Should A Woman Be Allowed to Wear A Burkini At The Beach?

If you’ve been lurking around social media within the past couple of days, you might have seen this image floating around:

A Muslim woman was fined while relaxing on a beach in Nice, France because she broke a law that forbid women from wearing “burkinis.” A burkini is a swimsuit that some Muslim women choose to wear for modesty purposes because it covers more of the body than a bikini or even a one-piece suit. Think of it like a wetsuit with a bit on top to cover one’s hair. Here are a few examples:

Earlier today, a high court in France overturned the ban after a flurry of international backlash. The burkini was banned in several French cities as a means to “protect public order.” Basically, those for the ban believe that it helps push France’s secular (non-religious) mission. For the record, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. In 2004, France banned hijabs and other overtly religious clothing, including large crosses and yarmulkes, from public schools. This might seem very equal-opportunity, but in 2007, France banned full face Islamic veils like the buqa or the niqab from public spaces. So if you wanted to go shopping rocking a niqab, you could be fined or, at worst, arrested. While one poll indicates that 64 percent of French people back the ban, Muslims feel as if this ban unfairly targeted them.

If you ask me, they absolutely are being unfairly targeted.

Let’s be real: Islamophobia is pretty widespread, and after experiencing three terrorist attacks by people claiming allegiance with ISIS within the last month and a half or so, it’s not surprising that Islamophobia is particularly severe in France. In my opinion, I think that if people were being honest, they’d admit that they don’t want people to wear the burkini or other Islamic articles of clothing because they’re afraid of Muslim people. Instead, many are claiming that the burkini ban is actually a way to help Muslim women. Why? Because many site the burkini and other heavily veiled garments to be oppressive to Muslim women.

Look, we can get into a debate for the rest of time as to whether or not women who wear burkinis and the like are forced to or if they wear them out of their own free will. It’s silly to deny the fact that there are people out there who do feel unfairly pressured to wear them, but it’s even sillier to act as if every single Muslim woman in the world lacks the ability to make a decision for herself. Newsflash: Plenty of Muslim women decide to wear the hijab, burkinis, etc.  It’s in tune with their beliefs, and they have the right to practice their beliefs as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. A burkini isn’t dangerous, it allows these women to swim and chill on the beach while adhering to their beliefs at the same time. For any of us to assume that a woman wearing a burkini wasn’t able to make that decision on her own is disgustingly condescending.

Some more food for thought: Why does it seem like the same people who claim to be in favor of banning burkinis and other religious garb because they care so much about Muslim women’s rights…don’t give a damn about other issues affecting women? Are these same people–particularly right-wing dudes who are in favor of the ban–putting in as much passion into making sure that women receive equal pay? It’s particularly funny to see American dudes who are in favor of this French ban who have never said a peep about advocating for other women’s rights issues like paid maternity leave or abortion access. Nope, they only care about women’s rights when it helps their own anti-Islamic agenda. Charming.

It’s absurd that the same people who are disgusted in what they view as Islam’s restrictions on personal freedom are in favor of… restricting the personal freedom of the women they claim to want to help. This isn’t about helping women, this isn’t about being a feminist, it’s about villainizing Islam and Muslims, period. I assure you that if a nun was at the beach with a similar get up, nobody would suddenly wonder how oppressed that nun is and convince her to take off her habit.

So, here’s an idea: People should be able to wear whatever the hell they want to the beach. Nobody should be forced to take off their clothing to make other people feel “safe.” Ever. It’s great that the French high court overturned the burkini bans, but the bans should have never happened in a country that claims to be the birthplace of democracy.


Do you think that this is unfair? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Siouq

    Sorry, but the comparison with a nun wearing her religious clothing is a false equivalency on many levels. Until and unless you can demonstrate that Catholics coerce their women into wearing nuns clothes when around any men outside their husbands, then the comparison is apples vs oranges. And, frankly, most Muslim women in the world don’t get to make a decision as what to wear ( muslim or not) in Muslim nations.