I’ve received several inquiries requesting an Ethics Alarms analysis of the current controversy roiling France, namely the so-called Burkini Ban. Muslim women had been wading into the French Riviera surf wearing “burkinis,” body-covering swimsuits designed to be compliant with the Islamic faith , and one resort town after another, fifteen in all including Cannes and Nice, declared them illegal. The women entering the water wearing such attire have been ticketed for not “wearing an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.”
Well, I try not to spend much time here writing about the obvious. The ban is unethical. In the U.S., such laws would be over-turned before the arrested women’s bathing suits were dry, since the meaures violate both the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. It should be obvious that the ban is unfair, as it is sexist, directed against one religion, and makes no sense whatsoever.
Sometimes I wonder if the French quite get this ethics thing. This is an example.
Both conservatives and many liberals in France support the ban. The conservatives, in addition to wanting to punish Muslims for recent Islamic terrorist attacks, claim to be upholding France’s core principle of “secularity,” enshrined in the nation’s constitution. Liberals argue that the Islamic strictures against women exposing any part of their bodies in public are misogynist, patriarchal, and “regressive,” so the bans defend the rights of women…by preventing women from wearing what they choose to, observing their own religion, and taking a swim.
You see what I mean about not quite grasping the whole “ethics” thing? The equivalent argument in the U.S. would be if feminists argued that sexy bathing suits be banned because they objectified women, even when the women wearing them felt like being objectified. The Burkini Ban is, to be blunt, idiotic.
Indeed, France’s freak-out about too little exposure on the beach seems like a Monty Python skit, especially coming from a nation that once scandalized the world by launching women’s swimwear fashion that was initially deemed obscene. The ban punishes the alleged victims of the misogyny that the liberals claim they want to prevent. It only applies to Muslim women covering their bodies with a specific style of bathing suit, and apparently only if they are Muslims. This is illegal…
…but not this…
..Nor, unfortunately, even this…
…and those towns would see nothing wrong with this...
or even this:
Wait…would it depend on whether a woman was a Muslim or not? After all, it seems that this wouldn’t violate those laws:
..or would it? If a woman in scuba gear or a nun’s habit is Muslim, she’s undermining French “secularity” and promoting misogyny, but if it’s a man wearing a similar outfit to take a dunk, or the woman is a Catholic, a Druid or an atheist, she can cover up like, say, this…?
Yup. Unethical, unfair, incompetent, mean, sexist, and really, really stupid.
[France partially redeemed itself, today. It’s top administrative court overturned the burkini ban, the Associated Press has reported.]