To wear or not to wear: the battle of the bikinis

By Sneha Gray

In the aftermath of the latest terrorist attacks, the most recent battleground is on the beaches of France. The latest war of the bikinisvsburkinis is the tip of a much deeper and wider iceberg, and was stastock-photo-burkini-vs-bikini-traffic-sign-with-two-options-classical-swimsuit-versus-bathing-clothes-for-469484654rted by the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard. It’s a battle of two ideologies; a battle for the meaning of freedom and democracy, and the future of France and western democracy as we know it.

On the one hand we have the French mayors, who, having been affected by multiple terror attacks, think that prohibiting
burkinis (a type of full body swimwear) is a way to put an end to what they view as a symbol of extremism, while those that wear the burkini say that they choose to wear the burkina or a burka as a symbol of their freedom of choice.

Proponents of the ban suggest that the burqa (full-body garment), the face veil, the headscarf, or hijab are signs of oppression against women and had no place in the 21st century world. If one were to think that way though, surely, then, the unrealistic expectation of beauty, bikini-body and image expected of a modern woman can also be considered oppressive to many.

Whatever the case may be, surely banning a piece of costume is in the very least undemocratic and autocratic, and unlikely to curb terrorism.  Like many of you here in New Zealand, come summer, my family and I enjoy our country’s beauty in one of our many beaches. While I look forward to hanging around in shorts, t-shirts, or a bikini, some in my circle of friends and family, especially the older members, choose not to. They can’t think of anything worse than walking along Ohope Beach in a bikini. They are fully attired in their long light coloured leggings, loose white shirts, and a wide brimmed sun-hat. Were we in Cannes, would these lovely ladies be asked to strip down too? Therein lies my dilemma on how these French mayors think they can police this idea and where the boundaries lie.

On the other side of the coin, I have personally observed and disagreed with subtle word associations of “modesty” and “decency”  aligned to burkas and burkinis.  It’s dropped in casually in conversations, interviews or articles by proponents of the burka or a head scarf. In her opinion piece in the Guardian[1], the creator of the burkini, Aheda Zanetti, says that her creation came out of a need to find something practical for the beach or to partake in sports but that was also “modest”. Sh
e says that up until that point, “we didn’t participate in anything because we chose to be modest.” The Dictionary defines modesty as “dressing or behaving so as to avoid impropriety or indecency, especially to avoid attracting sexual attention.”  While I applaud Ms Zanetti’s entrepreneurial spirit for creating a niche and filling a much needed gap in the swimsuit market, reading between the lines, I am not so sure about her implication that those of us not complying with the rules of the burka are i
mmodest or indecent. Besides, I don’t wear shorts and t-shirt to “attract sexual attention,” but because I feel comfortable in them.

Having grown up in Asia, I am aware that there are certain factions of Islam, that my Muslim friends have warned me about who want to Islamify the world by getting the west rid of “immorality” and the “indecent” way in which they perceive Western lifestyles. Many Muslim authors have expressed concerns about the resurgence of head and body coverings. Author Yasmin Alibhai-Brown[2] says, “Like a half-naked woman, a veiled female to me represents an affront to female dignity, autonomy and potential. Both are marionettes, and have internalised messages about femaleness.”

Writers Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa[3] in their Washington Post article pleaded with people not to wear the hijab in the name of interfaith solidarity. According to them, “the ‘hijab’ is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam we reject that believes that women are a sexual distraction to men, who are weak, and thus must not be tempted by the sight of our hair. We don’t buy it. This ideology promotes a social attitude that absolves men of sexually harassing women and puts the onus on the victim to protect herself by covering up.”

It seems like this debate is much larger, wider and deeper than whether one wears a bikini or a burkini. It hits right at the heart of who we are and who we want to be. We’re amateurs in paradise and therefore will never be perfect until paradise is found, but within all our imperfections we can find
common ground if we truly seek it.

