Decathlon, a French sports equipment retailer, is a very strong brand in their native land. It is affordable, accessible — they have a lot of shops in France — and their range of choices is so large that it satisfies almost everyone.
Many French people have childhood memories linked to the company, such as when their parents bought them their first sports shoes, or swimming suit. Moreover, Decathlon carries everything you could possibly think of, from foldable football goal cages, to quick-dry towels, they have every sports-related item you could possibly need!
And then, a few weeks ago, Decathlon released a running hijab. The reaction was swift and brutal.
A tight hood divided a country. One part of France was completely fine with this long-needed product that promised inclusion, while the other was appalled, and decried it as an affront to French values. It even went to the point that one of Decathlon’s community managers was forced to become a referee and online guide of this national Twitter debate.
Now, what are French values? Liberté, égalité, fraternité, which translate to freedom, equality, and brotherhood. Some people say that these values are being challenged by the launch of the sports hijab. Is Islamophobia in France a surprise? Not at all! France is publicly tolerant, but institutionally racist and xenophobic, and the public outcry regrading this product is proof.
As a Catholic woman, I call bullshit on every pseudo-feminist who claims that Decathlon launching a sports hijab is sexist. To me, feminism is about the freedom for women to wear what they want, and the empowerment to do what they choose to. Being able to cover any part of your body is a right, and it is nobody’s business but the woman herself. If you think forbidding women to wear hijabs is feminist, I think you don’t understand feminism. Forbidding a woman from doing ANYTHING is sexist, and against the ideals of feminism, whether you’re dealing with a bikini or a headscarf.
As a Catholic woman, I call bullshit on every person who claims that Decathlon launching a sports hijab is an ideological hijacking. This sports hijab gives women options; the option to cover your hair or not, and the option to go running whether you wear a hijab or not. Everyone should have the option to practice their religion! Being Catholic doesn’t keep me away from anything that I wish to do, and it should be the same for my Muslim sisters who wish to wear the hijab while killing it at their sport of choice. If they want to run, let them, and if they want to run with a hijab on their head, let them! Decathlon isn’t forcing customers to wear the hijab while they indulge in their favorite sports, it’s giving them the option to. If you don’t want to, then don’t, but let others practice their religion as they desire. Those who oppose the sports hijab are hiding their fears and Islamophobia behind a fake concern for a freedom that they don’t want others to have, and it’s not fooling anyone!
As a French citizen, I call bullshit on everyone who claims that Decathlon launching a sports hijab is an attack to the French values.
You can’t have liberté/freedom if you forbid people from wearing things based on your personal preferences.
You can’t have égalité/equality if you forbid others from practicing the sport that they want because you don’t like their equipment.
And finally, you can’t have fraternité/brotherhood if you outcast people for being who they are. Fraternity is about working together and accepting each other, not nit-picking on people who don’t fit in your cookie cutter ideology.
The opponents of Decathlon’s hijab are driven by fear and ignorance. This is not who, or what France should be remembered for! Historically, France is about progression. The Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Encyclopedia, the Revolution, May 1968; these are about pushing boundaries and promoting knowledge, not about being scared and sticking to what you know. This is the legacy we should inspire to advocate.
Like any country, France has greater and darker moments. By calling Decathlon out for producing an article of clothing that allows women to run as they please, the sexist and racist pages of France’s history are brought to the forefront. The past few weeks of fear-based reactions to the sports hijab bear France in its dark, colonial, and Vichy burden. These shouldn’t be forgotten, but we shouldn’t up hold either.
To sum this up, my name is Astrid, and I’m from France, born and raised. I love the country that I grew up in, and I would like to see it grow. In 2019, whether a woman can wear anything she wants or not should not be a topic of discussion, especially in a country that claims to be modern and open-minded. Racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia don’t have a place in “liberté, égalité et fraternité.”