Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bikinis at the swimming pool, what is the world coming to?

A woman was lying in the sun near a swimming pool in Tapuli park in Helsinki in her bikinis while her children were playing in the pool, when some park employee showed up and told her to put her clothes on.

The chief of the play parks, Leena Timonen, said that bikinis are not forbidden as such, but every employee gets to decide what is appropriate.

Oh, dear... A swimsuit is inappropriate in a park near a pool.

For those who don't know: it's not unusual in Helsinki to lie in a park in a swimsuit. I am sure there are people who disapprove of that, but then there are people who'd disapprove of anything. This culture is in general quite relaxed about nudity, let alone swimsuits. Sauna culture and so on.

Moreover, since we are talking not just about a person lying in the sun by the pool, but a person whose own 5- and 7-year-old kids happen to be in the same pool, I can't really think of any other appropriate clothes, since the parent in such a situation should be ready to go into the pool and get the kids out of there should the need arise.

Timonen says: "We have a lot of people of immigrant origin, who might be offended by revealing clothing. But these rules are not made just for them."

Excuse me? "Immigrant origin"? "Might be offended"? Might be just an unfortunate choice of words, but a) if we talking about people of immigrant origin (which for me implies that they are either children of immigrants or at least have been here long enough to become Finnish citizens), as opposed to people who just got off the plane last week, shouldn't they have already learned what is considered appropriate in Finland? And b), have any of them actually expressed offense, or are we banning things on the basis of what we think they might be offended by?

Moreover, what if they are offended? Even leaving aside the Religion of Permanently Offended, and assuming that all the offended ones are native-born ethnic Finnish Lutherans: since most of the population doesn't seem to mind swimsuits, why should we always go with the ones that demand more clothes? I can understand to some extent going with the demands of people who demand less noise and less smell, since those are rather penetrating and hard to turn away from, but why should we automatically consider it a right not to see anything one might not like?

More to the point, would those park employees like to ban clothing that they think might offend me (take a wild guess what)? No? Didn't think so.

For the record: I, as a representative of the immigrant (and not "of immigrant origin") community, hereby declare that bikini or even full nudity in the park do not offend me. I could list here what articles of clothing do offend me, but I am afraid that state prosecutor Illman is lurking around the corner. In any case I don't want those banned, either. Because - novel as this idea might be - I think that their right to wear whatever they like in a public place is more important than avoiding offending me.

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