Rage – episode unnumbered due to too much rage

Today’s post was going to be about how my daughter has been asked to open a festival next Saturday in Bath, and how excited we are, and how you should all come (you should all come). I got slightly side tracked though.

By this article about how four French policeman, armed with guns, stood over one woman on a beach in Nice and forced her to remove her burkini, so that the Western world can be saved from Islamic extremists.

And people clapped and cheered. Which is good news for the future of humanity.

And I felt physically sick, and then wanted to cry, and then got really fucking furious, and then really sad. And I’ve been cycling through that for the last hour, and now I have a headache, and I really have to go out, but I have to write this out now, because if I don’t I might actually explode, and I’m not even wearing a fucking burkini. And please excuse any garbled bits, because this is just coming straight from the gut and I haven’t got time to tidy it up.

I posted on Twitter: I do not understand why it is powerful to force a woman to take off a Burkini on a beach at gunpoint. What does it prove to anyone?

A follower then posted footage of people being blown to smithereens and said: ‘because she could have explosives hidden under her clothing’. He then posted several more articles about how this sort of thing is common, and then blocked me when I said that it wasn’t common behaviour by all Muslims, which is why the great majority of Muslims condemn terrorism in the name of Islam.

So that was a good debate. I’m only sad he blocked me before I blocked him, frankly.

There are so many things wrong with this article, so many things that make me angry, it is difficult to know where to start.

What makes me most angry is that this ‘law’ banning burkinis is a sop. It has been enacted in some French towns because some members of the public are ‘uncomfortable’ with the sight of women in burkinis. That makes it alright then does it? Rather than address the prejudices of those who are uncomfortable, we’ll just give the thumbs up to draconian gun toting tactics that make women and children more vulnerable, and targets for hate shall we?

Rather than make any attempt to try to educate people, try to reach a long lasting, peaceable solution that could build a better future through destroying ignorance and bridge the differences between communities, we’ll just reinforce that ignorance and give it our approval by policing women with weaponry over their clothing choices?

Good one.

I find middle aged fat, white men with excess hair, nasty tan lines and a penchant for too small, lycra swimwear uncomfortable to look at. I suspect that there were far more of them on the beach in Nice than women in burkinis.  I also suspect there are a great many people who agree with me. Could we have someone to police them, please?

Did the people who blew up the airport in Brussels wear burkinis? Did the individual who mowed down those poor buggers in Cannes wear a burkini? No, they didn’t.

We are not going to get less terrorists by banning burkinis. We just aren’t. It’s simply something visible and easy that the French authorities can be seen to be doing, to up their approval ratings with idiots, and yet actually do nothing to deal with the real problem at all. It’s all smoke and mirrors and bull shit dressed up as action.

Another thing that really makes me seethe is that so much of the rhetoric around this is about ‘freedom’. People come to the west, apparently, in large part, for the freedom it offers, and yet what does that actually mean if people aren’t even free to express themselves through the clothes they wear? What’s free about that? Oh yes, you can be totally free as long as you’re free in a way that fits in with what we’re comfortable with and what we believe is right.

As a woman who steadfastly refuses to wear what people believe middle aged women should wear, and who dresses exactly as she pleases every day, even if that means wearing a ball gown on the school run (Oh yes), this narrow minded, bigoted nature of ‘freedom’ appalls me.  Mainly, I suspect, because if this kind of authoritarian clamp down on what exactly the right freedom is, is allowed to continue, I will be one of the first against the wall.

It’s exactly the problem I have with people who insist that all women vote because women died for your right to vote. And yes, they did, but they were fighting for something much larger than that actually, and that was women’s freedom to do exactly as they fucking well want without being made into a scapegoat or a poster child, or a whore or a saint, and that includes the freedom to choose to do and be whatever they want. I don’t want to be ‘your’ version of free. I want to be truly free, like men have had the right to be for centuries, and if a woman wants to wear a burkini to feel free, then she should be able to do it without people running around and screaming and labelling her a terrorist.

And as well as the fact that this stuff is insulting to Muslims and freedom and conflates terrorism with all sorts of things terrorism isn’t and all sorts of things Muslims aren’t, do I even have to go into the whole woman question? Do I?

Apparently I do.

This last sentence to be read with a giant dose of weariness, a large pinch of for fuck’s sake and an enormous sigh.

Why is it that it is just women that this law is penalising? Why? Why are we not legislating against djellabas for example, if you want to take the ethnic clothing = terrorism trope to its extreme? Why are the men free to wear whatever they want, but it’s the women’s clothing that is dangerous, oppressive, deadly?

It’s just sexist, patriarchal shit again, and again and again.

