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The Bikini: Eternally Controversial?

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The eternally controversial yet lovable character of the bikini over the years. On one hand, the two-piece has been shunned by conservatives while on the other it has been attributed as the symbol of women's emancipation.

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The bikini, that was launched in the 1940s has been found to weather many storm since its introduction. Yet, it has proved itself to be not just a bold style statement for the fairer sex but also it has been a symbol of women's emancipation over the years. "It may be itsy bitsy, but there is no doubt the bikini has had a huge impact on popular-culture, changing the world of fashion like few other garments."[1] A garment, which was invented by the French automotive engineer, Louis Reard(Reard) in 1946. The introductory phase of bikini was found to be inauspicious for its creator, Reard. When he wanted to present the bikini at a swimming pool in Paris, he could not find any decent Parisian model to wear it. Finally, it was a nude dancer named Micheline Bernardini who modeled for the bikini. "Although similar garments had been worn in ancient times, they were considered shocking in Reard's day. Provocatively, his garment revealed the navel -- a part of the female anatomy banned as indecent from Hollywood films under the so- called Hays Code[2] in the 1930s. Not even his great rival, the French designer Jacques Heim, had been so daring. Heim boasted that his swimsuits were small but still covered le nombril[3]."[4] The initial sales of the bikini were found to be disappointing. Moreover, Reard's creation was reported to be denounced by the Vatican as immoral and the attire was banned in countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy. Many in the world of fashion have attributed the bikini's longevity to its scandalous inception. In this context, Bensimon observed, "The bikini is associated with scandal and that's why it survived."[5] In the '50s, the bikini "remained an invitation to scandal"[6] in modest America. In 1951, the Vogue[7] magazine mentioned, "Our readers dislike the bikini, which has transformed certain coastline into the backstage of music halls and which does not embellish women."[8] In the 1950s, there was another magazine named Modern Girl[9], which observed, "It is hardly necessary to waste words over the so called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing."[10]One of the critics commented on the bikini, "two piece bathing which reveals everything about a girl except for her mothers maiden name."[11] An expert in the fashion industry like Kevin Jones said, "We're talking shocking clothing. Reard was ahead of his time by about 15 to 20 years. Only women in the vanguard, mostly upper-class European women embraced it, just like the upper-class European women who first cast off their corsets after World War I."[12] Criticizing the bikini, even a prominent movie star of Hollywood in the 1940s and '50s, Esther Williams[13], who is reported to be seen in a two-piece bathing suit by more people than anyone else in the world said, "A bikini is a thoughtless act."[14]The organizers of the Miss World pageant, which started as the Festival Bikini Contest in 1951, had to replace bikinis with more modest swimwear after they were found to face strong opposition to the contestants' wearing bikinis in the pageant. It was observed that the pageant faced severe opposition on similar grounds, when it was hosted in India. The Miss World contest was held in Bangalore in the year 1996 but a dozen Indian groups opposed to the event claiming that the contest actually degraded women by featuring them in bikinis. Social activist, Subhashini Ali[15] commented on the pageant, "It's not an IQ test. Neither is it a charity show. It's a beauty contest in which these things have been added on as sops."[16] The protests were so intense that the organizers were finally compelled to shift the venue of the 'Swimsuit Round' to Seychelles[17]. From time to time, it has been observed that the people belonging to several Muslim dominated countries have objected to the participation of any girl of their nation in the beauty pageants that feature the bikini round. It was reported that the participation of Vida Samadzai[18] of Afghanistan in the Miss Earth 2003 contest, was severely condemned by the Afghan Supreme Court, which said, "such a display of the female body goes against Islamic law and Afghan culture." It was observed that the traditionalist Afghans particularly objected to Samadzai's appearance in a revealing red bikini during the pageant's press presentation.Strongly criticizing the participation and the subsequent media hype surrounding Miss Afghanistan, Yamin Zakaria, a writer and human rights campaigner was found to echo the voice of his traditional Afghans. [Exhibit I] Exhibit IExcerpts of Yamin Zakaria's Criticism
Are we now to believe that a lone Afghan woman in a bikini -- as exemplified by Miss Afghanistan, a Kabul-born student in California who last week participated in a Manila beauty contest - is a symbol of progress, simply for having removed the "oppressive" veil? It could have been her promotion to become a university professor, a doctor, lawyer, or successful entrepreneur. But no! The transformation had to involve removing her clothes, in order for the western-dominated mass media to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the liberation of the Afghan woman has begun.Despite the fall of the Taliban, there has been no great social upheaval in Afghanistan, and the veil continues to flourish as the norm rather than the exception. Hence, despite the televising of this lone, bikini-clad woman, the vast majority of women in Afghanistan, even under President Hamid Karzai, do not want to abandon the veil for the bikini. Indeed, it is not just in the world of the Taliban that Islam -- along with the veil - is embraced. But one Muslim woman in a bikini blurs all that.So what is the thinking here? If a woman is described as progressive for exchanging the veil for a mini-skirt, then surely a move to complete nudity would be welcomed as the peak of progress. Yet total nudity is an offense under the laws of most western countries. Equally, a career path that begins with the bikini can easily move next to the beauty contest and then modeling, which itself can move seamlessly from topless to full nudity, and thence, even, to the porn industry. And there you have it: a career path for the liberation of Afghan women.So why is it that those societies that raise the flag of women's rights end up only facilitating the selling of her flesh, be it in the form of lewd pop videos, the fashion industry, advertising or elsewhere, and then end up calling it "liberation"?
Source: Zakaria Yamin, " 'Bikini Liberation' of Afghan Women",

 

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It is actually an enslaver of women. A woman will ... by Watching on Friday, Dec 28, 2007 at 6:44:10 AM
 And there is a problem with this? What is wr... by Levin Sheridan on Friday, Dec 28, 2007 at 12:16:28 PM
I am against it. Not on religious or moral grounds... by Watching on Friday, Dec 28, 2007 at 1:25:51 PM
 You can't change Nature no matter how ha... by Levin Sheridan on Friday, Dec 28, 2007 at 1:50:09 PM
On the Jew-hating website Rense.com, some &nb... by Scott on Friday, Dec 28, 2007 at 9:49:30 PM
As long as nude bodies are considered obscene, hum... by martinweiss on Monday, Dec 31, 2007 at 10:45:48 AM
Since we're making moral judgements, we need t... by martinweiss on Monday, Dec 31, 2007 at 11:03:19 AM

 

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