Personally, it is my view that people should be allowed to wear what they want. I also think cultures evolve and we should all evolve with it. Take for example, medieval or even Victorian England where women wore scarfs and hat to cover their hair; or the fact that women had to cover their head at church. Most of us have moved on. Likewise, in their time, many Muslims may choose to change their preferences too. However, we can’t force them to do so if they choose to wear a burka or a burkini. Leave them be. It’s their choice. The beginning of the decline of democracy occurs when we take the freedom of choice from one sector of the population. For us to keep our freedom – our freedom of choice in clothing, in education, in marriage, in life – we need to let others have theirs too, even though sometimes we may not understand it.  Focus on the things that unite us, not divide us and this way our sons and daughters can find more common ground than us.

Who’d have thought that the future of our cultures and ideology is determined by what we wear to the beach.

-Ends-
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Guardian angel

I have often longed for a guardian angel. Then my husband and I got Casper and Jackson (a husky). I have noticed how I am now never bored. They are always with me. They give me a new perspective and discipline in life.

This self-portrait is a reminder that the guardian angel you are looking for is right in front of you. http://canon.getfb.co/s/3jI

Hey “middle-classer” – Have you finished with that Jealousy?

“My precious”…”Mine”… “Mine” … “Mine”….

Let’s admit it. Be honest. We’re all just jealous.

Trolling through the social media comments in response to the latest saga about British Prime Minister David Cameron’s financial worth I could smell the vicious negative thoughts of our jealous minds.

Oh! You’re not, are you…You’re just thinking about all the poor orphans in the world, is it…Be honest…Or are you thinking about why you deserve a fashion stylist more than the British Prime Minister’s wife; or that you deserved the five-star holiday more than the Kardarshians. Be true. Be honest.

Sure maybe you have philanthropical aspirations (most of us do), but are you sure you have it in you to be the next Mother Teresa and live your life for the poor and needy. If you were, then you can do it now. Mother Teresa did not need millions to do good. She just had a priceless heart.

If we’re true to ourselves, we’d know that we’re just jealous we can’t live that life. We just use poor innocent little children in poverty as an excuse to attack the rich. Don’t get me wrong. I am not a rich-lister and nor am I trying to support the “rich”. To be honest, the only list I probably am on is on the long-term mortgage list of a prominent NZ bank.

Let me be clear. I am not saying that we let the rich get richer at the expense of the rest of us. I think we need rigourous rules and regulations in place so the wider community can live with dignity regardless of their financial status. This may mean that we may need to put further legislation and proper tax laws in place to ensure fairness in finance.

That aside, it amazes me how much jealousy there is in the world. We’re jealous because we don’t have what they have.

In the case of the British Prime Minister some of us are jealous because their ancestors left them with so much wealth. What’s your solution to this then?

Eradicate capitalism! OK! What do we replace it with?

In the past, revolutionaries have tried various ways to make everyone “financially equal”. With all good intentions, some found a loop-hole and ended up lining their pockets. Interesting how socialist and communist USSR had so many millionaires. Or China? Are people truly equal in China? If that were true I am not sure why there are still very poor farmers and very rich “capital(ist) communists.”

I agree with the sentiments of all as to why there needs to be more even distribution of wealth and I for one will live a more comfortable life if this happened. However, this world is yet to find a system that works, where all men and women are equal and have equal opportunities and equal resources and live at peace with one another.

Unfortunately, we are amateurs in paradise and until we reach or create paradise there will always be differences – someone will always be richer than you, and someone will always have more opportunities than you. You & I will always be richer than someone else and we will always have more opportunities than someone else.  It’s all a matter of perspective. Truth be told, ALL of us in New Zealand, are one of the richest people in the world. Would it then be fair for someone who hasn’t got their basic human needs – food, water, clothing and shelter – met to say that we “middle class” New Zealand citizens cannot be paid as much as we are or that we cannot inherit our parents’ $100,000 home because they deserved it more than us? No doubt most of us will have a problem with this.

Sure, it’s vital that we continue to work towards tightening legislation and tax laws to ensure that the rules are fair. It’s important to support a welfare system that’s used (not misused) to support the elderly and those genuinely in need (we all need support at some stage). It’s also important we continue to evolve and find a new way of living where we are all content.

