Defending the indefensible

You’ve probably heard by now that a number of beaches in France have banned the burkini. Far from a rational response, these policies are absurd, sexist, racist, immoral and entirely indefensible. And yet, I see many arguments even from so-called free thinking people defending this policy.

Excuse #1: The French have been victims of a string of terrorist attacks and are scared

This might be a reasonable explanation for how the owners of these beaches thought this was a great idea, but it does not actually excuse the policy. A random Muslim on the street is no more culpable for the Nice or Paris attacks than I am for the routine Planned Parenthood terrorist attacks carried out by self righteous white Christians. It is racist to presume that every brown-skinned person is complicit in the attack because they are not, AT THIS EXACT SECOND, protesting or otherwise condemning the violence. That is a backward and perverted idea of justice.

They’re people. They have errands to run and chores to do. Even though every mosque goes on record to condemn a terrorist attack the moment it happens, this is not enough. Brown people who are on their way to the grocery store? They’re complicit in the violence! Taking time to do housekeeping or paying the bills? Tacit approval! Engaging in self care–including trips to the beach? That’s practically an endorsement! Arrest! Deport! Publicly humiliate!

You wouldn’t try to argue I’m complicit in poverty because I don’t donate 100% of my earnings to shelters. You shouldn’t try to argue that because Muslims may have spoons invested elsewhere they agree with terrorists, particularly when they do adhere to your ridiculous demands and condemn the attacks anyway. Neither Muslims nor brown people should have to prove their humanity to you.

Fuck off. Fear does not justify irrationality, it causes it. Have some fucking perspective. After all, many of the victims at Nice were Muslims.

I have a question. What does the burkini ban actually solve? Are you intercepting finances directed towards ISIS? Disarming dangerous people?

Oh, here’s a good one, Excuse #2. “Liberating women.”

Excuse #2: We’re liberating women.

Yes, of course, how could I not see it? The secret to women’s liberation is to have a bunch of crusty white men tell us what we can or can’t wear.

Let me say it again: FUCK OFF.

Even if patriarchy vanished in a puff of smoke tomorrow, there would still be women who choose to wear the hijab or the niqab or the burkini. That is because people identify as religious for a large number of reasons. Yes, you have your fundamentalists, the literalists who justify their psychotic policy by invoking an ancient text that probably doesn’t even say what they think it says. But you also have you cultural adherents, your nominally religious, or ethicists interpreting religious texts in a context that isn’t hellfire and brimstone, or what is my guess the most common category–people too lazy to challenge the idea of God. There are just as many reasons to be religious as there are reason not to be.

Why does it piss you off so much that even if you did remove every element of coercion, people would still choose differently from you? Why do you universalize your experience and assume that even if you did remove patriarchal traditions, that many of those practices wouldn’t continue under different interpretations? More importantly–why do you deliberately ignore the different interpretations that already exist? 

This strikes me as no different from the feverish writings of second wave feminism condemning heterosexual women for being party to their own oppression. “You can’t like men, they’re oppressive!”

It was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now. Liberation is just as antithetical to forcing women into burkinis as it is to forcing them out of burkinis. If women’s rights were truly your concern, you would let us choose.

Of course, it’s not about women or liberty. It’s about having an easy target to lord over. How long ago were those same French beaches patrolled by officers equipped with measuring tapes, who would measure the length between the knee and the hem of a swim suit to meet the puritanical laws controlling women’s bodies only decades ago?

How on Earth is enacting more laws restricting women’s choices at all an ethically tenable, defensible, or rationally consistent policy concerned with women’s liberty?

Excuse #3: It offends secular sensibilities

And secular sensibilities offend theologians. What’s your fucking point? The entire point of offending organized religion is to frame arguments as a matter of moral and ethical impact, not as a matter of what does or does not offend us based on an unreliable text riddled with unverifiable assertions.

Atheists have often been the first to talk about the hypocrisy of claiming one can offend Islam.  And now, suddenly, secularism can be offended.


What kind of double standard bullshit is this?

Secular sensibilities can be chosen. They can be argued for. They can be advocated for. They can be defended through various strategies for ethics and morality. But if Islam can’t be offended, then neither can any nebulous concept of secularism. If you believe it is wrong to compel women to wear a religious garment, then you ought to be consistent and identify the compulsion under penalty as the egregious problem.

What have these beaches introduced? A compulsion under penalty. Strip or face a fine, as if wearing a burkini is comparable to an able-bodied person parking in an accessible stall.

Here’s my secular sensibility: Given perfect liberty, people will still choose differently from me, and many of those choices have no ethical or moral bearing on me.

Fucking deal with it, you god damn hypocritical dipshits.



  1. says

    All I could do, when I first read about the bans was to shake my head. What it all comes down to is courting tourist dollars, and a lot of stupid tourists want to see lots and lots of flesh on beaches, and even that is a damn stupid “reason”. What does it matter what some people want to wear into the ocean?

  2. drken says

    France bans all forms of overt, public religious expression because it infringes on the rights of others to not have to deal with the fact that not all French people are the same. It’s apparently a form of religious freedom. I don’t get it either, but it apparently makes sense to French people. Personally, I don’t know how humiliating muslim women by making them disrobe in public is supposed to bring people together. In fact, it sounds like something a fundamentalist muslim would consider a motivating factor in committing a terrorist attack; but what do I know, I’m just some liberal SJW.

  3. tardigrada says

    What I read somewhere was something along the lines: “women can’t cover-up too much while being on the beach”. But I doubt that I, as a Western European woman, would be told off for wearing a wetsuit or long pants, a jumper, and something to cover my head (which I frequently do at beaches since I’m prone to get sunburns in the first 5-10 minutes). It’s just plain racist. And sexist.
    Being a secular country means to me (correct me if I’m wrong) that the state has to separate religion from state affairs. Not that everyone has to commit to never ever making a religious statement on a personal basis.

    I remember the discussion in Germany when Muslim women and girls wouldn’t go swimming – the burkini was seen as a good solution for that. Girls could attend swimming lessons at school without feeling too exposed.

  4. says


    It’s just plain racist. And sexist.

    Yes, it is, and France has been particularly embarrassing on those lately. Blf, who lives in France has been updating over at my place. Saad posted this wonderful response to the whole thing: 14 Men Who are Horribly Oppressed by Their Beachwear. It’s just what you said, a bunch of men, all wearing wetsuits, and one man in a shirt and trousers.

    People have always been on beaches full covered, it’s not in the least bit unusual. I’m a native southern Californian, and was at the beach constantly, and you’d always see people who were covered up, for a variety of reasons. I was often that way myself, because like you, I’m prone to burning, and burning badly. And anyone who has ever burnt their scalp knows just how bad that hurts. The districts in France who are pulling this isht have no excuse whatsoever, and it is nothing more than racism and sexism.