The Burkini Debate Spreads to Italy, Australia, and the USA

The debate over the rights of women to wear modest, full-body swimwear is spreading like wildfire over social media and news sites.  Twitter and Facebook posts reached a fever-pitch after a well-documented incident involving a French Police officer ordering and forcing a woman to disrobe on a beach. Images and commentary are trending across all platforms, and mainstream media including CNN and the New York Times are offering more in depth journalism on the topic.   The Times article interviews the Australian designer of the Burkini, who defends her design. She is not alone–Italian author Barbie Latza Nadeau examined the duplicitous nature of the argument, pointing out that Catholic Nuns have never been shunned from beaches for wearing conservative garments while enjoying the sea and sand.

Worldwide outrage and censure of the “Burkini Ban” continue to gain momentum, and the tide does not seem to be turning anytime soon.

Sources/Links:

Facebook:  Image of French Police Officer and Woman he ordered to disrobe https://www.facebook.com/Thei100/photos/pcb.986202944825665/986202511492375/?type=3&theater

Twitter: “The Burkini Ban is Sexist and This Poignant Tweet Shows Why Its So Awful” http://www.bustle.com/articles/180372-the-burkini-ban-is-sexist-this-poignant-tweet-shows-why-its-so-awful?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=owned&utm_campaign=feminismbustle

New York Times article “Burkini is ‘Freedom and Happiness’ Australian Inventor Says”  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/world/australia/burkini-ban-france-aheda-zanetti.html?_r=0

CNN: “Police in Nice Force Woman to Remove Part of Clothing”  http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/24/europe/woman-burkini-nice-beach-incident-trnd/

Italian Author for The Daily Beast: “Where is the Outrage over Nun Beachwear”
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/21/where-s-the-outrage-over-nun-beachwear.html

 

Fashion vs the Government: The Burkini Debate

Over ten years ago, a Muslim woman created the “burkini”-  a full-body, loose wetsuit that would allow active Muslim women to swim while upholding ideas of Islamic modesty. Today, the burkini is a point of contention and debate across Europe. Outright bans in Germany, backlash in Britain, and, a few days ago, runaway public censure in France, all center around the conservative swimsuit.

Getty Images Burkini Stock Photo

In Germany, the mayor of small town Neutraubling banned the swimsuit from public swimming pools under the guise of “hygiene concerns.” His claim was undermined by the rest of his statement, as he segued into victim blaming, questioning women’s choice to wear the modest wetsuit: “Why it is necessary to wear a burkini at a ‘ladies only’ evening? I don’t understand.”  (Source: Express)

Earlier this year, British multinational retailer Marks and Spencer came under attack for stocking the burkini. Politicians from the EU reprimanded the marketing decision as bowing to “misogynists.” One politician, Laurence Rossignol, stated: [Marks and Spencer] are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up.”  Domestically, there was a similar backlash in the press. Telegraph reporter Allison Pearson opined, “It is yet more dismaying evidence that our own culture has failed to stick up for itself and is allowing misogynist attitudes to sneak in under the radar.” (Source: Telegraph)

These instances of xenophobia and religious intolerance, masked by “anti-misogyny” language, only result in the further enslavement and disenfranchisement of a group they allegedly seek to “free.”  

Just this past week, a French waterpark (SpeedWater) in Les Pennes-Mirabeau  was sharply criticised for its “Burkini Day,” which sold out. The mayor of two nearby Marseille districts, Valerie Boyer incited protest to this event. In a tweet, she called out anyone who “let” the private event progress as  planned as “accomplices.” (Tweet source). Boyer has also alleged, “Accepting this so-called fashion means we accept communalism [communautarisme] in our country.”

