French prime minister Valls, stop dictating on women’s clothes

Moroccan golfer Maha Haddioui

Today, the tournament for women starts at the Olympic golf links in Rio de Janeiro in Brasil.

Among the golfers is Ms Maha Haddioui from Morocco. As the photo at the top of this blog post shows, Maha Haddioui plays sometimes while wearing shorts. Like a Moroccan woman Olympic boxer did today as well. Though some people in Israel and in other countries would like to ban shorts.

Ms Haddoui plays today in Rio in a miniskirt.

Some people in Morocco (and in other countries) don’t like miniskirts. However, recently a court in Morocco decided that women wearing miniskirts are not criminals.

That verdict in Morocco should be a signal for people, especially politicians, everywhere, to let women wear whatever they feel comfortable in.

However, Blairite prime minister Valls of France thinks differently about the right of women to choose their own clothes. He said today that the supports the bans in France of so called ‘burkini’ bathing gear.

Supposedly, full-body swimsuits are connected to terrorist violence.

That is moronic. Columnist Aleid Truijens writes today in Dutch daily De Volkskrant (print edition) that she personally hates ‘burkini’ swimwear; but that banning it is ridiculous: associating it with terrorism is as irrational as banning falafel food for some supposed association with terrorism. She also points out that less than a century ago, French and other European women used to be punished for ‘indecency’ for not wearing ‘burkini’-like clothes on beaches.

Let us compare with Israel, where there are more violent attacks than in France. The Israeli government takes lots of ‘anti-terrorism’ measures. Many of them correctly criticized as spurious and/or oppressive. However, they don’t include a ‘burkini’ ban. Swimming at beaches of Tel Aviv or elsewhere in full-body swimwear is legal. Women in Israel may wear ‘burkinis’ for being ultra-orthodox Islamic, ultra-orthodox Jewish, or other reasons, and nobody tries to stop them.

As for real reasons, Dutch NOS TV points out that there is an authoritarian tradition in France of dictating to women what they should wear. A tradition going back at least to the nineteenth century, when Algeria became a French colony. Thomas-Robert Bugeaud, marquis de la Piconnerie, duc d’Isly, general of the French occupation army in Algeria, complained in 1840 about Algerian women wearing too many clothes, which the French occupiers should change.

Let us go to the Rio Olympics again.

Two days ago, Dutch Ms Sharon van Rouwendaal won the gold medal in 10 kilometre swimming in Copacabana bay there.

What did she wear? What did the other Olympic swimmers there wear as well?

Sharon van Rouwendaal, photo © AFP

Ms Van Rouwendaal’s swimsuit, like a ‘burkini’, covers her legs completely. Her swim cap usually covers her hair. Her arms are covered, like with some versions of the ‘burkini’ (in other versions of the ‘burkini’, arms are not covered, Dutch daily De Volkskrant, paper edition, writes today on page 3). The difference may be too subtle for bureaucratic right-wing policemen, like the ones who recently arrested ‘burkini’-wearing women on the beach of Cannes. Sharon van Rouwendaal was born in the Netherlands, but trains in France. She should be careful that some stupid bureaucratic right-wing French policeman will not arrest her.

Egyptian women beach volleyball players at the Rio Olympics, playing against Italy, AFP photo

Still, the Rio games. The Egyptian women beach volleyball team wore ‘burkinis’ there. If the weather in Rio became cold, then other beach volleyball players also covered up more than when the weather was warm. Are these Olympic sports people ‘terrorists’, Mr Valls!? They are just as unconnected to terrorism as Moroccan golf player Maha Haddioui and other women wearing miniskirts are.

‘Burkini conflict’ in Corsica, pretext for burkini ban, was not about ‘burkinis’, but about beach space: here.

Britain, golf: Like every member of the LPGA Tour, Hull, the British No 1, recently received an email explaining that “as part of the new dress code, plunging neck lines, leggings and revealing skirts are now banned”: here.

22 thoughts on “French prime minister Valls, stop dictating on women’s clothes

  1. Thursday 18th August 2016

    posted by Morning Star in World

    FRENCH Prime Minister Manuel Valls voiced support yesterday for bans on “burkini” swimsuits imposed in three resort towns, claiming that they represent the “enslavement of women.”
    The burkini, a wetsuit-like garment that covers the torso, limbs and head, has prompted hysteria in France in recent days, despite being worn by only a handful of women.
    One ban was imposed following a small riot over a burkini [no, it was about beach space] in Corsica.
    Mr Valls said the “archaic vision” of feminine modesty represented by the burkini was “not compatible with the values of France,” adding: “In the face of provocation, the nation must defend itself.”
    But University of Toulouse researcher Rim-Sarah Alouane argued: “Women’s rights imply the right for a woman to cover up.”
    Italian Interior Minister Angleino Alfano called the bans counterproductive, saying they could become provoke a backlash.
    “It doesn’t seem to me, alas, that the French model has worked for the best,” he said


  2. Thursday 18th August 2016

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    The left has nothing to gain by making concessions to right-wing populism, writes SABBY DHALU

    RACISM and Islamophobia continue to rise across Europe and the US.

