The burkini of contention

Oct 3, 2016 | Trends

By Adriana Bertorelli


Tradition or treason?

These days much has been written about the ban of Burkini on many French beaches. For those who do not know yet what the issue is about, we follow with a summary. The Burkini is a two-piece swimsuit that covers the wearer from head to toe – it only exposes the face, hands, and feet. Muslim women have begun wearing it to go to the beach.

Although, the burkini appeared in 2003, (its name is a clear combination of burka and bikini because it is a two-piece swimsuit) the controversy truly began this Summer, with heated debates for and against it.

But why is that suit, similar to a surfers’ neoprene wetsuit, become the eye of the storm in the discussion about Islamism? How far can our petulance go to make us think we are judges of what others can or should dress according to their religious beliefs? Do those wearing g-string have the same rights as those wearing Burkinis? We asked these questions with no choice but to answering them. We won’t be able to avoid meeting such a delicate matter. It’s a hard nut to crack.

Probably we are getting off the essential subject here: the women right to decide how to dress. Their right to choose to wear a habit, Burkini or go topless if they want and laws allow it. This is where the dilemma lies. Wearing a burqa, niqab or hijab, as the case may be, is mandatory in many countries from Malaysia to Morocco.  

Islamic Fundamentalism requires every woman to cover her charms, including hair, to avoid men’s bad thoughts or even rape, because according to Islam, that is the essential nature of men and women have to prevent it.

When the woman’s body transcends her and becomes a political issue, there is no way to express an opinion without sinking in troubled waters.


So, do Muslim women decide voluntarily to wear Burkini at the beach? Or is it an imposition of a society that condemns them if they don’t? Would a person practicing any other religion be subject to this kind of requirement? Why do some activists in France believe they have the right to defend the use of Burkini referring to freedom of expression and worship? But aren’t they able to raise their voices to defend the right of Muslim women to dress as they wish in their home countries where there are no such liberties? Where does the freedom of one end? And where does the right of another begin?

Why does the controversy arise in France? One of the epicenters of Western thought and where there are all kinds of liberties. Why is there nobody discussing these issues in the Middle East?

If some people defend the right of women to wear Burkini in Europe, they should also defend the right of women to not going completely covered in their home countries. Does the discussion go just in one direction because it is more comfortable?

In Venezuela, in the 70s, my mother was not allowed to enter the cinema because she was in pants. She went to see Last Tango in Paris. Yes, that movie where a middle-aged Marlon Brando sodomized a very young María Schneider helped with a stick of butter. And yet, It was necessary that women were dressed just like they did to go to church.

It comes to mind that this double standard is also present in the discussion about Burkini wearing across European beaches. The real discussion is much deeper: an intolerant and retrograde religion. Islamic women have to cover themselves to go to school or leave home since the age of seven. The burqa, the niqab, and hijab are political symbols of oppression. Accepting the use of these garments as a mandatory requirement would be like welcome someone who wears racist or Nazi symbols on their clothing.

There is no easy way to address this issue because, with regard to freedom, extremes are equally detestable. The only thing that matters is whether women who use Burkini anywhere in the world do so because they want or because they are forced. Furthermore, we must also think whether we are capable of defending their freedom to choose and comment in the Eastern world as well as we are ready to do so in the Western.