If you’re a female navigating the complexities of global swimwear, or clothing in general, this summer, I feel you (as much as my privileged-male-patriarchal-status will let me feel, that is).
More than a week ago, Nice joined the growing list of French cities to ban the “burkini” on its beaches. Cross over onto the shores of the Middle East, and good luck using this bewildering guide to help you navigate the complexities of beach wardrobe do’s and don’ts. Meanwhile on Danish beaches, you can wear pretty much whatever, or nothing whatsoever if you please. Those hippies.
This made me ponder a hypothetical: If beach-loving women from another galaxy ever came to visit our wonderfully confused planet, how (on Earth!) would they know what to pack: The one piece, two piece, or just skip the beach altogether? The correct answer depends on where their flying saucers land, as Earth sensitivities on such matters tend to be a fickle thing.
Throughout history, we, the patriarchal body politic have waged social and political battles fired up by such sensitivities -- and too often the ground-zero upon which these battles are fought is the woman’s body.
For the past thousands of years we, the patriarchy, have prescribed rules for women on what they can and cannot wear, say, and do. We have seized the right to determine what is appropriate, and what is not appropriate. What is too much, or what is too little. What is morally permissible; and what will cast them into the fiery pits of hell. Despite our chivalrous fronts, we tend to mold social norms to parameters that suit our comfort-levels, at the expense of theirs.
We, the patriarchy, like to think we are looking out for women: For the religious-patriarch we are protecting you from eternal damnation itself; for the practical-patriarch, we are shielding you from the sexual deviants lurking in the bushes; for the secular-patriarch, we are vigilant against wardrobe malfunctions and nipple slips in defense of greater public sensitivities; and for the progressive-patriarch, we are freeing you from the backwardness and oppression of too much clothing.
By the way, our obsession with such matters has absolutely nothing to do with our own insecurities, be they cultural, religious, political, or sexual. Zero. Zilch. Nada. We swear, pinky swear it.
Throughout history, we, the patriarchal body politic have waged social and political battles and too often the ground-zero upon which these battles are fought is the woman’s body
I mean to think, that the banning of the burkini on French beaches has anything to do with French attitudes towards marginalised immigrant communities or Islam is just plain absurd. Or to think that Saudi Arabia forces its women into conservative “abayas” because they have social and cultural issues with the female rights and visibility is simply a crack-pot conspiracy of the highest order.
Whether women are forced to take off their burkini, or forced into the abaya, it’s always in the name of greater social good (and always the expense of personal choice). In some twisted way, this double-think makes sense in our minds -- the opinionated and authoritative minds of the patriarchy.
And so, in continuation of this age-old tradition of patriarchal pontification on the subject, I, endowed by nature as a man of authority-wielding-opinions (and with the credible experience of having four sisters, a mother, and a handful of friends of the opposite sex) have come up with what I’m calling the The Definitive List of Things Women Should and Should Not Wear.
Take note, any one, or any nation looking to impose prescriptions on the matter.
Here it goes:
1. It’s none of my damn business.
2. It’s none of your damn business.
And there we have it, The Definitive List of Things Women Should and Should Not Wear.
Samier Mansur is a writer, thinker, and entrepreneur driven by ideas and technologies that make this world a happier, and more peaceful place. This article was previously published in the Huffington Post.