Your Turn: Is the Beach Really Better?

a woman in a bikini laying on the beach next to a woman covered from head to toe

Your Turn” is a new, ongoing feature at Culture on the Edge, in which we just plant the seed by picking a ripe e.g. and then soliciting and responding to your analysis.

Maybe the beach really is better?

Recently, as I sat down on a beach near Nice, France, I took notice of two women in front of me. One was wearing the tiniest of French bikinis, the other, a full burka. Other than the sand — Nice’s beaches are quite pebbly — the scene looked a lot like the photo above and sent my mind spinning, a growing clarity or distillation of oh so many discussions and debates I’ve had here in the academy about women’s rights, liberation and the like began to emerge. The juxtaposing bodies, each “oppressed” or “subjugated” in their own ways via the burka or bikini (of course, depending on the social interests at stake), collided in front of me in the south of France, a country that has recently banned face-covering burkas from public altogether and the more basic headscarf from schools and other civic institutions and establishments back in 2004.

It seems, though, that some other nations are thinking about similar legislation. In the UAE, growing anger over visiting women showing too much skin, has some in Dubai looking to impose laws that would dictate what (or how much) must be worn in public places, including beaches.

The battle over women’s flesh gets even more interesting — when we think of these issues as related to some notion of “liberation” when we find out that women are seeking solace in segregated, women’s only beaches popping up in places like Egypt where Muslim women can go and wear a Western bikini without fear of men seeing them — except for the men on jetskis driving up to check them out for a second or two.

At CotE, we try hard to focus on methodological applicability across disparate sets of data. That is, we try to treat all data with the same critical methodological approach.

It seems that the beach is a place where such parity is foregrounded. The “Beach Is Better,” Jay Z told us last summer, and maybe that’s because everyone brings themselves to the beach:

I brought sand to the beach

Cause my beach is better

You can keep your beach

Cause that beach whatever…

So, what do you think? Is the beach really better?


One Reply to “Your Turn: Is the Beach Really Better?”

  1. What a fascinating piece! Is the solace experienced at these beaches (though, churches, mosques, or classrooms might also work here) the fruit of a liberative act or a temporary elusion from certain (though, not all) oppressive stares? At the beach there is the gaze of the other women as well as the possibility of unwelcome voyeurs. And at some point, these women go home. I mention this not to belittle the idea of solace but to raise questions about how, when, and where we distinguish “better” from “whatever.” I’m now trying to imagine the different spectrums on which these women appraise themselves and the others that constitute their contexts.

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