It is important to note that Boyer is not a member of the National Front, which has international infamy for its xenophobic platform, but from the more moderate center-right group called The Republicans, which is currently headed by previous French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. Her views are reflective of that party, even when she states that allowing women to wear a burkini “is…a question of women’s dignity, a question of our most fundamental principles.” (Source: BBC )

 Most succinctly, a French citizen retorted to reporters, “Today in France, you are free to sell your body but if you just want to hide your curves to go to the beach, it’s a problem and requires a veto. What’s all the fuss about?”

In “free” Western Europe, Muslim women are disempowered and disenfranchised by those who claim that their clothing and fashion choice is incorrect, divisive, or even “unhygienic.”  It is a long road to pluralism, and the amount of hate and debate surrounding a simple swimsuit is indicative of the amount of work to be done for Europe to be truly multicultural. 

 

Sources:

 

Additional Links:

  • My previous engagement on the idea of “communautarisme” in France: “Is France Allergic to Multiculturalism?
  • BBC’s overview of European opinions on the Veil: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-13038095

Compare/Contrast: Youth in Politics

Today, NHK and BBC are running stories about young adults in politics, but the pictures are very different. In the UK, Millennials are feeling the Brexit burn, while 20-somethings in Tokyo are disengaged from politics and passive towards policy changes.

Read more:

Is France “allergic” to Multiculturalism?

From WikiCommons: " 'Lamartine, before the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, rejects the Red Flag,' February 25, 1848. By Henri Felix Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815–1884). Lamartine said that the red flag represented revolutionary violence, and 'has to be put down immediately after the fighting.' "

From WikiCommons: ” ‘Lamartine, before the Hôtel de Ville, Paris, rejects the Red Flag,’ February 25, 1848. By Henri Felix Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815–1884). Lamartine said that the red flag represented revolutionary violence, and ‘has to be put down immediately after the fighting.’ “

A new op-ed posted on the French news-site “Le Monde” today offered a cutting criticism of France’s ideas of nationality tied to ethnic background. The article delves into the twenty year history of the idea of “communautarisme,” a concept foreign to USians, which has become a pejoratif term for the subjugation of a majority to the aspects of a minority culture. (Think: the extra costs it takes for a school cafeteria to accommodate vegetarian or Halal food.) The article traces the modern negativity towards multiculturalism through the burning issue of women wearing the veil in public (in public schools, offices, etc.) and the debate it ensued in the 1990s and to recent dialogue and reactionary language to the attacks in Brussels and Paris. 

While this “allergy” to “communautarism” has modern ramifications, the article’s author Anne Chemin points out that the idea of a monocultural France can be traced back to the French Revolution from 1789-1799.

Indeed, many fundamentals and symbols of French national identity are tied to monoculturalism. In the USA, we have jus soli–citizenship determined by the land upon which one is born. (Remember the debate of Obama’s birth certificate and place of birth?)  In France, the system is jus sanguinis–citizenship is determined by the nationality of one’s parents (and often grandparents). Furthermore, the red of the French flag is symbolic of blood-relations. Likewise, the last part of the French motto refers to “brotherhood.” The idea of purity of blood is further cemented to primary French national identity in the repeated chorus of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem: “To arms, citizens!…Let [their] impure blood soak our fields.” (Aux armes, citoyens!…Qu’un sang impur abreuve nos sillons.) Continue reading

“The Kiss” Viral Image Offers Commentary beyond the Shock Value

Photo-credit: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images via BBC Culture

Photo-credit: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images via BBC Culture

A piece of street art from Vilnius, Lithuania has been hitting the internet hard this week. The image depicts expected Republican nominee for the US Presidency, Donald Trump, in an unblinking embrace with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  From the perspective of an artist from the former Soviet bloc, this depiction reflects a cautionary wariness of the future should  Trump be elected. Internationally, its viral popularity illustrates a new dimension to the transnational dialogues on homophobia, xenophobia, and “conservative politics.”

