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Swimming pools in French town close in row over burkini ban

The two municipal swimming pools in the southeast French city of Grenoble have been closed, despite the current heatwave, after a row over the use of full-body burkini swimsuit, the local mayor said on Wednesday.

Swimming pools in French town close in row over burkini ban
The full-body 'burkini' swimsuit. Photo: AFP

On Sunday, and last month, Muslim women clad in burkinis went to swim in the pools at the initiative of the Alliance Citoyenne rights group, despite a municipal ban on the full-body swimwear.

The lifeguards at the pools asked for the shutdown because “they are there to maintain safety and they can't do that when they have to worry about the crowds,” generated by the controversial swimsuits, the town hall said in a statement.

READ ALSO Muslim headscarves are legal in France, so why the moral panic about a sports hijab?

 

“We are working towards a positive solution” to the problem, it added.

The row is the latest in France over face- and body-covering garments worn by Muslim women, which many perceive as subjugating women in a country with strict laws on secularism.

France – the country with Europe's largest Muslim population – was the first European country to ban the full-veil in public spaces in 2011.

The European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban in 2014, rejecting arguments that outlawing full-face veils breached religious freedom.

Earlier this year French sports retailer Decathlon was forced to back down from a plan to sell a runner's hijab in France after coming under fire.

 

Far-right politicians expressed their opposition to the burkini on Monday the day after the event in Grenoble.

Seven burkini-clad women, accompanied by activists, went to the Grenoble pools on Sunday demanding the right to bathe despite the facility's rules. 

They said the ban was discrimination.

The women want the public pools, which currently require men to wear swim briefs and women to wear bikinis or one-piece swimsuits, to change their regulations to accommodate burkini wearers.

Local member of parliament Eric Ciotti, of the rightwing Republicans party, said on Twitter that the burkini “has no place in France where women are equal to men”.

But the Alliance Citoyenne likened the women's action to that of US civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

The burkini was at the centre of a standoff in several French seaside towns three years ago – some towns banned the garment, claiming it was a security threat, only to have the bans later overturned by a court.

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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