Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Clash of Civilizations (in Women's Beach Volleyball)

The one on the left looks hot.

The picture above features Doaa Elghobashy of Egypt facing off against Kira Walkenhorst of Germany in the first round of the Women's Beach Volleyball competition in Rio.

How fitting that the non-Muslim is a German.

Beach Volleyball may be the only sport in the Olympics where the women show more skin than the men. Competitive attire is taken directly from contemporary beach fashion where women often wear bikinis and men often wear "board shorts" (a long bathing suit extending almost to the knees).

It has never been a requirement for female competitors to wear a bikini. You could also wear a one-piece, although few did. Athletes know that the less weight and feeling of restriction you have, the better.

As in virtually all Olympic events, Beach Volleyball also had restrictions on wearing too many clothes - to prevent cheating and so on.

The International Olympic Committee "loosened" those restrictions in 2012. The ostensible justification was to make the clothing rules fairer for competitors from different cultures. But as usual, the only competitors to take advantage of the change were Muslims. And of course no one else pushed for them except Muslims and their allies.

There are no Nepalese Beach Volleyball players wearing traditional Nepalese tunics.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the changes enforced sharia law on beach volleyball. But it is true to say that they made beach volleyball safe for sharia.

As a Catholic, I accept the traditional standards of modesty for men and women. But I believe that those standards are based on context. Among other things, what might be fine to wear to the beach would (almost certainly) not be fine to wear in Church. And the purpose of the clothing is part of the context. If you're wearing a two piece in conformity with an accepted fashion standard partly in order to not draw attention to yourself, that's a bit different from, say, wearing a two piece in order to arouse lascivious thoughts in the minds of others.  

Thus, I have no problem with Beach Volleyball attire. If you do, that's okay. I hope it's also okay to agree to disagree.

One of the many issues I have with "moderate" Muslim standards of modesty for women is that they seem arbitrary. (By "moderate" here I mean hijabs and arm/leg coverings, as opposed to, say, a full burka). The supposed purpose of them is modesty, but I can't tell you the number of times I've seen hijab wearing Muslim women "sexified" up in many other ways. I'm not even being critical of that per se, only pointing a sort of discrepancy. The goal doesn't seem to be modesty so much as conformity for the sake of it, as well as of course showing off one's religious identity.

And what's wrong with that - the religious identity part - one might ask? Christians wear crosses and Jews wear kippahs, at least in part to bear witness to the fact that they're Christians or Jews. Why can't Muslims do the same thing? 

The answer is of course partly based on the nature of Islam. Islam is an aggressive ideology that seeks not to convert the world (as, say, Christianity does) but to subjugate it. The hijab is a sign of aggression. You're not wearing it merely to, as it were, show your Muslim pride, but to tell others "we're coming."

Or you're wearing it because if you don't, your father or brother will throw acid in your face.

Those Westerners who defend Islamic clothing as "a choice" are deluding themselves. It's just as much of a choice as, say, wearing a pin featuring the mug of the Great Revolutionary Leader after he's just declared your country a "People's Republic." Indeed, I would argue there was less social pressure to conform under communism than there currently is in Islam.

And that says a a lot.

Wherever one draw the line on modesty, if freedom isn't at least partly about a woman being able to wear comfortable clothing on a beach or on a volleyball court, whatever anyone else might think about it, then I don't know what.

By the way, the fully-covered Egyptians got crushed by the Germans in one of the most lopsided scores of any match so far.      


  1. Your remark "the one on the left looks hot" has made my week. Thanks for the chuckle. I can go to Adoration this afternoon knowing all is well. Some of us ARE SANE (gift of God, I grant you).

    1. You're welcome. It's 91 degrees here, so just looking at that costume makes me uncomfortable.