However, jealousy is not the answer. It does not create a truer, cleaner and more beautiful world. It only leads to chaos and destruction.

The next time we see a rich-lister or a celebrity, instead of being jealous, let’s look at the positives, count our blessings and be thankful that we are richer than many others in the world.

 

#SHARETHIS #comment

Black or White: So long as you are FAIR

blackorwhte

In light of the recent Oscars #Ohsowhite campaigns and views, Sneha Gray writes that racism or colourism and perception of beauty in the media is not as clear-cut as black or white and that this trend exists not just in Hollywood but movie industries across the Globe.

 Growing up as a child in Southern India it was made clear to me that I would never be considered exceptionally beautiful or stunning…No one needed to overtly say it…It was just there…the rectangular box at home constantly had moving images of white and/or fair skinned people, fairy tales stories about characters like Snow White, and tips on how to be “fair and lovely”. I remember auditioning for a school play once only to be told by a teacher that another girl that was so “fair and lovely” was chosen for the part.

As a tom-boy child I loved playing cricket and soccer. This also meant that the harsh Indian sun darkened me considerably. I remember being told by well-intentioned people that I would never find a nice guy or be respected if I was dark. To be fair to them, in the world we lived in then (and perhaps now too), it was probably true.  I remember trying to remove the tan by trying to scrub out the dark skin tan under the shower in the hope that scrubbing hard with soap will remove the dark tan. More than racism, I call it colourism. This exists in most media industries, not just in Hollywood but also in Bollywood and other film industries across Asia and the globe.SNEHA GRAY BW

While beauty is only skin deep, its human nature to be the best we can be and that’s a good thing. It’s important to look and feel good and be fit to the best of our ability. But when we’re told either by words or deeds constantly by the film industry that fair or white is the ONLY way to be beautiful or talented and successful, then it becomes an issue.

Following the 88th Oscars just gone two strong thoughts prevail: On the one hand are those that suggest that there needs to be more variety and diversity of actors; the other group think its political correctness gone wrong and that if white actors performed better they should win the award.

While I agree with those with the latter view that the best person should win the award regardless of what their skin colour is, the point this group fails to realise is that if more talented, skilled and just as visually presentable darker skinned actors are given the opportunity to be cast in lead roles then more of them will be able to win the award. Proponents of this view, myself included, are not suggesting that the pendulum should swing the other way to say that ONLY dark-skinned is beautiful or talented, but that there would be balance so people of all skin-tones who are good actors and suit the role can have equal opportunity to be successful.

Hollywood has boldly taken a stance at changing negative perceptions about various social issues. Perhaps it’s time for the Academy to take a stance against racial prejudice or prejudice based on colour. If Hollywood takes a lead then perhaps other film industries like Bollywood will change their biased attitudes towards people that are darker skinned.  For instance, Bollywood and North India is still very biased against darker skinned people. Indian media do not hesitate to put down Hollywood and blame them for bias against Indian actors, but fail to realise that in their own right they put down the darker skinned Indian actors who are equally beautiful and fit and just as talented.

The Indian film industry is just one example of an Asian film industry that is biased against darker skinned people and actors. Many other Asian countries like China, Philippines and Thailand have been criticized about the same issue.

As long as the world exists there will always be some of us that are better looking than average; sing better than average; and act better than average.  For instance, personally, I may never look as aesthetically presentable or elegant as Cate Blanchett or Brie Larsen but there are many darker skinned girls that are just as beautiful and talented and can win the Oscar if they are only given the right opportunity.

Equally, it’s not fair to blame every white actor or singer as being racist or biased. Unless you are in a situation it’s impossible to understand how the other person feels.  Now that the issue is out in the open perhaps Hollywood can take the lead towards making this necessary social change where all men and women regardless of colourtone can have equal opportunity.

It’s easy to brush aside the issue and say it’s not that big a deal. However, Until this happens, there will always be subtle racism or colourism worldwide and girls like me will still be trying to scrub hard under the shower to wipe away our tan.

Come on Hollywood! Take the stand and make a difference.