söndag 3 april 2016

Burkini row - new twist, old controversy

The release of Islamic beachwear by Marks and Spencers has got the liberal left in a bit of a tizzie. The wearing of Islamic clothing is a political statement, as is acknowledged in this article here. The difficulty for the liberal left is that Islam stands in direct opposition to their progressive principles but they do not want to criticise it.

This is not a new controversy.   A seventeenth century commentator advised against nude swimming "for a Naiad will snap at a worm". Victorians swam in the nude on segregated beaches. I have swum in places in Scandinavia where it was considered impolite to cover up. Members of Brighton Swimming Club, in the 1860s, were expected to swim in "drawers". In the world of competitive swimming, the design of costumes is regulated by the Amateur Swimming Association, for the sake of decency and to prevent unfair competition, for example through the use of buoyant materials. Triathletes, however, swimming in open water, are expected to wear wetsuits which provide buoyancy and give a definite advantage.

For a decade or so, the tendency, amongst both men and women, has been to cover up more, with baggy shorts or jammers for men. Speedos with two-inch sides and bikinis are less often seen.

There are reasons for this. Unless you are youthful and skinny, skimpy swimwear is not flattering. Covering up is also more prevalent amongst competitive swimmers due to theories about muscle compression and drag reduction. Swimming in floppy clothing is also good exercise as it provides resistance training due to the turbulence.

Personally, I prefer minimal swimwear as it is easier to put on and take off, and is lighter when it is wet and easier to dry. I don't like carrying home a great heavy lump of wet nylon. Manufacturers like to sell costumes that cover more of the body as they can charge more for them. What is more, they tend to have a short life as the chemicals in swimming pools rots the fabric and elastic

For outdoor swimming there is sometimes a case for covering up as there are periodic epidemics of jellyfish and midges. There are also swimming shirts which provide a bit of warmth and sun protection, if you need it. In public pools, however, the use of extensive costumes is potentially a hygiene issue.

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