This Week In Women: The Burkini Ban and Rape Apologists
Are we cursed? We think we might be. Every time we bring you an installation of this week in women featuring only (or even mostly) good news, something or someone has to go and screw it up. This week wasn’t so great for women anywhere—from Islamophobia in France to sexual assault in NYC, ladies have had it pretty rough. Welcome to this week in women: the “Ugh, again?!” edition.
Swimsuit Ban In France
Five French cities—including vacation hotspot, Nice—have banned the burkini, a full-body swimsuit that has been billed as a modest alternative to the bikini for Muslim and other religious women. Three more towns are currently in the process of banning the suddenly-controversial garment.
There is no one definition of what constitutes a burkini; although the swimsuit is sold as a single piece in stores and online, many women instead opt to wear full-body swimsuits and a swim cap. Because there’s no legal definition for the burkini, many Muslim women have apparently claimed they were singled out on French beaches despite wearing other, similar garments.
For French officials and those in favor of the ban, the burkini represents anything from Islamic fundamentalism, to the oppression of women—or even both. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the right wing nationalist France National Front, is among those leading the fight against the burkini. She’s found an unlikely ally in Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a member of President François Hollande’s cabinet, who on Wednesday called the burkini “part of the enslavement of women.” However, many critics point to the fact that the burkini has allowed for something that would never be seen in countries like Saudi Arabia: men and women swimming at the beach together.
For the French right and left, the burkini presents a challenge to the notion of “culture of laïcité,” or secularism in public life. As unlikely political forces unite to ensure its demise, Muslim women are finding themselves with few allies in the country.
Number of Women In Local Jails Grows “Exponentially”
A new report by the Vera Institute of Justice and the Safety and Justice Challenge has revealed that the number of women incarcerated in local jails is growing at “a faster rate than any other correctional population.” The total number of women being held in jail for misdemeanor crimes—and those who are being held while awaiting trial or sentencing, who are often innocent—has increased from approximately 8,000 in 1970 to about 110,000 in 2014.
This is partially due to what, in New York City, is called “broken windows policing,” as “police and prosecutors have focused on offenses that might have once been overlooked, even as rates for more serious crimes have declined, according to the Justice Department,” the Times writes.
Worst of all, women who are held in prisons are not “rehabilitated” during their time in jail. From the Vera Institute:
“With limited resources, jails are often ill equipped to address the challenges women face when they enter the justice system, which can have serious and lasting public safety and community health implications. As a result, many women return to their families and communities far worse off than when they entered the jailhouse door.”
Nearly two-thirds of women held in local jails are women of color, almost 80 percent are mothers, and 82 percent are in jail for nonviolent offenses. More than half of them report having a current medical problem, and 32 percent are afflicted with serious mental illnesses including major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. 86 percent are victims of sexual violence. And for many of them, being incarcerated only makes things worse.
Surprise! Sexism At The Olympics
We’ve already covered the badass women at this year’s Olympics in Rio, but for every woman doing cool shit, there’s (at least) one man (but probably two) diminishing her accomplishments. And hey, that’s exactly what’s happening in Rio!
A primer: when U.S. trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein won the bronze for women’s trap shooting, the Chicago Tribune referred to her as “wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein,” and didn’t even mention her medal; when Chinese diver He Zi’s boyfriend proposed to her after she won the silver medal—also like, congrats girl, but he stole your moment—the BBC called her engagement ring an “even bigger prize” than the medal she had literally just won; and of course, Gabby Douglas was criticized for not smiling, because that’s a thing that apparently happens.
Thankfully, Canadian rower Adam van Koeverden penned a scathing blog post calling out his fellow male Olympians (and those watching from home) on their sexism. His post specifically referred to the vitriol Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard received for losing a match, because losing at the Olympics is apparently a form of treason now.
Fellow Canadian athlete Adam Kreek blamed Bouchard’s loss on her interest in “beauty and fashion.” It turns out that women are only allowed to be interested in one thing at a time. Thanks for the reminder, Adam!
“I don’t think Adam is an expert on tennis. I’m certainly not. So I initially questioned why he was commenting on Bouchard’s game at all. But at around the one minute mark, I realized it wasn’t a lesson in tennis Adam needs, it’s a lesson in feminism,” van Koeverden wrote.
“After Adam made a few sweeping generalizations about a woman who has gone farther and done more in the sport of Tennis than any Canadian woman in generations, he questioned whether or not she actually wants to win,” van Koeverden wrote.
Reductress Responds to Sexual Assault Scandal
A sexual assault scandal is currently rocking NYC’s comedy scene, and everyone from a former Amy Schumer writer to the hilarious women behind Reductress are getting involved. A popular New York-based comedian was recently banned from the Upright Citizens Brigade—you know, the organization that brought you huge starts like Tina Fey, Aubrey Plaza, and Kate McKinnon—after multiple women accused him of rape. Good move, UCB. Afterwards, plenty of comedy dudes jumped to defend the alleged rapist. Not such a good move, comedy dudes.
Kurt Metzger, a staff writer for Inside Amy Schumer, was among them. He posted a long, sometimes-incoherent Facebook post mocking… victims of sexual assault? People who defend victims of sexual assault? People who talk about rape culture? Who knows?
Enter Reductress. On Wednesday, their entire homepage was dedicated to rape jokes—funny rape jokes, written by women. “Our female comedian friends were feeling pretty frustrated with a lot of the dialogue surrounding these events, specifically some of the comments coming from men,” Reductress founder and editor Beth Newell said.
“We put out a call to writers for pitches on the topics of sexual assault and related issues and we received an overwhelming response. So we came up with the idea to use as many of those ideas as possible and do a full homepage takeover.”
A few examples: “‘Most Woman Lie About Rape,’ Says Man Lying About Rape”; “Let Me Tell You What An Actual Witch Hunt Looks Like”; and “I Anonymously Reported My Rape for the Anonymous Attention.” These writers are doing the lord’s work.
Images via Mic, New York Times, and The Star.
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women and check out our previous installments here.