In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes — and the policing of women's bodies. Our arduous trudge towards a more equal society has yielded no insignificant results, yet how a women choose to clothe themselves can still be considered controversial.
In France, the burkini ban has ignited a raging debate on freedom and women's rights. Authorities in French coastal towns have banned the full-body swimsuit, created for Muslim women to swim in while abiding Islamic dressing standards. Echoing the reasoning of other beach towns, Nice, for example, stated the ban was for clothing that "overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks."
On Tuesday, images of police in Nice confronting a woman on the beach were distributed on Twitter.
The woman, a mother of two who was lying in the sand, was pictured removing some of her clothing during the encounter. She also reportedly received a ticket for not wearing "an outfit respecting good morals and secularism."
The incident sparked further outrage, both in France and abroad. Many people on social media swiftly and strongly condemned the ban, calling out the irony in opposing one dress code for women by enforcing another.
One striking image on Twitter, in particular, perfectly captures how the antiquated the burkini ban is.
The older image is of a West Palm Beach police officer measuring the bathing suit of one Betty Fringle, to ensure that it conformed with beach regulations, according to Mashable.
France's burkini ban mirrors the outlawing of burqas in many European countries as the region grapples with terrorism and the rising influx of Muslim people into their borders. But their restriction on women's clothing has drawn comparisons to the practices it purports to be standing up against.
The hypocrisy rooted in the ban has perplexed many Muslim people. "When I invented the burkini in early 2004, it was to give women freedom, not to take it away," Aheda Zanetti, the creator of the garment, wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian.
(Zanetti, however, did note that the controversy, ironically, has been good for business. She added that some of her new customers include skin cancer patients.)
Outside of the social media pushback, there have been efforts to combat the burkini ban. Most notably, there is Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian entrepreneur and human rights activist who declared recently that he would foot the penalty incurred by Muslim women who wear the swimsuit.
"I decided to pay for all the fines of women who wear the burkini in order to guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law," Nekkaz told CNN.
But the controversy runs deeper than religion or clothing. "What seems to be a struggle over the narrow issue of Islamic dress is really about what it means to be French," Amanda Taub at the New York Times wrote. The burkini ban indeed seems to be another manifestation of France's identity clash — one whose fallout will most disproportionately affect minority women.
Cover Image via Shutterstock.