Yes, I suspect if you really wanted to, you could hide a shit load of explosive under a burkini (as long as you didn’t swim in it, obviously because, you know, clingy issues, and why wouldn’t you swim in it, given that that is one of the things it’s designed for?) But you could equally hide it under a djellaba, or in a back pack, or a picnic ice cooler, or a fucking top hat if you wanted. You could hide it in a thousand ways that no French official is legislating against, most of which things are either male or unisex, but no, they legislate against women’s clothing, because, well?

You know, the last few terrorist attacks occurred on crowded beaches, perpetrated by women, pretending to sunbathe with their children.

Oh, that’s right. They didn’t.

I have to go now. I have things to do that don’t involve weeping, grinding my teeth and despairing at the ignorant, sexist, racist, religionist horse shit that pretends to pass for safety, common sense and protecting the future. A future I increasingly don’t really want to be a part of unless I can hold up a placard that says: ‘Not my idea. Sorry everyone.’




68 responses to “Rage – episode unnumbered due to too much rage

  1. So well said, my reaction exactly, what big brave chaps they are… And as for the people on the beach, some shouting “go home” apparently, and generally doing absolutely nothing to object, they should all be ashamed.

  2. I’m horribly familiar with that cycle – I find chopping wood helps but you probably don’t have a giant wood pile that needs sorting. If you were any where near me I’d offer you the use of mine but I don’t think you are. One of yr best posts, yes, a thousand times, yes….. Afraid I won’t be coming to the festival but I hope it goes well.

  3. Thank you Katy, thank you thank you thank you. I will be grinding my teeth, weeping and despairing in London right beside you.

  4. amen.

  5. smerlinchesters

    Although I agree that such a law is silly, but it is in line with their laws.
    I lived in France about two decades ago and in Paris they were enforcing a law preventing girls to enter school if veiled.
    I also agree that men should abide by the same rules in any case.

    However… I might make you notice that Italian police forces are armed too and you should not leave your towels unattended on the beach or during the night because you could find two well-armed Carabinieri looking down on you when you’re back, with a staggering 1,500 euro fine in their hands, courtesy of recent Italian laws on the beaches………
    Armed police forces are a norm abroad (I lived in USA, we had rifles under the bed, NO kidding!) and they tend to do some willy-waving with them if you fail to comply with the law; I was quite surprised that in UK only special forces are actually carrying weapons.

    • It’s so alien to me that people would carry guns. I forget how common it is elsewhere.

      • smerlinchesters

        Having tried both, I think that being in a gun-free country is a lot more relaxing; contrary to what the gun supporters preach, it feels a lot less safe to go around with your fingers on a trigger 24/7. Living in fear of being shot (by police, terrorists or anyone else) or shooting someone by mistake is no fun. I’d ban them all.

  6. Yes, that. All of that, and then some more. I wear what I bloody want,‡ including stupid hats, short shorts, and worse, so it’s fair that others should be able to, and that’s that.

    ‡ Unless Mrs Wife says otherwise. Her taste is always right. I know this, because she married me.

  7. Despite being a pacifist since age 3 this news report made me want to shoot somebody. When did France, the country of Liberty, equality etc become a fascist totalitarian state? If, for medical reasons I could not expose my skin to the sun and covered my head with a scarf, would I be made to strip as well?

  8. frenchbrandywine

    Oh Katy, this is disgraceful and I completely agree with every word- so so so shamefully sad.

  9. I can’t write that eloquently about this whole issue. Don’t know how you can. I felt much the same, but words failed me. Excellent piece and should be read by ‘those who think they have power.’ Unfortunately, they do. (Feeling angry again at this point, so changing the subject – which Festival in Bath? I live nearby and may stick my nose in the door.) I was going to put a kiss of support at this point, but thought that wasn’t quite the thing to do … so sending angry understanding but supportive thoughts instead.

  10. Spot on. Rage over here too.

  11. I am afraid it is even worse than you think. She wasn’t even wearing a burkini, she was in her normal clothes and was made to undress on the beach at gun point. I feel sick

  12. oh Katy, I’m crying too at the futility and downright nastiness that is becoming so part of our humankind. Looking desperately to find a channel for the anger and frustration, thanks for you blog that provides a small branch in this sea of turmoil. If there is a god, hope she blesses you x

  13. I must admit to slightly mixed feelings on this one. First off, I do agree with you completely on this particular incident, which was horrible. As you rightly point out, no one is ever suggesting men could be hiding stuff under equally voluminous clothes but women are, as ever, the easy target.

