The bikini versus burkini debate is led by male dominance over women, not ideology.
What should men wear on the beach? I have never heard anyone ask that question. It has never been part of social security debates, public policy talks, social morality speeches or a politically-charged electoral campaign.
The reason is trivial like its straightforward answer: whatever men want to wear.
Yet if we replace “men” with “women,” the question triggers an intense debate that consumes countries in both the liberal and conservative worlds. The bikini versus burkini controversy is the epitome of this hypocritical treatment over the concept of freedom that plagues policymaking in both “progressive” and “traditional” societies.
Two Worlds, Two Extremes, One Man
In France, a ban on wearing a burkini was dictated by a secular state. The mayor of Cannes reasoned that the full-body swimsuit is “not respectful of good customs and secularism” and “liable to create risks of disrupting public order.” Hence, it is the role of the state to intervene and monitor women’s behavior to save the nation.
In the Middle East, a ban on wearing a bikini and revealing clothes is enforced in several countries. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are examples of conservative Middle Eastern countries that enforce clothing codes on women. The justification is unsurprising: to protect public morality, Islamic values and maintain social order.
Even in other Middle Eastern countries where clothing rules are not strict or common, the issue is just fire smoldering under the ashes. Egypt is a good example of this. In the midst of the turbulence that followed the 2011 revolution, presidential candidates strongly debated a proposal to ban bikinis in Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, the international resorts that drive Egypt’s tourism industry.
In this part of the world, it is the religious state that intervenes to protect society from the fitna, or temptation, of women by dictating how they should cover themselves.
In both worlds, the man sets the rules of the game. He draws the borders that distinguish the “worthy” woman from the “unworthy” one.
In France, the secular man thinks that a woman exposing her physical beauty is a must to attain his respect. In the Middle East, the conservative man views a covered woman as a righteous one that allows him to control his desires.
In both cases, the male-constructed ideologies have developed throughout centuries of misogyny to justify their actions. Women have barely had any contribution in the development of modern secularism or Islamism.
Both of these ideologies employ a male-dominated state, religious institutions, media, businesses and even families to assert their domination.
Thus, whether women live in the East or the West, their worth is still defined by the dictates of the man.
Extremism, Moral Degradation or Misogyny?
The ban on the burkini in France was justified by it being a symbol of Islamic extremism. Yet was it accompanied by a ban on beards, taqiyas or turbans? Aren’t these symbols more associated with Islamic extremism, which is also a male-dominated activity, than a burkini?
The ban and debates on bikinis in Muslim countries have presented the swimsuit as a threat brought about by Western imperialism to cause the moral degradation of Islamic societies. However, were there any parallel bans on revealing men’s clothing?
The bottom line is that debates surrounding these “body-controlling” policies have little to do with warring ideologies. Regardless of the dominant ideological justification, these policies are just a manifestation of man’s eternal effort to assert his moral superiority.
Simply put, the bikini versus burkini controversy should be viewed through the lens of gender rather than ideology.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: People Images
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