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Burkini ban may be suspended, but the French better hide their faces

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

Vive la France. Or maybe not.

Be it literature or cinema, France has always been romanticised. The French accent is sensual. French food is an aphrodisiac. The French people are liberal, love art, and consider love an art.

For a country that's so culturally rich, plurality must never be a concern. Except France really seems to have lost the plot.

Overnight, the land which gave us the word 'amour', has transformed into a cesspool of hate. The burkini ban, which has been a raging debate around the world, has given the French a bad name. And we know that the French have a history of downright sexy names.

While France's highest administrative court, in some positive news today, has suspended the ban, the matter is still awaiting a final ruling. Though this should come as a relief, the wording chosen by the French state council to explain the burkini is chuckleworthy.

They've called it "beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation" because what else could it be? They explain that they've done so to protect public order and secularism. How though? Doesn't this ensure that a burkini is never seen as anything but a religious differentiator?

Also read -French court overturns ban on Burkini hours after Sarkozy backs ban in a bid to woo voters

Besides, it's like a dumb guessing game. A game at the end of which no one emerges a winner.

For example, guess this:

1. Stick on foreheadwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation

2. Long-winding headgear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation

3. Neckpiece with an ancient symbol resembling a plus sign which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation

Bindi. Pagdi. And the Cross. Congratulations, you won nothing.

See how absurd this game is? And yet, the French authorities choose to not name the "offensive" garment and go on about its religious affiliation. What is this? It-That-Must-Not-Be-Named?

The latest ruling

The French court challenged the ban after a human rights group brought forth the case. Very importantly, while the media is clebrating this as France finally seeing sense, the ruling only SUSPENDS a SINGLE ban in Villeneuve-Loubet, a town near Nice. Not nationwide.

The hope, of course, is that this judgement will somehow trickle down to all the other towns where the regressive ban is in place.

The argument put forth by the human rights lawyers was that the burkini ban was "feeding fear and infringing on basic freedom." A simple enough argument 23 other places in France would do well to listen to.

Yeah, 24 locations in total had a ban on the burkini in France. To put things in perspective, 24 states in India have the beef ban in place. Some poetic coincidence there.

Both the bans are markers of the dominant culture suppressing the minority, a minority they feel threatened by.

If you think guns can be hidden in burkinis, France, you're watching too much Hollywood. Which is again a shame, because you have far more intelligent cinema of your own.

Who wears burkinis?

The burkini is a lifestyle choice and that's pretty much how it should be seen. Designed by an Australian woman to help Muslim women enjoy a swim without compromising on her lifestyle and preferred attire, the burkini, if anything, signifies emancipation.

But here's the best part: 40% of women who purchase the burkini are not Muslims.

Ha ha, France. You're quickly turning into a terrible 21st century joke. Aheda Zanetti, the woman who has both 'burkini' and 'burqini' patented, confirms that more religiously conservative women are wearing it to the beach.

"The Jewish community embraces it," she told

Politico. "I've seen Mormons wearing it. A Buddhist nun purchased it for all of her friends. I've seen women who have issues with skin cancer or body image, moms, women who are not comfortable exposing their skin--they're all wearing it."

If anything, the burkini, seen as a threat due to obvious, shameless Islamophobia, has become a secular garment for those who aren't bikini-inclined.

France, hide your face

It's funny that veiling and covering is the problem here, because post this burkini debacle, the only choice French authorities have left is to beg for some cover under the burqa.

Currently the butt of social media jokes and some phenomenally on-point memes, the suspension of the ban in ONE French town will not save France. Not by a long way.

Also read - A simple solution to France's burkini ban: come to India!

Besides, the burkini ban has brought out the best in the people of the internet.

Sample these:

Close enough.

Hullo, double standards.

In French, but you get it right?

Existential crisis!

Stay afloat, ladies.

OUTRAGEOUS! Is the (moral) police going after these two, or not?

Controlling bodies

See, if you haven't got the point yet, here's the problem: You cannot force people to wear clothes that you want them to wear. Unless you're a dictatorship. And the last we checked, France was not.

For the 98273947093147634704th time, controlling women's bodies and telling them what's 'right' for them, doesn't help bring them out of your misplaced idea of morality. If anything, it's an imposition of your morals on them. So good job, France.

An unfreed female nipple is exercising this moral control. Stripping a woman of her burkini is also this moral control.

If a burkini is "offensive" to France, it's time the world told France that the rest of us are mighty offended.

First published: 26 August 2016, 10:31 IST
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.