Going to the beach: Is there any dress code?

This is at Bondi Beach. I took this pic on July 2, 2019. It’s sunny but it’s cold. Almost everyone is fully clothed.

This happened some time ago. There was this one beach that went viral for separating men and women. People called it “Pantai Syar’i”, literally means “shar’i beach” (or “Islamic beach”, if you mind). Personally I don’t agree with this. I even think it’s kinda ridiculous. First of all, not everyone in the country is Muslim and everyone can have equal access to the beach because it is a public space, not a private property of a certain somebody. Second of all, if they are Muslims, what about the married couple? What about siblings? What about father and daughter or mother and son? Can’t they go together? Should they go to a different spot at the beach? Lastly, even if they are Muslims and they do something that is unfavorable to Islamic rules (which seem to be the cause of this “shari beach” idea), it’s their personal business. It’s between them and God, right? Besides, why do we suspect, allege, and assume that the visitors will do such things? Aren’t we as Muslims taught khusnudzon? You know, to think good and positive things about others? Aren’t we forbidden to su’udzon? You know, to think negatively and accuse people of something they might not do? So why this shar’i beach? See? My stance here is clear: I’m against this shar’i beach.

However, there was this comment that, aside from condemning the shar’i beach, said that going to the beach fully clothed itself was illogical at the first place. This, I disagree. Why? People choose what is comfortable for them and the reasons can be all logical. I myself go to the beach fully clothed, not just because I am a Muslim, but more often because I prefer it that way. Beaches in my place is often hot and sunny and I don’t like to bother myself applying sunblock all over my body. Hence, to protect my skin from the sun and avoid the heat, I cover myself. I understand that it can be very sweaty for some since my country is very humid. However, I’m not the type who sweat a lot and I guess I’d rather be sweaty than feeling the sun burning my skin. I even made a poll on Instagram, asking my friends if it’s illogical to go to beaches fully clothed and their reasons. All of my respondents say it’s logical. The reasons vary. One of my friends says that the beaches in Ireland is cold, so he chooses to wear jacket when going to the beach. Another says that even though she’s not wearing hijab, she chooses to cover herself when going to the beach because she doesn’t want to – and doesn’t like – to get tanned. It’s all logical, right?

This is also at Bondi beach. Taken on the same day as the previous pic. See the people who surfboard? They are fully clothed.

But guess what? There’s this person responding to my comment saying that “it’s hard to have the same understanding with those who bathe in the river”. I thought she misunderstood. Maybe she thought I supported the shar’i beach idea. But I don’t like her looking down on those who “bathe in the river”, so I responded and said that I, too, did bathe in the river when I was a kid. The water was clean. It wasn’t hot because we had trees on both sides of the river. And I was even naked when bathing in that very river. Well, I was a kid, it wasn’t hot, what do you expect? And of course, I repeated that we were on the same page: I was against the shar’i beach. I still am. But guess what kind of response I got?

She said I needed to work harder so I could travel the world in order to know the beach dress code, adding that I should refuse to be married as a fourth wife and I shouldn’t be home (she sent a screenshot of beach pics). So rude, no? But at this point, I got that she did misunderstand and she deemed me so low as someone who used to bathe in the river – and as someone who chooses to be fully clothed when going to the beach. I mean, is there really such a thing as a beach dress code? And when she said that, I had actually traveled to 21 countries (including mine) and was on my way to Australia, my would-be 22nd. I have been to beaches in Miami, Florida. I have road-tripped to beaches in California. All fully clothed. Nobody stared at me or said un-nice things just because I went to those beaches fully clothed. And this person who did not know me in person or in real life – we exchanged comments online – dared to tell me what to wear to the beach? Ok, she didn’t tell me what to wear per se but said that my choice was illogical, that the clothes I wear to the beach were “dolphin costumes”? She even said that if I went to the hotel and went in to swim in the swimming pool fully clothed, I would get scolded and chased away from the pool. Really? I even sent her a screenshot that showed a Muslim swimming suit, you know, the one that cover almost all parts of the body? There is such a thing, didn’t she know that? Besides, not everyone who goes to the beach wants to swim. I’m not good at swimming, and I’m scared of drowning, so, no, I see no reason why I should wear my swimsuit when going to beaches. Also, hasn’t she seen people surfboarding? They are “fully clothed.”

