Lebanon Protests Against Swimsuit: What Is Going To Take To Stop Dress Policing?

Ban burqa
Activists protested at a beach in Lebanon on Sunday after a woman alleged that she was harassed in the coastal city of Sidon over her “indecent” bathing suit. Dozens of protesters, consisting mostly of women, gathered in a brief protest despite the municipality’s ban on their demonstration, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

A journalist and women’s rights activist, Diana Moukalled, told the AFP that the protesters have gathered to support women’s rights in public places, whether it’s a bikini or a burkini. She added that public places don’t just belong to certain people and function according to their beliefs; they constitutionally belong to everyone.

Lebanese Protest Against Swimsuit

In the incident that happened last week, a conservative Muslim group reportedly assaulted a woman and her husband at Sidon’s public beach, accusing them of not respecting local norms with regard to women’s attire.

This incident garnered wide attention on social media, and some women posted photos of themselves in bathing suits with the hashtag #Sidon, while others supported the conservative intervention.

The municipality of Sidon had announced a ban on the protest and a planned counter-demonstration “in favour of modesty, virtue, and against nudity.” A group of conservative Muslims arrived at the beach and broke up the pro-swimwear protest. They held prayers at the beach to deploy security in the area. A sign was put up saying that alcohol is prohibited and requesting “decent attire.”

On the contrary, the Lebanese law does not ban women from wearing bathing suits in public. However, women in the conservative coastal city opt to wear bathing suits only to private parties.

A bathing suit is technically the most comfortable dress a woman can wear during a swim. Why does that have to hurt social norms, disrupt virtue, and come across as nudity? Doesn’t it all boil down to how society looks at women? For those who objectify and sexualise women, seeing women in bathing suits would perhaps be offensive. But isn’t that the viewer’s problem?

When society generally doesn’t objectify a shirtless man, why are women judged, shamed, and criticised for their choice of outfits? Why this double standard? Are women not human beings with agency over their lives and autonomy over their bodies? When is society going to stop trivialising women by objectifying and sexualizing them?

What a woman wears is her choice and her comfort. A swimsuit is supposed to be worn during a swim. Why should that enrage a community? Is expecting to enjoy swimming on the beach in peace a big ask for women? Women deserve to have the right to live their lives on their terms. No one, under the guise of preserving tradition, culture, social norms, or safety, has the right to control a woman, let alone dress police her.

Society has never had a problem telling women what to do with their lives. Most often, women are reduced to puppets in the hands of their parents, then their spouse, and then their children. But it’s 2023, and when is society going to let women hold the steering wheel of their own lives? Society needs to get over the concept that a woman going against conventional standards will bring shame upon her family and community. Families need to stop controlling women under the guise of “protection.”

Why not teach men to not view women as mere objects of sexual gratification instead? Why always hold women accountable for the way men perceive them? It’s high time society understood that women’s “modesty” is not connected to the kind of clothes they wear. Women expecting a society to let them wear clothes according to their comfort is not asking for their moon; it’s their basic constitutional right!

Suggested Reading: Esha Gupta Trolled For Being Braless: Wearing Bra Is A Choice, Stop Dress Policing!

Views expressed by the author are their own. Feature photo is for representational purposes, credit: huffingtonpost.