Read more about this image:
BBC Culture Article: “a closer look at the mural reveals a level of subtle political commentary that cuts against the superficial sensation” http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160518-what-does-the-trumpputin-kiss-really-mean

Soc. Media Rallying Cry for Solidarity against ISIL Falls Flat

On Sunday, March 13th, Ankara was assaulted once again by a terrorist attack. This is the third high-casualty terrorist attack in the past five months, and many Turkish citizens are wondering why more people around the world aren’t rallying Ankara. In one Guardian editorial, the author asks, “Where was our “Je Suis” moment?”

 

This particular quote is from a call for European solidarity by British expat pianist James Taylor. His 400 word Facebook post “went viral,” and subsequently was picked up by not only the Guardian, but also Metro News, Huffington Post, and a slew of other web news sources. This post asked the European community, “It is very easy to look at terror attacks that happen in London, in New York, in Paris and feel pain and sadness for those victims, so why is it not the same for Ankara? “ However, Ankara does not have the soft power that London, New York, and Paris have over affluent nations.The global citizens Taylor is trying to reach have probably never heard Turkish pop song, seen a Turkish film, or read a book from a Turkish author. While the popular aphorism generally declares that “culture drives commerce,” in this case, culture also drives compassion, and there are not enough cultural ties to cash in on solidarity between people separated by a continent or an ocean. His poignant call for empathy fell on ears who already are overwhelmed with compassion fatigue and who see Turkey as “other” rather than “us”. Continue reading

“Je suis Charlie” Lighting up USian Social Media

Captured from linked Tumblr post, original photo credit to London's Telegraph.

You probably remember in Fall of 2012 when the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) gained international notoriety for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (including some illustrations of him nude).

Earlier today, three masked gunmen opened fire at this paper’s headquarters in Paris, killing a dozen people and wounding another eleven before speeding away.

According to Al Jazeera America, thousands of people all across Europe have gathered in major cities, holding vigils in solidarity for the lives lost to this terrorist act of violence.

Awareness in the US is also gaining momentum as social media posts on Twitter using the #JeSuisCharlie and #IamCharlie tags, as well as photos of the solidarity rallies coming across posts on tumblr. In the pictures, participants hold up lighted placards declaring that they are “not afraid,” while other groups hold up pens to signify their belief in freedom of expression.

Tumblr: http://roryinfinity8.tumblr.com/post/107449158568/the-gasoline-station-not-afraid-source-the

 

Al Jazeera America: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/7/je-suis-charlie.html

ABC news: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/je-suis-charlie-message-viral-paris-attack-28064199 

Captured from linked Tumblr post, original photo credit to London's Telegraph.

Italian PSA making waves on Tumblr

This anti-domestic violence (anti-violence against women) video is making its rounds on Tumblr and I expect to see it popping up on my Facebook soon. It’s stimulating a lot of discussion over why men shouldn’t hit women and exploring ways to eliminate the cause of domestic violence. Have a look for yourself:

Tumblr: http://verboden-toegang.tumblr.com/post/107339821148/what-happens-when-you-put-a-boy-in-front-of-a-girl

The Beginning of Transnational Media 101

In the fall of 2008, I was granted the opportunity to conduct research on the influence of art on Franco-American relations in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. My thesis began as a simple intellectual exercise–contrast two French artists from different era whose domestic success carried over to the United States. However, the paper quickly began to evolve as emerging similarities between the two artists proved to be key in their transAtlantic triumph. The final paper outlines a rubric–a set of five criteria–which artists must satisfy in order to have the economic viability and compatibility in both domestic and international markets.

More interestingly, at the time of the research and drafting of the paper, Sony France was conducting a multi-branched initiative to push French chanteuse Camille into US American markets. You’ve heard of Daft Punk. You’ve probably heard of Edith Piaf. You haven’t heard of Camille, and she does not meet my five criteria. If she did meet the criteria, her chances of American success would have increased, at the very least.

This paper serves as the springboard for my subsequent and current research in transnational media, and I am now able to release this paper on this blog.

 

“Daft Punk and Edith Piaf: Similarities between Two French Artists Famous in the USA”