When I explained things to her, she went even madder. Maybe she still thought that I was supporting the idea of shar’i beach. I didn’t. I don’t. And I told her plainly: I don’t support shar’i beach ideas. But she kept going on saying, “Is there any freedom in shar’i beach? Can girls touch boys? Can you drink alcohol? At this point I know you will say it’s all in the holy book. Imagine a Japanese person hearing your reason.” LMAO. My Japanese friend sees my pic at the beach fully clothed and says nothing. They mind their own business. They are respectful. And what? Drink alcohol? I went to Australian beaches and there are signs here and there prohibiting people to “drink” and it’s not even a “shar’i” beach. Well, it’s funny to think that she dared to tell me to travel the world when she herself seems to haven’t traveled enough. Jeez. But, well, okay, 22 countries that I have visited are not yet the world.

But, hey, she even accused me of cherry-picking by saying, “You don’t respond to my full points, you cherry-pick. That’s why you feel upset when I explain it piece by piece. Can you accept girls wearing bikini swimming at the shar’i beach?” ROTFOL She’s the one who misunderstood since the very beginning and then throwing ad hominem attacks. First of all, I am against shar’i beach. She totally missed that point. And I had to tell her again that I had no problems with girls wearing bikini or even naked. If I could, I even wanted to defend them for wearing what becomes their choice. But she kept being defensive. And I don’t even know what she was defending. Her pride? Her ego? (By the way, I had screenshots all this ridiculous and infuriating convo with her, that’s why I can retell this story). I told her that I didn’t mind her calling me as someone bathing in the river or wearing dolphin costumes, but I didn’t want her to think lowly of others who might be less privileged, those who bathed in the river not because they wanted to but because that’s the only option they have. It doesn’t make them less than us. I even put bowing and apologizing emoticons to soften my sentences. But, well, instead of apologizing and admitting that she might have misunderstood, she said that there were three kinds of people who bathed in the river: 1. Go out of the comfort zone and live within the global community, 2. Remain to bathe in the river, 3. Wear “dolphin costumes” to the beach. And she thinks I belong to the third category.

Well, this is just me going to St. Kilda beach fully clothed…

But I had become so furious I was sad. The way she felt so superior over those who bathed in the river. I just don’t want to hate her. So I just apologized and left. Besides, for me, there are only two kinds of people among the less fortunate or less privileged, who finally have a better life: 1) Those who look down on and become judgmental towards those who have the same life they themselves used to have, and 2) those who, instead of judging the less privileged/fortunate, try to understand because they themselves have been there. Well, you don’t need to have been there first to have some sympathy and empathy. And I don’t mean to guilt-trip the privileged or the fortunate either. But seeing someone being so judgmental without even trying to understand, sympathize, and empathize is so exasperating. I was there; I bathed in the river. I remember this one time I begged my parents to build a decent bathroom and toilet because I was so embarrassed to clean in the river, but they didn’t build it because they couldn’t afford it. See? I did it not because I loved it. I wanted to do better but I couldn’t. And people might have the same reasons. And now she feels so superior and looks down on us just because we bathe in the river? She can look down on me all she wants and it doesn’t define me. I took my master’s degree abroad and am doing my PhD abroad as well. All by scholarship. I do live in the global community. Also, she told me to travel the world, but I’ve traveled to 22 countries too. I’ve seen the world more than I thought I would. While I don’t think it’s something to brag, I know some people think of such things as achievements. But what about others? They are not less than me. They are not less than her. They are not less than us!

But, oh, I’m sorry, I might sound so childish and immature. But I was really upset, and when thinking about it, I am still upset sometimes. I just think that I need to put it down here just so I can remember that such people exist – and that such things happen. It’s so judgmental. It’s ad hominem. And we don’t even know each other. Sometimes I just hope that she – or her friend – reads this and feels guilty and thus apologizes – not to me – but to those they look down on. But, ok, going back to the main topic, about the beach dress code, is there such a thing? Is there any beach dress code in your place?

Besides, later I also read that people in China also go to the beach fully clothed because they don’t like getting tanned. Is it against the dress code? Are they being illogical? No. It’s logical. It’s reasonable. Just because some people choose to go to the beach wearing bikini or even naked, doesn’t mean everyone has to do the same. We just have different reasons. We choose differently over what we think is the most comfortable for us, and that’s perfectly fine. We don’t have to judge one another as choosing illogically or being illogical. And we don’t need to travel the world to understand this.

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