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
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Syrians use Pokemon Go to Capture International Attention

Saif

Pokemon Go fever has lit up the United States and countries around the globe. Several Syrian graphic designers have manipulated scenes from the game to juxtapose the cuddly “pocket monsters” with the horrors of war.

At ground zero, the Revolutionary Forces of Syria is using the game to solicit Western aid. Their media office released a series of photos of children, holding images of pokemon with the caption, “I’m from Kafr Nabl in Idlib province. Come and save me.”

Syrian emigrants abroad are also using the game to bring attention to struggles of Syrian people. In Denmark, Saif Tahhan photoshops the game’s interface to draw a harrowing comparison of the the developed world’s challenge to capture digital images of Japanese fantasy creatures with Syria’s real challenge to capture resources for survival of its citizens. (Image at top.)

In Sweden, another Syrian emigrant, Moustafa Jano, inserts the pocket monsters into images documenting the refugee experience to inspire compassion for those struggling to escape Syria’s bleak and dangerous status quo, only to face barriers when arriving to Europe.

jano jano2

Source for article and graphics: “Pokemon’s Tears for Syria,” BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-36859636 . Accessed 7/29/2016.

Philadelphia DNC

This blog is temporarily on hold from now through the end of the month as my time will be dedicated to working in the social media department of the DNC.

I’ll be back in early August with more blog posts. In the meanwhile, my twitter- @softpowerpunch, will still be active as I’ll be commuting quite a bit.

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:

X-men Apocalypse’s Missing Song

x-men-apoc-ukposterbanner-01

X-men: Apocalypse was released in North America last month. The film misses the mark on many of its lofty ambitions. The actors are sincere but their characters are not compelling for those who haven’t seen the previous films (recently). The settings and scenes jump from continent to continent, creating a quasi-fast pace for a story that doesn’t make much progress until an hour in. The themes and messages are numerous–too much commentary is conveyed all at once–making the point of the film rather messy until the very end.

However, fans of the series will find it engaging and dense. We see a smooth and thorough development of the characters who play roles in the canonically later films. (This series parallels Star Wars, with a primary canon trilogy being released first, followed by a subsidiary prequel trilogy.)

The biggest missed opportunity would be the inclusion of the lyric version of “Figlio Perduto.” The music from “Allegretto” of Beethoven’s 7th is used in the turning-point of the film and reprised in the credits. However, only classical music buffs will recognize how much depth and context the song adds to not only the emotional scene but also the overarching message of the film.

Linked via the graphic below is a lyric video explaining the significance of the song. Damnit Jim, I’m an analyst and not a videographer, so don’t judge the sophomoric quality of the video. It gets the info across.  (Link also here)

figlio perduto first slide

Bonus: Cherik lovers will also appreciate Marc Winslow’s music video using a rendition of the song by a male singer and set to clips from “Les amitiés particulières,” a 1984 French GLBT classic film. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPO_nOL9WnA 

 

There’s no such thing as “Just Singing”

A Taiwanese, ethnic minority, children’s choir is disinvited to China after they sang the Taiwanese anthem at (Taiwan’s) President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration in May. The Puzangalan Choir was to travel to China in an endeavor to garner funds and visibility for a trip to an international singing competition in Hungary this fall. President Ing-wen has pledged a little over $15,000 USD when she heard about the cancellation.

Taiwan and China have a varying opinions on the sovereignty of the small island 110 miles off the coast of mainland China. However, that short distance is misleading, as Taiwanese government, freedoms, and art are leagues away from the People’s Party strict mandates in mainland China. Asian drama fans will note that television from mainland China is often overregulated to the point where the plot and characterization suffers, while Taiwanese dramas are rather enjoyable.

This political maneuvering is another example of a long string of contentious relations between Taiwan and China. It’s truly unfortunate, if not appalling, a children’s choir was the target.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36547305

Source: AFP

Floridian Government Officials Says “Thank you” to Broadway

The annual musical award ceremony, The Tony’s, were held last night in New York City. In reaction to the mass shooting that (early) morning in Orlando, leaving at least fifty dead and another fifty injured, host James Corden (tv show star and the Baker from this year’s Disney release of “Into the Woods,”) dedicated the night to the honor of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Many other actors, singers, and public figures showed their solidarity with the Orlando and LGBTQ community by donning silver ribbons and rainbow flag pins. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda offered heartfelt words on the red carpet: “If art is what fights tragedy, if art is what fights the void, if art helps us makes sense of violence and random acts of cowardice and killing, then tonight is important.” The Company of Hamilton performed “The Battle of Yorktown” without the customary musket props out of respect to those killed by the AR-15.

The Mayors of Orlando and Orange county reached out in a video to thank the Broadway community for “standing with us in our time of great need.”

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

Star Trek Beyond Trailer #2 Locked on Baby Boomers + Millennials

The third movie in the latest Star Trek film franchise launched a new trailer yesterday. Star Trek Beyond won’t premier until late July this year, but it is already hooking in the Baby Boomer and Millennial target audiences.

 

All Phasers locked on Baby Boomers

In an interesting shift from the previous two movies, this trailer hints that the movie will focus on the relationship between Bones and Kirk, rather than the Sprik dynamic that climaxed in Into Darkness’s role-flip of the iconic Wrath of Khan character development scenes. The entire first minute of the two minute, twenty-four second trailer is devoted to two older characters advising the young Kirk. The opening dialogue between Bones and Kirk delves into the young captain’s struggle to live up to his father’s legacy. Kirk self-deprecatingly claims “I joined [Starfleet] on a dare” and Bones corrects him, “you joined to see if you could live up to [your father].” Bones continues to advise Kirk, and the next voice added to the dialogue is that of an older woman ( 64 year old, new-to-the-franchise Shohreh Aghdashloo,) who also counsels Kirk on the dangers of space.

Later in the trailer, Dr. McCoy appears again to impart wisdom to a junior. This time, Spock claims, “Fear of death is illogical,” and once again, Bones counters the younger’s position: “Fear of death is what keeps us alive.” Continue reading