“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”
― Harvey Fierstein
This is going to be a touchy subject so I must thread very carefully. This is in light of the recent brouhaha about the so-called “burkini” for which Muslim women insist on wearing in public beaches in France.
I start to see comparative photos between burkini wearing women on the beach and nuns stomping in the waters, and my fear of misinformation and polarizing opinions are already happening. I see memes too of all other photos of people in different covering – including motorists which lighten a little bit the discussion on the topic.
But for me, there is no issue. Why?
Well, think of “burkini” as a rash guard but longer than usual with swimmer cap attached to the neck line. Start to think of it outside the context of religion or group of people of faith, rather think of it as preventative garments, from the harmful rays of the sun while on the beach. That way, you will not feel offended if you see one covered while you bake your naked body in the harmful rays of the sun hoping to get tan and cancer in the process.
I say it out of the “religious” context because the design is not even close to the explanations given to me why Muslim women wear what they wear — to deflect bad thoughts by hiding your body (free flow form) from those that look mostly men. Which is not the case of the burkini right?
So really its a no issue, right? Well for me …
I was educated in a Catholic school, having nuns around was normal. They have always been in a veil, and I never bothered to ask (when you’re young nuns as the school principal was a scary character). What interest me though was the different color and design of what they wear – some are black, others are white, and I even saw one in yellow but more like a sun visor than the regular style I saw.
So head coverings never new to me.
Then there was Mom’s sister who used to visit us from the US and every time she takes us to church she would require us to wear laced designed veil, which I never liked.
Much later, my sister joined the convent; we now have someone wearing the nun’s veil 24/7. In spite of that, I don’t remember ever asking her why they have to wear what they have to wear on their head.
Then Sierra Leone introduced me African way of head covering … used to call it the beehive because of how high it can be depending on the occasion and status of the wearer.
Across the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone was a Mosque and around the area, there would be women with a long dress and long veil but worn simply not the same as I see now living in Palestine.
Women in different style of clothing and head covering walking along the promenade (Gaza/2016)
Fast forward to the present I am surrounded by women fully covered — from head to toe and suddenly the issue of head covering had become a worldwide hot topic (again), and it’s creating tensions all over (according to the news).
There is differing opinion on the subject brought on by a long debate on “women’s rights” and freedom from oppression and freedom of expression by wearing whatever they like and for some not wearing anything at all in the name of feminism. And as much as I want to see my colleague shed some of their extra clothing, I will not dare suggest them. I know it is rooted in religion as all other head scarves and coverings are and had become entwined with their culture, so to even suggest anything especially from an outsider who barely scratched the understanding of why women wear what they wear especially covering over their heads would be a big no-no (but believe me I am always tempted).
Yes, I like women to be free and to be comfortable
Yes, I like women to express themselves and to choose to be whoever they want to be
Yes, I like women to have opinion on their lives and feel empowered to fight for what they want
The subject is polarizing often taken out of context that is why we have to stop and see reason and argue within its boundaries without inciting divide but rather a harmony into getting the point of view from each pole.
But then again going back to burkini, if women want to swim in those why even bother. When I was in Cambodia people (not only women) swim fully clothed – jeans, skirt and even long gown, and we were never offended, in fact, we were amused looking at them having no care in the world as long as they enjoy the water.
For now, I leave this quote from Oscar Wilde …