Bikini, Burkini – Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

– initially entered as a series of ranty comments on an effbook post –

iPhone Photos 049I don’t care WHAT your religion is, or isn’t – no government has the right to tell anybody how to dress. So the government of France doesn’t have any more right to tell people what they can wear at the beach than the government of Saudi Arabia has to tell people what they CAN’T wear at the beach. Rather than banning a clothing style, why not address the root of the problem, which is racism and intolerance? If someone spits on you or assaults you, call the police (that’s what I’ve done). I also don’t care what the news is or isn’t reporting. This isn’t about the news; it’s about human rights.

If the government said “Canadian men are not permitted to remove their shirts because it makes people around them feel weird”, would that be okay? Of course not. (Although we could argue for a while here that in many cases, that would be a PERFECTLY REASONABLE BYLAW.) If the government said “we’re going to ban brimmed ballcaps because a large number of men who commit crimes wear ball caps”, would that be okay? No, because *it’s not the ball cap that’s causing the problem*. It’s inequity that’s causing the problem.

If we’re going to talk about terrorist attacks, let’s talk about the HUNDREDS of mass killings and violence that has been perpetrated by people who aren’t *from away* – again, rather than fear-mongering and stirring up peoples’ dander, why not get at the root of the problem, which is poverty, the shitty level of care for people with legitimate health issues, and cultures that teach violence as an answer to any and everything. I’m not denying people are afraid of people different from themselves – hell, this isn’t new. It’s been going on since the Sumerians enslaved non-Sumerians as a means of control and for cheap labour. If you dehumanise someone it’s much easier to feel better about the inequality they face.

But for Glob’s sake, telling people how do dress at a BEACH? How is this solving anything? Arresting women from one faith who choose to cover up? What is that solving? Is it making the French people any safer? Nope. Is it going to stop any terrorist attacks (from within or from without)? Nope. Is it going to stop people from spitting on women who aren’t covered up? Nope.

It’s like finding a leak in your pipe and deciding the best way to address it is to just not use that tap. It’s ridiculous.

And I’m also not denying that people in France are legitimately afraid of terrorist attacks. And I’m not denying that a lot of French people probably are terrified of identifiable Muslims. I’m saying that’s wrong, and that the government (and probably the media, but what do I know about the media) had a role to play in NOT FOSTERING FEAR OF A SINGLE RELIGIOUS GROUP. And yes, I say this from the relative safety of a third-storey building in Saskatchewan where the most terrorism I’ll ever see is the kind that comes from white Christians.

Yes, I’m mad. I’m mad at this attitude that it’s somehow okay for governments to tell people how to dress. The French constitution is pretty interesting in that there is, at least in theory, separation of church and state. Which is to say the government is far more secular than ours. The government of France is not “socialist”. It’s a republic. But it’s still based in parliamentary procedure, just like the US and Canada. You can’t pass laws based on “feelings”, and the reason this burkini ban was overturned by the French supreme court is precisely BECAUSE it was discriminatory. So calmer minds did prevail.

Let’s not forget that the biggest massacres in French history were not, in fact, in the past year, nor were they perpetrated by Muslims. They were perpetrated by Christians. (St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre saw upwards of 20,000 deaths in the 1500s; the Versailles government executed more than 10,000 prisoners at the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871; British and French POWs were executed by German troops in the 1940s; French police murdered dozens of demonstrators in the Paris massacre of ’61.) So the only real difference here is that the last five attacks on French soil have been perpetrated by identifiably Muslim men for the first time this century. And in four of those five cases, the perpetrators *were French*. But you don’t see the French government trying to pass laws about how non-Muslim French people should dress at the beach.

If Muslims (or anyone else) is harassing, assaulting, or abusing people because of how they dress, then *address that problem*. Creating a blatantly intolerant law that very clearly is aimed only at women from an identifiable religious group is not solving anything. It’s just making things worse.

I should also say, in response to the comment “try going to the beach in Saudi Arabia and wearing a bikini” – try going to Germany and going to an heritage church wearing short-shorts. Try going to powwow and wearing a headdress. Try going to court naked. The argument that “human rights are worse in this other place” is not a great argument. It’s not a race to the bottom. At least, it shouldn’t be. Wouldn’t it be better for France to say, “yeah, you know what, if you wear what you want on a beach in Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested or shot. But not in France. France is awesome. We don’t care what you wear on the beach. Just leave the turtles alone.”

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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