    However, no matter how much some women claim to feel liberated by wearing headscarves, burkas &c, I don’t think I will ever be able to rid myself of the feeling that they have been coerced into covering up, even if only by subtle pressure from the men & the culture that surround them, in most cases from birth.

    I also think that, given that I would be expected to don certain clothing should I choose to visit one of the relevant countries, I can see why some say it isn’t unreasonable to expect the reverse. You can be “modest” in dress without wearing a voluminous black sack. However, even if we did have rules like that, standing armed over a woman on a beach insisting she undress in public is completely beyond the pale.

    Ultimately, like you, I end up despite any misgivings, firmly of the belief that we should all be able to wear exactly what we want. I don’t like that way that naked rambler was picked on either. And the results when a young woman went topless in the street (this was on C4 recently) were not heartening. Apparently it was OK for her male companions to be shirtless….

    My Dad, who was born back in the 20s used to say (usually after some judge had opined that a woman’s short skirt had got her assaulted) that a woman should be able to walk naked through the streets and not be molested. That – and my deep dislike of religion – has clearly coloured my approach to weak men who insist women be robed or veiled or both, while presumably believing the male gender to be superior. So superior that seeing a fully clothed woman, or her hair, will “inflame their urges” and they won’t be able to control themselves! But it also means that in the end I simply support the right of anyone to wear, or not wear, what they want. And no religion or Government should get involved.

    What happened on that beach was sickening and I hope that the reaction will prevent it happening again. I won’t hold my breath though.

    • It’s difficult, except that nobody says that nuns are coerced into covering up. I appreciate that there is a difference as nuns choose their path, but we have to accept that while there are women for whom covering up is distasteful and they are ‘forced’ to do it for religious purposes, there are some women who choose to do it, and are happy to do so because they feel it is part of who they are and what they want to do. I also think that we make the assertion that we ‘must’ cover up if we go to someone else’s country but fail to take into account that we pride ourselves on being different, on being tolerant, on allowing freedom. How can we do that if we only allow certain freedoms based on what we feel comfortable with? It is really difficult because like you, I would no more wear modest clothing for God or religious purposes than fly through the air, it’s just I wonder how much of what makes us uncomfortable is discomfort in ourselves?

  14. Here in France there seems to be little support for this stupidity, although tourism (our main income) has been badly hit and so no doubt something must be seen to be done. By the way, some guy is paying all the fines doled out to burkini wearers. And burkini sales are booming.

  15. And her face, whilst they were forcing her to strip! Unbelievably wrong law.

  16. Hi Katy,
    Thanks for pointing out the article in the Guardian. I’d like to say that even though I don’t condone the kind of restrictions that are currently being imposed in some parts of France, I can understand the rationale behind what’s currently happening. The country is on edge with the terrorism that it has been victim of lately, and these bans (hopefully temporary) are more for the purpose of avoiding attracting attention – too much attention, or unwelcome attention by people with a grievance – than to restrict freedoms. They *do* restrict freedoms, yes, but that had to be balanced with the potential risks that expressing your freedom can entail at the moment – at least that what I’m assuming the decision-makers did. Look at what happened in Corsica last week – ugly, and stupid, and intolerant; but the authorities have to respond to ensure public order somehow. Trying to preemptively prevent things that could be a provocation in this climate is better than cleaning up the mess afterwards. Let’s just hope that the world comes back to a more normal state of affair not too far in the future.
    As for the emphasis on “armed French police”, this is a bit disingenuous, since all French police are armed anyway. It’s a bit like making a point of the fact that US police are always armed – duh. It’s the norm, just like it’s the norm in the UK for the police *not* to be armed (although they’ve got lethal tasers these days 😉 ).
    All the best,

    • I appreciate what you’re saying, but why this freedom, and why only for women? Also, sorry about the armed bit, but as we do not have armed police here and it is not something that is ‘normal’ it is very easy to forget how casually accepting the rest of the world is to people with guns. 🙂

    • Do you genuinely believe that? Wearing a burkini bears no relation to terrorism. Wearing a burkini runs no risk whatsoever so I don’t understand how the ban is weighed against the risk. The risk of terrorism exists I don’t deny that and things need to be done to address it but this is just some sick, sexist rule that in no way addresses the risk of terrorism. I think when you are being forced to undress it’s really quite relevant if the men were armed too. Personally I think it would be more intimidating were I being forced to undress in public. Sure they all carry guns, it just means that all police in France are therefore more intimidating than those in countries where they don’t carry guns (or lethal tasers).

