Women have been banned from wearing modest swimwear on the beaches of fifteen French towns. And now we've even seen police officers forcing a woman remove some of her clothing.
A ‘burkini’ is a swimming costume that covers up the body. It’s no more or less offensive than a wetsuit. But because many Muslim women choose to wear them, they’ve become hot topic in France, and politicians are lining up to tell women that they need to give up their choice of swimwear, or give up the beach.
No woman should be forced to expose her body if she doesn’t want to. No woman should be told how to dress full stop. Even Marks & Spencer has come under fire from some French politicians -- just for selling the swimwear that gives women the option to cover up.
Throughout the furore, the voices of the women actually affected by the burkini ban have been sidelined and ignored. But if we can persuade M&S to speak out in favour of a woman’s right to choose how to dress, we can begin to change that.
M&S: We support your decision to sell burkinis. Will you please speak out for the right of women to wear whatever they want to?
Many of the women choosing to wear burkinis are Muslim. Some, like Nigella Lawson, are not. But they all have one thing in common: they choose to cover up on the beach.
Now French politicians are turning this simple choice into an ideological battle. One Mayor has called the wearing of the burkini an ‘ideological provocation’ in the face of the terrorist attack in Nice, linking women who want to cover up to terrorists. And he’s been backed by France’s women’s rights minister, who has laid into Marks & Spencer for even selling the swimwear.
If politicians want to protect women’s rights, they should be guaranteeing the right of every woman to freedom of expression and self-determination. They should not be disempowering Muslim women by taking their freedom of choice away.
M&S is selling burkinis because people want to buy and wear them. Now let’s ask the company if it will take the next step, and speak out in favour of a woman’s right to dress however she likes.
Marks & Spencer: please speak out in favour of a woman’s right to choose how to dress.