economic downturn and shoot up when the economy recovers! By that logic and given the current state of the EU, hemlines in Paris may well inch towards the knee, if not the calf.
So, how do we look at the burqini ban? On the one hand, you can’t police what women wear. On the other hand, what if what they wear is a result of policing? Surely, many a young girl in France longs to peel off the burqini and do a Bardot-on-the-beach, but cannot because of coercive pressures from her community and family. We are confronted with the conundrum of civil rights- versus- civil liberties. Or, it could just be about the fact that the burqini, despite desperate efforts by Mssrs. Marks & Spencer to embellish it with prints, spangles and embroidery, is an ugly ass garment!