    Recently the Mayor of Corsica Ange-Pierre Vivoni became the latest French mayor to ban “burkinis” — swimming costumes that cover the body from head to foot.

    This move followed attempts by racists chanting: “This is our home” to march on Sisco, an area with a large Muslim north African population.

    Though there have been similar bans on burkinis in Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet in France, the Corsica ban is perhaps most concerning as it has been implemented by a Socialist mayor.

    The left has nothing to gain from conceding to racism and Islamophobia.

    Only the right will gain from concessions to racism, as the last decade has shown. The centre-left and left must stand up to and challenge racism.

    How banning burkinis is supposed to prevent race riots is incomprehensible.

    Such moves are more likely to exacerbate such tensions.

    Similarly, given the recent spate of terrible Isis-related attacks in Nice and the horrific attack on Father Jacques Hamel in France, these measures do nothing to deal with terrorism and instead target an innocent group of women who choose to dress a certain way.

    It is a profound irony that a nation that prides itself on liberty and equality does not believe these values apply to Muslim women.

    This illustrates the oppression faced by black women, and particularly Muslim women: simultaneous racism and sexism.

    Banning certain types of clothing worn by Muslim women has had devastating consequences internationally.

    Britain rightly does not have any such bans, but bans across Europe have encouraged politicians, including the former prime minister David Cameron, to introduce this discussion in political discourse.

    Consequently, racist attacks and anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased on Muslim women wearing the hijab or niqab.

    The latest figures show that incidents of anti-Muslim abuse and attacks in public areas rose by 326 per cent in 2015, with women disproportionately targeted.

    This is the real impact of bans on Muslim women’s dress.

    Different black communities face different types of state racism.

    The African and Caribbean communities face the brunt of police brutality more than any other community.

    Even former footballers cannot escape this. Earlier this week, former Aston Villa footballer Dalian Atkinson died after police shot him in Shropshire.

    The events surrounding his death are still unfolding, but his death is one in a long line of black deaths in police custody with no police officer having yet been brought to justice. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” is as appropriate to Britain as it is in the US.

    In the US, the movement continues to gain momentum. As Syreeta McFadden has argued, the recent protests after the police shooting of yet another black person in Milwaukee illustrates the depth of the suffering of the black community.

    Milwaukee has the largest black population in Wisconsin. The poverty rate for blacks living in Milwaukee is 32.9 per cent.

    As the world economy slows down and governments continue to pursue austerity measures which cut badly needed services and slash living standards, it is black communities that are hardest hit.

    In Britain, young black people face higher rates of unemployment than their white counterparts. In 2015, among 16 to 24-year-olds, unemployment for the black population stood at a staggering 27.5 per cent compared to 13.1 per cent for white young people.

    Other studies show Muslims face worse job discrimination than any other faith group.

    Research in 2014 by Bristol University shows Muslim men were up to 76 per cent less likely to have a job of any kind compared to white male Christians of the same age with the same qualifications.

    And Muslim women are 65 per cent less likely to be employed than their white Christian counterparts.

    These are some of the underlying conditions that have led to a growing movement against racism and Islamophobia in Britain and the US.

    Economic slowdown and austerity are the reasons why we have seen bans on burkinis and niqabs, and explain the dramatic rise in the profiles of Donald Trump; Marine Le Pen’s Front National; Ukip; Norbert Hofer and his so called “Freedom” Party of Austria, and a range other far-right and fascist groups across Europe.

    Racism and Islamophobia are used to scapegoat immigrants, Muslims, refugees and all black communities for austerity and distract people from worsening living standards.

    This then legitimises racist rhetoric by the populist and fascist right.

    Now more than ever we must unite all black communities — Muslim, African and Caribbean together with Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, LGBT communities and crucially the labour and trade union movement against racism.

    Only a broad alliance that challenges, not concedes to racism can turn back this tide. The growth of racism is not inevitable. We can defeat it.

    Sabby Dhalu is joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism and co-convener for Stand Up To Racism.

    On Saturday October 8 you can see her along with Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Owen Jones, Kate Osamor, Claude Moraes, Kevin Courtney, Sally Hunt, Mark Serwotka, Weyman Bennett and others address the “Confronting the Rise in Racism” national conference at Friends House, Euston.

    See to register for the conference.


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