Burkini Blues

I want a burkini.

There, I’ve said it. And before anyone asks, I’m not a Muslim either. I just don’t like the sun, so covering up makes perfect sense to me. I have to say, the burkinis that I’ve seen online look rather more comfortable than a wetsuit and an awful lot more flattering.

Let’s face it, covering up on the beach is not the exclusive prerogative of religious individuals. Many people cannot or do not sunbathe; they have had treatment for skin cancer, are highly photosensitive or (like me) just prefer to be pale*. Why should they be penalised because they choose to wear something that doesn’t look as if it’s been made from three postage stamps and half a yard of string?

Recent events in France seem to have the whiff of Islamophobia about them. If there is a rule about secular dressing (and the burkini is considered a Muslim style for this argument), then it should apply across the board – nuns must don a conventional swimsuit, Buddhists should lose the robes and I dread to think what they would ask the Archbishop of Canterbury to do with his mitre. What concerns me more is the French police’s handling of the situation. Does it really take four armed policeMEN where a quiet word from a female officer might have worked just as well – and reduced the distress? Of course, some blame ought to be laid at the feet of those daft enough wearing a burkini on the beach when they know this might happen, but who has the right to tell people how to dress?

In countries where there is high awareness of the dangers of sun exposure – such as Australia and New Zealand – I can only assume that people who wear burkinis are considered to be taking sensible precautions. Indeed, the only definite way of preventing sun damage is to stay out of the sun completely, but the next best thing is covering up. And to me, a burkini is ideal. Having had a sunburned scalp in Greece (painful) and sunstroke in Thailand (twice) I have no intention of going on a beach without one.

To be honest, I don’t want to show all my wobbly bits off when I’m swimming; and one of the main reasons why I don’t swim is because I find swimwear too revealing. If I had a burkini, I would probably swim more often. And if wearing a burkini encourages mothers to go into water with their children to teach potentially lifesaving skills, where is the problem?

It has become a symbol of Islam because people MADE it a symbol of Islam. I thought it was just a bloody good idea and I’m still cross I haven’t got one. Maybe next year.

* That said, outdoor archery this summer has put paid to that – my face is the most tanned it’s been in years.

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