  17. Dear Katy, I agree with every word of your blog on this despicable incident…one of many unfortunately!! I feel somewhat comforted to know there are others who feel like us but it isn’t enough is it? Like you in the UK, in Canada we do not, and hopefully never will, casually accept people with guns. The ‘armed’ police emphasis which highlights an ugly and universally recognized symbol of power could only have added to the horror of the situation for the woman on the beach. I’m kind of overflowing with thoughts about the different issues brought up by this story so I’ll stop here before I begin babbling….Thank you for your wonderful writing!

  18. You’ve so eloquently said what I would love to have written. And as to Phillippe Lasnier’s comments. Doesn’t he think that such ridiculous oppression might just have the effect of encouraging moderate people to think and act in a …. less moderate way? I actually feel like rushing out and buying a burkini right now as a gesture of support, and I’m definitely not one for covering up in the sunshine.

  19. Exactly Katy.
    On the same day that Police Scotland announce that the hijab can be worn, to hopefully increase the amount of Muslim women applying to be policewomen.
    And on the same day that Tesco announce that they’ve replaced saltires on Scottish strawberries with Union flags, due to English customers not being comfortable with and complaining about the sight of a wee blue & white cross.
    Go figure, huh?!

  20. Ugh, this makes me feel physically sick. Just reinforces the horrible, horrible hypocrisy the West has about women’s clothing: if we wear too little we’re sluts who deserve to be raped, if we wear too much we’re “enslaved”.
    And, of course, this is something Daesh can point at and say, “Look! Look! The West *does* hate Islam!” When are we going to stop enabling their narrative?

  21. I just read the report in the Mail Online (it appeared on Facebook I hasten to add, I don’t make a habit of reading the Daily Wail as it’s usually as bad for my blood pressure as this bloody outrageous law) and even they couldn’t bring themselves to condone the ban and French police behaviour!

    As a middle aged, red haired, half Irish, lapsed Catholic woman, I would far rather cover up on the beach than expose my cellulite to the inevitable grilling. I think wearing a burkini would be a doing both myself and anyone in the vicinity a favour, but I hardly fit the profile of the ‘terrorists’ they are supposedly targeting.
    Not that I have a problem with any woman wearing whatever they feel comfortable in, even if she’s eighty and it’s a thong, although that’s very unlikely as ladies over a certain age never seem to feel the heat, so a knitted cardy and sensible raincoat would probably be the outfit of choice. Which begs the question would she be forced to remove them by tear gas toting police if she happened to venture onto the beach in Nice?
    Perhaps only if she looked middle eastern….

    There is so much wrong with this that it’s hard to know where to start, I commend you for trying.

  22. You are wonderful. Thank you for articulating my feelings better than I can (I’m still at incoherent rage and despair).

  23. I totally agree, Katy. I was reading, earlier on today, an article by the Australian designer of the burkini. She had the idea to help her niece and other muslim girls play netball and other sports.

    I fervently hope that such shameful police behaviour will not take place on any of the beaches I frequent (near Perpignan). It’s basically banning muslim women from enjoying the seaside!

    And you make a good point about djellabahs. There were plenty of Algerians clad thus, plying their wares on Nice’s beach when I was last there (1986).

    BTW, it was in Nice that the sadist mowed people down, not Cannes. Not that that exempts the police from blame.

    Time for a vocab session (bully, discrimination, coercion,etc), just in case I have to remonstrate against the police coercing a woman to strip at gunpoint.

    • Something that was specifically designed to give freedoms is now supposed to be a sign of oppression, and yet how oppressive to force someone to remove one. It defies belief. x

  24. I like to think I can usually understand other points of view however much I may disagree with them. On this issue, however, I have been unable to find even one vaguely defensible line of argument. This is unusual. Even Brexit could be a logical choice given certain ideological inputs.

    Ordering women to take off their clothes, at gunpoint, on a beach in a Western liberal democracy would normally get you locked up. And rightly so.

    Some of us seem to forget that it is not Muslim women who started covering themselves, but we in the West who only recently stopped covering ourselves. Except for me. I would never step onto a beach again before I would wear a bikini in public.

  25. Astounding isn’t it. Makes me want to weep with fury that this is considered acceptable and civilised

  26. The whole thing is horrendous and leaves me seething. It’s just downright racist and sexist. What about people in scuba suits they look pretty similar to me, and nuns in their habits – they are generally even more covered than a burkini. I think that these women who have been forced to undress should go and report to police in the neighbouring towns (where you are allowed to dress how you want on a beach) and say they were “forced to undress by four men with guns” because that is what happened to them. I’m pretty sure that is illegal.

