Over the weekend, E! aired a nauseating show called 30 Best & Worst Beach Bodies. Talking heads lauded Fergie for being fit, while saying things like "Star Jones should not be in a bikini" and that, instead of a brief Euro swim trunks, Arnold Schwarzenegger should wear a T-shirt and long shorts. Apparently, the beach is not just for enjoying the sea breeze and a refreshing dip in the water: in the U.S., it's for judging the bodies of others. And in Turkey, the beach is a hotbed of controversy. Islamic tourism is the fastest-growing segment of Turkey's billion-dollar industry, reports the Independent. Islamic hotels have separate pools for men and women, though the beaches are no longer segregated (the coast is a "public space.") A well-known columnist, Nihal Bengisu Karaca, took her husband and son down some cliffs in search of secluded inlets to swim in. And when she did hit a beach, she wore a hasema, which she says looks "like a Ku Klux Klan cloak."
Ms. Bengisu thinks a covered woman on vacation is like "an out-of-tune singer in the middle of a concert" and blames not Islam but the Turkish patriarchy. And she may have a point. Last summer, a woman was wearing a sundress while fishing on a bridge in Istanbul when a gust of wind blew her skirt up. Last week, she was found guilty of exhibitionism and charged with a five-month suspended prison sentence.
Over the weekend, a group of women protested the verdict on the streets of Istanbul, walking across the very bridge where the incident took place. They chanted things like: "It's not exhibitionism, it's male abuse!" and "State, take your hands off my body!" Many people think conservative thinking is on the rise in Turkey; a devout Muslim party has been in power since 2002.
Some questions: Isn't the beach is supposed to offer some escape from life's problems? Can't everyone, regardless of size, shape or abdominal tightness, enjoy the earth's natural beauty by the sea shore? How can you have a "bad" body for squishing your toes in the sand? How can a gust of wind make a woman guilty of exhibitionism? And where is the middle ground between calling a sundress "improper" clothing, the booming bikini-free vacation industry and the nit-pickery seen on E! and in tabloid magazines? How would the people telling Star Jones and Arnold Schwarzenegger to cover up feel if the government agreed with them?
Boom In Bikini-Free Holidays As Turkish Women Cover Up [Independent]
Turkish Women Attack Clothing Law [BBC News]