The burqini, and other forms of women’s liberation

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: arab culture, cross cultural, culture, women | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently, I read about the  burqini and at first thought it was a joke.  To most western women, the idea of a burqa (the head to toe covering worn by some Muslim women) is seen as an oppressive prison. We read about women who are beaten for not wearing them in public, and only see them as a form of oppression.

When I visited the burquini website I found out that it is swimwear and sportswear for active Muslim women. And based on the testimonials, it is a new form of women’s liberation. Woman after woman wrote to say how they could now participate in sports and go swimming, while still maintaining the modesty required of their religion. “I don’t look like a fool in the water anymore, and I’m not weighed down by all the heavy wet clothes I used to wear,” wrote one happy customer.

Women from different cultures face different challenges. For these women, the burqini is a big step foward in being able to define themselves and actively participate in daily life.  We must be careful not to belittle desires of women whose cultures are different or contrary to our own. They themselves, must define their path.




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2 Responses to “The burqini, and other forms of women’s liberation”

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My first reaction was “wow, I could wear one of those and never have to worry about bad hair or my fat ass at the beach!” Then I felt guilty for being so flippant about something that was probably a big step for some women. Then I became confused about the kind of woman that would feel the need to wear a burqini, but was willing to run around the beach in such an outfit, and exactly how does that fit into the whole “Muslim women must be modest thing?” Then I started getting angry about women being oppressed and how various religions or cultures manipulate rules and control people simply based on their gender… Many conflicting thoughts and emotions. Thanks for your thought provoking posting!

Yes, this definitely provokes some mixed feelings, to say the least. But I must admit, I did momentarily consider the Burqini for the typical overindulgent Western woman’s “fat ass” purposes…I mean, I already wear a swim skirt…it’s hardly a leap.
But I also find it so appalling (and inconceivable, really) that in some cultures, a woman’s body is a source of shame. I mean, subtle cultural messages of shame involving advertising and stick-thin models are one thing, but at least it’s not forced upon us!

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