Burkini and the Breast: Sisters in Feminism

When I started this blog back in January, I had no idea I’d be writing so much about boobs.  In fact, believe it or not, IRL I don’t given even my own breasts that much thought unless I pop a wire or something, but here we are.  I’ve already written about imposed modesty here and why I think the Free the Nipple movement is important even if you prefer to keep your hooters covered here.  But I am not done.  Ok, today’s blog isn’t really about boobs (sorry), it’s about the Burkini.  Kudos to whomever coined my new favorite term.  The next round of coffee is on me.

If you haven’t actually seen a Burkini, here’s a picture of the beachwear for those women desiring full coverage.  Surprisingly enough they are gaining some popularity among all types of women, not just the Muslims who inspired the style.  You might want one if you are a skin cancer survivor, for example.  Also, they look really comfortable, like they might keep sand out of places you don’t want sand.

burkini

Unless you live in France.  French authorities are actually demanding that women wearing too much clothing on the beach disrobe.  Burkinis are banned.

Let’s first dispense with any pretense that this is about feminism.  Feminism is about women wearing whatever the hell they want.  So if a parade of topless women walks by demanding the right to tan their ta-tas wherever men can go topless, that is feminism.  If most women on Le Sandy Shell Beach cover body parts X, Y, and Z, but a FOREIGNER shows up covering her whole alphabet and you object, that is not feminism.  That is Islamophobia.  See the difference?

If you want to have a conversation about how women all over the world are oppressed or controlled by the societies in which they live, please be my guest.  It’s a great conversation to have, but let’s dig a little deeper than shaming women for what they choose to wear.  Let’s talk about how women in the US only make 79 cents for every dollar men make. Or about how there are so few women in American politics.  Let’s talk about that.

Modesty is not an absolute.  It’s a cultural construct.  You can say it’s about religion if you really think you can separate religion from culture in any useful way. But this means you accept a variation in religious norms. If you really believe that Christian women cover their breasts because God requires modesty, but Muslim women cover their hair only because Muslim men are sexist pigs, then just go ahead and admit to us all that you have no tolerance or understanding for other cultures or religions other than your own.  And yes, I am ashamed of you.  You should work on that.

Let’s try an empathy exercise.  You are a strong independent woman of means, and you decide to expand your horizons by traveling to the planet Stripteaze to gaze upon the rubied shores of the Double D Mountains.  Upon your arrival, you are required to remove all your clothing and walk naked through the streets in front of all the Stripteazians.  If you think this might make you uncomfortable or you wouldn’t want your mother to do it, maybe you can begin to imagine how a woman raised wearing a hijab feels when asked to uncover her head.  Naked.  That’s how she feels.  Naked and exposed.  And none of us should have to feel vulnerable about our bodies.  Whether we wear a Burkini or nothing at all.  That’s feminism.