France is tearing itself apart over a swimsuit but its not the first time an item of attire has caused a political cyclone. What we wear has always hidden deeper fears about sexuality, race and class
This is what happens to my scalp in the sunlight. After a few minutes, it runs a mottled pink. Devote it an hour or so, and it runs the colour of a ripe tomato. Shortly after that, it burns really badly, and the next day I develop full-body dandruff. Not a good look.
So I go to the beach well equipped. I wear sunscreen, of course. But also a hat, a scarf to cover my neck and my head as well if its too windy for the hat, a long-sleeved tunic, and light trousers to pull on somewhere between the mottled pink and tomato stage. I long ago is cognizant of the fact that I am never going to go brown, so I cover up, and Im comfy that style. But on a growing number of French beaches, it seems that covering up is now against the law.
On Tuesday, we insured photographs depicting four armed policemen on a beach in Nicebullying a woman by forcing her to strip off layers. Other women a mum of two, identified only as Siam, aged 34 was also fined on a Cannes beach for garmenting in a similar way, and so apparently not wearing an attire respecting good morals and secularism.
My current beach trousers and tunic are remarkably like those the woman was wearing on the beach in Nice, but we all know how unlikely it would be for me to attract police attention. This legislation is aimed at the burkini, garment that apparently overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of venerate are the target of terrorist attacks. Nor am I likely to get into trouble for wearing a T-shirt with an image of the Buddha, another of my favourite coverups: the only religion being targeted here is Islam.
A women right to choice her own beach attire has long been an area of dispute. In 1907, record-breaking Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman was apprehended on Revere beach in Boston for wearing a sleeveless one-piece swimming outfit remarkably similar to the burkini. It was then considered to be so disclose it was obscene, though a judge subsequently allowed a compromise whereby she could go into the water wearing her revolutionary suit, as long as she was covered by a cape until submerged.
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