9/5/08

Swimming: a Feminist Thang

These fantastic mills were photographed in Jajce, Bosnia. If you were there, and you took a sweeping look to the left, you would see the tips of weeping willows dragging in a dreamy green stream, and a fiercely cold freshwater lake where men and children splash and hoot.

Parked on the grass on a Sunday are lots of families, lots of women, many in headscarves or babushkas, many in dimije. (Dimije are similar to those balloon pants we associate with belly dancers, but not sexy – the crotch is positioned down by the knees, leaving room, as my honey says, for you to crap in them for a week).

I was quite the sight to some of those ladies, jumping into the deep in my tie-dye bikini, my breasts swollen with blue veins, my full pregnant belly exposed, somersaulting and twirling in the middle of the lake.

Swimming in Bosnia: it’s a feminist thang. And that’s not just because it shows your body – Bosnia is extremely lax in its dress code compared to the Middle East. On a Saturday night promenade, there are far more Muslim hoochie mamas in silver mini-skirts than Muslim ladies wrapped in scarves. No, swimming is a feminist thang because in some areas of rural Bosnia, people just don’t teach their girls how to swim. So it feels kind of dangerous, kind of sensual, kind of wild.

I attended Mommy ‘n Me swim class at the Y with my mother before I had a full head of hair and I’ve been swimming ever since, but suddenly, in this cultural climate, this skill I’ve taken for granted makes me a badass.

The real badass, though, was the one mother who refused to be left out of the fun had by her husband and her son. She was cloaked head to toe in somber charcoal gray, but she waded in, wet to her knees, tossing the ball with them. Allah bless her.
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