French police this week surrounded a Muslim woman on the beach in Nice and forced her to remove her “burkini,” a long-sleeved swimsuit with leggings and a head-covering designed to allow women who cover themselves for religious, political, or personal reasons to go swimming while adhering to specific standards of modesty.
According to The Guardian, which has photos of the incident, Nice is one of 15 French towns that have legally banned the full-body bathing suit. Last week French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke out in support of the towns’ burkini bans on the grounds that the garment was ”the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women.”
Let’s go over this again: Police surrounded a woman on the beach and forced her to publicly take off her clothes against her will, and this is supposed to be an act of liberation? Because it sure looks like the state exerting ownership over non-white women’s bodies. You can’t save women from patriarchal rules about how much flesh they can show by enacting patriarchal rules about how much flesh they can show.
Italian Imam Izzeddin Elizir posted a photo to Facebook showing a bunch of nuns at the beach in their habits. Are police going to surround nuns and force them to strip in public, too?
Also on Tuesday, according to The Guardian, another Muslim woman said that police in Cannes had fined her for wearing leggings, a tunic, and a headscarf on the beach.
”I was sitting on a beach with my family,” said the 34-year-old mother, who was there with her children. ”I was wearing a classic headscarf. I had no intention of swimming.”
A witness to the incident in Cannes said that she saw people applauding the police for fining the woman for wearing leggings and a headscarf to the beach, and that other beachgoers were actually shouting, “Go home!” while the woman’s daughter cried.
The woman’s ticket said she was being fined for not wearing ”an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.” Publicly humiliating a woman and traumatizing her children is not “good morals.”
The burkini was invented by an Australian woman named Aheda Zanetti in 2004 so Muslim girls who wear hijab could play sports. She didn’t do sports as a girl because of her modest dress, and she wanted something that would make it easier for her niece and other Muslim girls to participate in sports and go outside and be active.
“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 fear of going to public pools and beaches and so forth, and I wanted girls to have the confidence to continue a good life. Sport is so important, and we are Australian!” she said.
Zanetti says the burkini ban has actually improved her sales, and sales to non-Muslim women have spiked. Some of her customers are buying them to protest the burkini bans, and others are buying them because they’ve had skin cancer. (Nigella Lawson wears one to protect her skin.)
According to The Cut, the legality of the burkini bans has been appealed by the Human Rights League, a French nonprofit, and they will be reviewed on Thursday by France’s highest administrative court.