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Archive for August, 2016

A week or so ago, while scrolling through CNN, I found a video, that I think was supposed to be amusing, of people stealing Trump lawn signs. I strongly dislike Donald Trump and what he stands for…and almost everything that he says…however, I found myself upset at this.  My family and I took our first European trip this summer and we spent three days in Paris.  Our tour guide at Versailles told us that the thing that she thought was so startling about America was how we had political lawn signs.  She explained how signs like those would just get vandalized in France.  Now I see the same thing happening here.  A fellow alumna from my alma mater just posted that her Clinton/Kaine sign was taken down within a day.

 

Why do we think that this is an appropriate way to share our feelings or to react against those we disagree with? Having a Trump bumper sticker shouldn’t lead to your car getting vandalized.  The reason so many of us are afraid of a Trump presidency is that we believe he does not represent America’s enduring values.  One of those is freedom of expression.  We all have the right to our own beliefs and to share them.  The right of all of us to put up lawn signs, hold posters at polling places, and to fully participate every day in the dialogue of democracy is one of the things that makes our country great.  It’s hypocritical to tear down another’s property in the name of protecting American values.  Just because the news might read like a reality television show doesn’t mean that we need to act like it.  Protecting the rights of everyone is what America should stand for, even those that are different or that disagree with you.

 

To paraphrase Evelyn Hall, I might disapprove of who you vote for, but I’ll defend to the death your right to choose.

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One of the first posts I ever wrote for this blog dealt with the ban of the burqa and niqab by French authorities. It offended me that women were not allowed to choose their own dress and practice their faith as they wished. I had hoped at the time that France might relent and realize that instead of freeing women, they were instead oppressing them by taking away their right to choose. Yet, this past week, I suddenly found that this controversy had reignited after several French cities chose to ban the “burqini.” To clarify, the burqini is very different from a burqa. It doesn’t cover the face, for starters. Essentially, it is leggings and a long-sleeve shirt with an attached head-covering. It is worth noting that the burqini is not exclusively used by Muslims. In fact, the creator of the burqini said the new publicity has led to many more orders from non-Muslim women, especially survivors of skin cancer who need extra protection from the sun.

Already there have been numerous incidents of conflict. Multiple women have been ordered to leave beaches and fined as a result of wearing the swimwear. The most recent incident was a mother with her crying daughter who was forced to publically strip while three policemen stood over her with pepper spray. Numerous bystanders shouted at her and told her to go back where she came from; the woman in question comes from a family who has been citizens of France for at least three generations. Several of the women who have been forced to leave were in fact not wearing the burqini, but were stopped because they had covered their hair.

I’ve felt pain as I’ve read these stories. I myself choose my swimwear based on my religious beliefs; I refuse to wear bikinis of any kind or any swimwear that doesn’t cover my stomach or sides. This is what makes me most comfortable. I don’t choose my bathing suits or any other clothing because I am pressured to do so, but because these are what make sense for me. The thought of being forced to wear clothing that was too immodest for me is a horrible feeling. And this is a line that every woman should be able to decide for herself. For those of you who happily wear bikinis, as you should be able to, think of what it would be like if you went to a beach and were informed that you could only be on the beach topless or without any bathing suit at all. Additionally, there are plenty of women who prefer more modest swimwear simply because they prefer it, and it has absolutely nothing to do with their religious beliefs.

What’s most outrageous behind this religious discrimination is the logic that people are using to justify it. For instance, that it is a religious symbol that is linked to ISIS and therefore a threat to France. Grandmothers swimming with their families are really not trying to destroy your country. The conflation of the practice of Islam with ISIS is dangerous and offensive. Secondly, the assertion that this swimwear might be offensive to people of other religious beliefs or non-religious beliefs is ridiculous. In a free society, one religion isn’t supposed to have to accommodate the other; all are supposed to be able to practice freely. If an atheist asked me to cover up my cross so as not to offend them, I would probably look at them as if they had two heads.

Women in France deserve the right to make their own decisions and have full autonomy, and that includes the right to choose their own clothes and practice their own religion. To do otherwise is a manifestation of bigotry and of sexism. Any country that claims to take women’s rights seriously cannot do it by legislating their behavior and dress.

For more details: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3754395/Wealthy-Algerian-promises-pay-penalty-Muslim-woman-fined-France-wearing-burkini.html

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