So talk of the town is that France is once again banning the Burqa, or more specifically the burkini swimsuit, from public spaces. Supposedly it liberates women, condemns terrorism, and promotes French culture…or something. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
My obligatory list of disclaimers: Countries have the right to control their borders and to preserve and promote their national identity and culture. I’m not going to argue that the Burqa is liberating, feminist, or just another choosy choice. I’m also not going to argue that identification isn’t a safety concern. If a private establishment such as a store needs you to show your face for security cameras, you need to show it. If a government official or law enforcement needs to see your face, you need to show it. If a private establishment says, “No masks or sunglasses,” that applies to burkas. Any kind of photo ID such as a driver’s license needs to show your face. And most Muslims and Islamic scholars agree. Equal rights, not special rights.
With that being said, do you really think banning the Burqa outright has anything to do with any of these goals? Puhleeze. Maybe they didn’t notice, but the majority of terrorist attacks aren’t committed by women in burkas…they’re committed by *men.* That’s right, it’s another example of the infamous male violence we feminazis always whine about. So how do we solve the problem of male violence? Well, OBVIOUSLY, it is to police the clothing, speech, and activities of women! Not actually to address men, or male culture, or the males being violent! No way!
Picture this: A country decides to end sexual assaults against women, promote women’s liberation, and condemn male violence by banning women from wearing provocative clothing in public instead of addressing the men who assault women. Stupid, right? Well, how is banning the Burqa any different? It’s not. So where do people claiming feminism come off saying that banning the burkini is some kind of statement against, or somehow putting an end to, child marriage, honor killing, domestic violence, etc? For real?
Here’s an idea. Work with the Muslim community, and especially Muslim women, to end the roots of violence and patriarchy in their culture. Don’t antagonize them. Ban destructive customs such as honor killings and make sure they are prosecuted by the courts (in case laws against committing murder aren’t enough). Encourage dialogue between communities in schools, universities and workplaces. Include Muslims in French culture without ultimatums.The list could go on. And none of them include blaming or policing women for men’s shortcomings. I guarantee you once you address the ROOT of the problem and SOLVE it, Muslim women will have the same rights and freedoms as any other woman and the burka problem will solve itself without government intervention.
As I said earlier, countries have the right to police their borders and preserve and promote their national identity and culture. If those boundaries exclude Muslims, or exclude certain articles of Islamic faith, that is their right even if I think it’s abhorrent. But if hegemony is what you want, you need to say so upfront. No country that proclaims liberty the way France does has any business restricting freedom of speech and religion, and possibly freedom of association, the way France is trying to do. It’s not liberty to restrict and conceal ideas that you find objectionable. It’s fascist. If that is your goal, them say so. That way Muslims and all those who value liberty know where they stand. They can choose to either protest or leave. Enough with the double speak because believe it or not, Muslims aren’t stupid.
It’s not even just Muslims. Conservative Christians and Jews often wear similar swimsuits. People with highly sensitive skin, with disfigurements, or who are skin cancer survivors also like burkinis. Swimmers like them because they are sleek, warm, practical…and many find them attractive. Imagine that! Are you going to tell a melanoma survivor that she can’t swim or enjoy the outdoors because you don’t like how she is dressed? Or that she needs to endanger her health to enjoy the same rights as everyone else? That her tunic might inspire a total stranger to blow up the Eiffel Tower? Pound sand.
As can be predicted, the laws of physics were put into motion with this burkini ban: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The opposite reaction? If women can’t cover up in public spaces by wearing a burka, they, or rather their men, cover up in an even more radical way! Muslim women just don’t go out in public at all! Before Muslim women could do what they wanted in French society if they covered up…now they aren’t even part of French society. They are confined to their homes, and not necessarily by their choice. Their men keep them at home. Their men forbid them from participating in society while uncovered. And France and her defenders don’t seem to care. Shouldn’t they, if their concern is for the rights of Muslim women? Yes, but that was never their concern to begin with. That was their excuse. Their real concern was making sure “authentic” French people didn’t have to look at Muslims. In that respect, the burka ban is a smashing success.
To me, this is a classic example of the dualistic possession by men of women’s bodies. As others have said, conservatives (in this case Muslim men) want women to be private property, and protecting private property means concealing it’s treasures in public, to be revealed only in the presence of the “owner” (husband or father.) By contrast, liberals (mainstream French culture) want women to be public property and all but fully exposed for the world to “enjoy.” Why can’t Muslim women be the property of…Muslim women?
By the way, I have several burkinis and France need not worry. France will never see them, nor will they see a dime of my money or a moment of my patronage.