  27. I feel that in any other circumstance men forcing women to take off their clothes would be massively frowned upon, i am sickened by this episode and the supposed chanting of other people on the beach. My heart breaks for our brothers and sisters from non white cultures, they are having the most appalling time because of the actions of a few similar to them – in religion and skin colour only,

    Youa re so right when you say a bomb can be hidden anywhere i personally don’t remember the IRA wearing burkinis or Anders Behring Breivik in Norway or Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, No Burkinis on show there – but stop me if i am wrong. I suppose these were mainly whiote men so possibly mentally ill rather than terrorists – Sigh

  28. I live in France and am English and over the past two years this country has been subject to the most horrific terrorist attacks with multiple deaths and suffering including young children, whilst it seems rather extreme to ask this woman to remove her burkhini under these circumstances maybe you should all ask yourselves first how afraid you might feel if you thought there would is high risk of terrorist attack on your holiday beach back in the UK. Current Intelligence in France suggests that there are further attacks planned along the tourist coastlines in the South and South West and the French police and army are doing all they can to mitigate this against an enemy that is difficult to identify. Stop being so self righteous and stop and see it from the French people’s point of view. I for one would be happy if I thought that an active part is being carried out to protect lives! Oh and by the way my daughter was in Nice when the recent terrorist attack took place, thankfully she is still alive and safe, but saw the pain and suffering caused. See it first hand and you might all feel a little less self righteous about it all!!!

    • Maybe you should cast your mind back in time, because in my life time and remembrance I can clearly recall when IRA bombings in the UK were a reality and constant terror threat for many of us in this country and something we lived with just like the French live with the threat of terrorism by Daesh now. Maybe you could drag your mind a little nearer in time to the 7/11 bombings in London and the hundred plus people who died as an act of terrorism, or the nail bombings in Soho, or the riots of three summers ago. At no point did anyone make any frankly ludicrous laws that required ONLY women to strip on beaches, or indeed anywhere else, in public areas full of people who could equally well be harbouring a bomb about their person and who weren’t women. If the French had, for example, searched every person wearing voluminous clothing, people carrying ruck sacks, picnic boxes and or anything else that might look suspicious I may be being slightly less angry. I have seen it first hand thanks, and no, I don’t think spreading fear, ignorance, misogyny and sexism is the way forward if it’s all the same to you, and that in no way condones violence or makes my sympathy for those who lost their lives any less.

      • You took the words right out of my mouth Katy. I won’t take lectures from anyone about being self-righteous on this issue. We all experience fear in a thousand different ways – in 1992 my City of London office was blown up by the IRA two hours after I left it for the weekend. It was blown up again the following year just as we were getting ready to move back in. At no point did I ever imagine that the solution was to require Irish Catholic nuns to strip off their habits on the beach at fucking Margate! Fortunately for us all, neither did John Major.

  29. Thank you so much for being able to find the right words to condone this barbaric happening, Katy!
    As I read about it, I became incoherant with rage that, once again, it’s a woman, and a mother, whose only crime was to be on a beach, surrounded by her family, who was forced by men at gunpoint, with tears of humilliation running down her face, to strip in front of everyone!
    As far as I can gather, she wasn’t even wearing a Burkini – just clothes that covered her in a modesty subsribed by her own people!
    I totally agree that we should be asking questions about this especially, as you pointed out, that it’s only women who have been affected by these new laws.
    I totally despair of people at times, I really do!

  30. I agree, their behaviour was shocking and unacceptable. No different to Isis.

    I saw your post on Mumsnet,which recently banned me for opposing Islamophobia and wanting to help refugees.

  31. I agree, It defies belief.
    The cheering onlookers even more culpable than the police thugs. Could no one have stood up to support the poor woman?

  32. Women don’t wear Burkins because they’re free to dodo. In fact they’re not free at all. They’re enslaved by male-dominated pseudo-religion that dictates they are to have no personal moral or ethical freedom whatsoever.

    • Gosh, Jeremy. Thanks for pointing this out. I’m so impressed that you know the exact thoughts of every single Muslim woman on the planet with regard to how they dress, how they interpret their faith, and whether they feel free or not. Does it not strike you as ironic that you are lecturing me about male dominated control of women, and yet you’re a man, telling me, a woman, how wrong I am about something, how I should think about something you’ve decided it right, and you are appointing yourself a spokesperson for all Muslim women, as well as being an expert in what Islam is? I suspect it doesn’t, which is sad. But hey, thanks for popping by and being one of the reasons why me and so many women, Muslim or otherwise, have to keep fighting for our rights and ensuring that feminism is not just an obsolete footnote in the history books. Keep up the good work. I don’t know what us women would do without someone like you willing to take the time to point out how wrong we are about everything. I’d stop to chat but I have to get back to my embroidery frame right now, if the chain attaching me to the sink will stretch that far.

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