From France to Sydney, places to swim still a beachhead for bigotry 

More commentary on beachwear by Shree Paradkar:

As reported here in July, a hijab-wearing Scarborough mother was told to leave the pool if she didn’t change her daughter’s long shorts and T-shirt, although they were swimwear. (It was deemed okay for her son to wear that.)

In the United States in June, the American Red Cross was forced to apologize after a social media post elicited outrage over a safety poster that labelled white kids “cool” for obeying the rules and kids of colour “uncool” for disobeying them.

In France, the city of Cannes and 15 towns chose to uphold the nation’s traditions of liberté and egalité by imposing more rules around women’s clothing. On Aug. 12, it banned the burkini — full body-covering swimsuits — on its beaches. The ban does not apply to full-body covering scuba diving suits. Perhaps there was a safety angle to this?

There isn’t. The city’s decidedly non-Muslim mayor had decided burkinis were “the uniform of extremist Islamism, not of the Muslim religion.”

 Pools and beaches have also become battlegrounds over modesty — for women.

Beach volleyball matches in Rio provided the perfect showcase to visualize that spectrum of modesty as the uniforms ranged from itsy bikinis and tankinis to full sleeves and full pants (including a hijab option).

Why do so many female competitors wear so little and men compete in tanks and shorts? USA Today asked its nation’s beach volleyball team this question. The communication’s manager said the team’s female athletes choose to wear bikinis, “because there are less places for sand to hide.”

That explanation appears disingenuous.

There is an authentic — and valid — reason to wear so little: vanity. Who wouldn’t want to show off those incredibly sculpted bodies? I know who; those who value modesty as a virtue.

You may or may not be comfortable with that moral code, but if you agree women have a choice to wear little then you agree they have a choice to cover up.

Women’s sports get sexualized to varying degrees and in the highly sexualized beach culture, one set of athletes gets leered at and the other gets jeered at. On that front, neither side wins. Yet, one side is perceived as the “free” and the other as the “oppressed.”

….Going to the seaside can be a time of calm reflection and recreation, so why does stripping down to get into water end up stripping down the notion of inclusiveness?Through the 20th century, going to a pool to swim meant you could afford to pay for it, going to a beach meant you could afford the time for leisure. Both symbolized privilege and luxury, available to a select few.

Gradually opening pools and beaches to all people diluted that privilege. Modern laws don’t allow for direct exclusion, but being offended by what others wear, or how they behave, simply allows the threatened elite to disguise their bigotry.

Source: From France to Sydney, places to swim still a beachhead for bigotry | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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