Burqini farce-o

August 20, 2009 at 2:01 pm Leave a comment

Wars have been fought over the slightest of slights but if you were told that a war was brewing over a piece of synthetic material, would you think it nuts? What if the said material was related to the burqu’ or burkha, the scourge of western feminists? I am, of course, referring to the Burqini – a full body polyester suit in various designs for muslim women to wear at the beach and for sports.

Developed by Ahiida of Australia, the Burqini was designed to allow (some if not most) muslim women new movement, to be able to participate in sport and to experience activities we take easily for granted.

When the Burqini was first revealed in 2006, I could almost feel the palpable relief from young muslim women in Australia, then cautious excitement at the sense of possibilities. It’s damn hard for muslim women in conservative communities (you know which ones, they are everywhere) to have roles outside of wife/mother and a safe job in female (i.e. lower ranked) dominated industries. So it was shocking to read about the ban on the burqini in a couple of towns in France and Italy – one because it was the second time in a public pool and the other merely discrimnatory. Keeping aside the issue of the burkha and the hijab as symbols of female oppression (one could say the same about the bikini and high heels), I see the burqini as a step towards the middle ground of integration, but more importantly, it is a positive means for muslim women to do what has previously been denied them without having to compromise their sense of modesty yet allowing them to play. And everyone knows play is part of the road towards building self-confidence. Why should muslim women have to flee to another country to indulge in a couple of weeks of excess just to feel the sun and wind on their skin? Why do they have to choose between self and family when they want to be who they are without having to either take all or ban all?  Forcing muslim women into a stereotype for hysterical culture wars impedes progress for women and makes it harder for moderate society to feel at ease with their acceptance of diversity. It should always be held in mind that  ‘freedom’ isn’t an absolute and that ‘freedom’ is interpreted differently by each person, but it is freedom to them nonetheless.  So for a woman to choose to wear more or less is an individual choice, preferably one not forced by society or fashion or law. The ability and the capacity to access choice is the real freedom.

There are extremists on both sides of the issue, hard-line feminists and muslim misogynists, neither of which help to advance the development of muslim women. The burqini is new territory for our traditionalist muslim friends, men and women, and also for other communities who are used to objectifying muslim women as simultaneously confronting and pitiable in their giant monotone mu-mus.  I’m delighted that muslim women are realising the change they can make for themselves and slowly pushing for acknowledgements of their contribution to their communities. Although we don’t see it often in news, there are Islamic nations where women are in all levels of society, be it politics, media, economy or the civil service.  These women have successfully planted modernity into their communities without raising a fuss over what they wear.

I’d like to think Australians have  taken the down-to-earth view that we have a great country, we love our outdoors and everyone should be able to enjoy it. Or as Ms Zanetti of Ahiida says, “It’s just a burqini. It’s only just a swimsuit, but it really has gathered up work, confidence, ability … it’s just done amazing things.” And amazing things is what we want for our daughters and sisters and girlfriends.

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Entry filed under: Opinion, Politiko, Women in the world. Tags: , , .

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Evecho’s newsy bits

News, updates and links from the lesbian and publishing ‘verse that interest me, my current projects, keeping up with authors and sharing musings on middle-class life, gourmet adventures and comparisons between East/West perspectives. My opinions will likely be linearly logical and gayly bent, as they tend to be.