Respect A Woman’s Right to Dress – Be It More or Less

Women the provocateurs. Women the temptresses. Women dressing in a way that is simply ‘asking for it.’ The debate on women and fashion seems to never cease. Sure, we have moved on from the public scandal of showing even so much as an ankle in the Victorian era to pretty much exposing any part of the body a woman wishes to show, but the debate on dictating how women should dress is still ablaze.

If a woman dresses provocatively she can be said to be ‘asking for it’ because, apparently, the restraint of horny young boys who have no understanding of consent is the woman’s responsibility. Simultaneously, if a woman dresses in a modest manner as to not flash all her God-given assets she is to be labelled a prude, or to be shunned for her open display of religious devotion.

Take the French ban of burkinis in 30 coastal towns. The ban was enforced but then overruled by the country’s highest administrative court making the bans illegal – the higher power has spoken so surely the reluctant mayors of these coastal resorts would hang up their whips and give it a rest. Unfortunately, human opinion cannot be shaped to be uniform and disagreements still ensue. More than 20 mayors disagree with the ruling, meaning the municipal police can stop and fine women wearing burkinis at the beach despite the ruling stating that the bans are an “illegal violation of fundamental human freedoms.”

The modern-day society we are used to living in dictates liberal views; we understand that we and other people are entitled to personal freedom and autonomy in every sector of society, but said liberal attitudes can sound contradictory.  We are entitled to privacy, but if an invasion of privacy has public relevance then it becomes acceptable. We are entitled to freedom of speech, until someone says something that is ‘totally not PC’ and everyone loses their shit. We have the right to wear any clothing we want, until that clothing is a marker of something important.

Our liberalism is beautiful because it welcomes acceptance, or in the very least tolerance. But in being so accepting, everyone’s opinions cannot all be accommodated – each opinion is valid – like a fancy gold earring or ring – but opinions cannot be melted down and moulded together into a smooth piece of gold that fits together perfectly because it has lost its previous form and is now a uniform sphere.

Our acceptance also exists in each society differently because cultural and legal norms vary everywhere. So no matter how much everyone strives for tolerance and acceptance – be it religious in this case – the fundamentals of what governs each individual society will never have that perfect uniformity.

A law adopted in 2004 in France prohibits the wearing or open display of religious symbols in French schools, but not universities, and, in 2010, a law banned the Muslim face veil, or burqa.

The secularism in France is the strict separation of church and state which is a cultural norm and has every right to be respected. However, taking a belief or a norm and twisting it to then target Muslims (or any group) following terrorist attacks only fuels the scaremongering. The issue of the burkini should not even be an issue given our righteous liberal acceptance of everything, but now that it is an issue, at least it should remain an issue of women’s choice – what to wear versus what not to wear.

A piece of clothing that has symbolic religious meaning may be chosen to be worn and some may disagree with that right, but alluding to beach terrorism over a little extra material on a bikini is a tad sensationalist.

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