Swimming Pool Politics
There’s drama in France during the hottest week recorded in years, as two swimming pools have been shut in the city of Grenoble. The reason for their closure is a protest by a group of Muslim women who were told they could not wear burkinis (an amphibious version of a burka) at the swimming pool. This means that after they get called bank robbers and letterboxes by Boris Johnson, they can’t even cool off in the swimming pool, despite the greenhouse effects Islamic attire brings with it.
The protests are part of a long time grudge between France and Burkas (the non-amphibious sort of coverup). Three years ago, several seaside towns banned them altogether as they would be a threat to security. Sunbathing is a well-known pastime for terrorists, after all. What’s more, in Nice, French police asked a woman to undress as her attire did not respect “good morals and secularism”. Whereas asking someone to undress in public, has ‘good morals’ written all over it. The Prime Minister supported the ban and said the burkinis are not compatible with French values and are based on the enslavement of women. The protesters, on the other hand, say its discrimination and an affront to civil rights.
To be fair to the French, the swimming pool ban is not aimed explicitly at burkinis, but a combination of not being allowed to wear loose clothing for hygienic reasons and to prevent the public display of religion. Call it what you will, but really it’s a swimming pool dress code.
You see, the French much prefer you hoisting yourself into a speedo or an exotic thong than swimming in a wetsuit, even if Allah made you wear it. And, because priests, nuns and monks don’t tend to venture near public pools, the ban is said to be discriminatory toward Muslims specifically.
The protesters explained that Burkinis are a solution to a problem faced by Muslim women who want to obey the “strict laws of Islam and preserve their modesty” when swimming. Thus, allowing one to be a devout Muslim on land and in water.
As it turns out, Muslim women won’t be oppressed by just anyone, and they’ll choose Allah over Macron any day of the week. Perhaps their slogan could be ‘women should be allowed to not wear what they want!’. But, this is no joke to the protesters. They’ve compared their struggle to that of Rosa Parks, a.k.a. the mother of the African American civil rights movement, saying they’re being “deprived of [their] civil rights”.
While the comparison is a great way to get a column in The Guardian – comparing decade-long efforts of fighting the lynching of people based on the colour of their skin and the right to wear loose clothing in a public pool seems far fetched. It’s a bit like demanding free wifi at an airport somehow relates you to the ww2 resistance, or campaigning for the return of the McRib means you can call yourself Gandhi.
What’s more, the protesters have been throwing the word Islamofeminsm around, terms that go together about as well as climate change and Republicans. Everyone would agree that Muslim women have a lot to fight for in terms of securing equal rights, treatment and opportunities. Since protesting for feminism in the Islamic world could result in 148 lashes of the whip and a lengthy prison term, Grenoble’s public swimming pools are a great place to start.