DOREEN WACHMANN COLUMN
Pre-feminist image is still prevalent

THE burkini ban in some French resorts and Corsica sets a dangerous precedent.

In their panic against Islamic extremism, the French are erroneously confusing two aspects of religious extremism which are completely different.

France, like all sensible countries, is right to be concerned about the spread of religious political extremism which seeks world domination through terror tactics.

But the Islamic female dress code, which shares some basic principles with that of Orthodox Jewish women, is an entirely different matter.

I was amused, but also slightly concerned, when a couple of years ago I went with my American grandchildren on a chol hamoed Succot outing to a beach just a couple of miles from the yeshiva town of Lakewood, New Jersey.

It was a beautiful autumn day and the beach was packed with frum kids swimming in the water in the clothes they came in.

That was all well and good, but there were no changing facilities on the beach and the kids had to go home dripping wet in the car, trailing their watery path through their house where they fought ferociously over who would use the shower first.

Surely it would have been better if they had had some modest swimwear into which they could change to go swimming, than having to go home shivering in their regular clothes.

Make no mistake, my grandkids and thousands of charedi kids like them around the world, are not set on taking over the world through terror, but on living the Torah lifestyle in which they have been raised.

Now I see that several American swimwear manufacturers are marketing kosher versions of the burkini to allow Jewish women and girls to enjoy the pleasures of swimming and sunbathing without compromising their modesty and, equally important to even secular beach-goers, not exposing themselves to the risk of skin cancer.

Much has been made of the idea that modesty dress codes for women are masculine attempts at female oppression.

But in 1970, feminists felt that beauty contests, like Miss World, enslaved women because they judged them by their looks and not their abilities and promoted an image of female physical perfection in a swimsuit.

But isn't that image of female physical perfection still alive and well in our current post-feminist age in which cosmetic surgeons rake in big bucks as women go under the knife?

Cultural norms die hard and the pre-feminist image of women in a swimsuit risking cancer to gain a perfect tan is still prevalent, especially as feminists themselves have fought for and gained sexual freedom just so they can continue to live their lives to attract men.

Maybe it is just the West's continued over-emphasis on sexuality which is becoming abhorrent to many and drives them to become more religious and adhere to dress codes.

We are all influenced by the cultural norms of the society in which we grow up, unless we blatantly choose to flout them.

Women who choose to cover up to fit in with society are no more oppressed than secular women who spend too much time and energy on trying to attain an illusory goal of physical perfection for the benefit of cosmetic surgeons and the fashion industry.


We don't need medals to be winners

IF the Olympics would continue for ever would we live in a safer world?

Is it a coincidence that after an early summer in which, post-referendum, the UK and the world-at-large was reeling daily from one crisis to another, during the Olympics, there was hardly any news except what was happening in Rio?

Is it because all the aggression and adrenalin, which normally go into violent conflict, were deflected into the games? Or because terrorists desisted from their obnoxious behaviour because they knew their acts would be buried under the Rio gold medals news?

All that aside, as a news, rather than a sports, junkie, I found the period of the Olympics intensely boring as there was very little to watch on TV.

My objections to watching the Olympics are pretty similar to those I expressed above about misleading and unrealistic exceptions of physical perfection, although with the Olympics it is prowess, not beauty which is the goal.

The Olympics symbolise the difference between the ancient Greek concept of the holiness of beauty and the Jewish one of the beauty of holiness which the Maccabees fought for.

I also don't like the Olympic mindset in which people are only valued if they are winners. Which means that all the rest of us are losers.

I would like to see a world in which we were all winners whether or not we won medals.

We all have our daily challenges to overcome.

Every time we do so we are a winner, whether it is universally acknowledged or not.

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