Feminist Fuck Yeah: Women Throw Beach Party to Protest French Islamophobia

This morning, protesters gathered outside the French embassy in London, poured bags of sand, and staged a beach party complete with deck chairs, inflatables, and women in a wide array of clothing, from bikinis to burkinis, to protest France’s racist ban on “religious swimwear” in its coastal towns. Participants held up signs deriding the Islamophobia implicated in anti-burkini laws, posed side by side in bikinis and hijabs, and included playful elements to the protest — inflatable lobsters, volleyballs, and glitter adorned placards saying “Fuck the Patriarchy.” Protesters and supporters also took to Twitter, using the hashtag #wearwhatyouwant to indicate their opposition to the bans.

The party, which lasted little over an hour but received widespread media coverage, comes on the heels of the outrage over armed policemen on Tuesday forcing a woman to strip off “religious clothing,” at a beach where she was wearing a full coverage swimsuit and a “classic headscarf.” Her citation included a ticket telling her off for not respecting “good morals” — which, coming from a country where women are brutally assaulted in the name of moral policing, could not sound more chilling to me, especially when done in the name of a liberal and peaceful society. The woman was given a fine and heckled off the beach by the crowd. Her daughter was driven to tears by the commotion.

One of the protest’s organizers, Esmat Jeraj, told the Guardian:

[The argument that the burkini was a symbol of repression] needs to be turned on its head[...] A lot of women wear it by choice[...] If the burkini enables women to go and sit on the beach and enjoy the sunshine, surely that should be encouraged. It helps ensure these women are no longer on the margins.

London mayor Sadiq Khan, also expressed dismay at the ban on a recent visit to Paris. Mr. Khan told the Evening Standard, “I’m quite firm on this. I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that.”

Of course, support in London may not affect the goings-on in France, where support for the bans remain frighteningly high at about 64%. The beach party in London also stands in striking contrast to a planned “burkini party,” in South France, which organizers were forced to cancel after receiving death threats. The group behind the planned event was a Muslim community group inoffensively named “Smile 13,” and had inoffensively planned the event to give women the space to swim freely in the community pool in their burkinis. The seemingly innocuous event generated a local media storm, with government officials warning that the act of swimming in a private pool was a display of an “extreme ideological position,” promoted “communalism,” and would likely cause public disorder. While the mayor of Paris joined her London counterpart in dismissing burkini bans, politicians in France are overwhelmingly vocal in its favor, with a French Minister shockingly making a public statement stating that women who chose to veil were “n*****s who were in favour of slavery.”

Tomorrow morning, France’s highest court will deliver a ruling on the legality of burkini bans following a challenge to the laws by human rights groups. The decision, which will no doubt be followed in its wake by surveillance, violence, and further rifts in an already divided population, will have implications that will weigh heavily on us all.

Header image via Charles Roffey.


Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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