Halima Aden just became the first burkini-wearing woman to appear on Sports Illustrated, and it is everything. Breaking boundaries for years, she was also the first hijabi to grace the cover of a mainstream magazine.
As a Muslim woman, Halima Aden makes me want to cry tears of joy. We live in a world where Pauline Hanson shows up in Parliament wearing a burqa to cause a scene and mock Muslims. The same world where France has previously banned women from wearing burkinis on the beach. Even this week, Sri Lanka just banned burqas and niqabs. It’s not exactly the kind of place you see a lot of positive representation of Muslim women, especially in regards to what they wear – yet here it is.
It’s not just significant because Halima is wearing a burkini. We’ve also gotta look at the context. This is the Sports Illustrated swim section. Like, this mag is known for it’s covers of sexy ladies in sexy swim wear, looking like sex. The fact that they know their audience is largely made up of men who like to look at pictures of almost nude women, and they decided to put Halima in a burkini on the cover anyway, is huge. To them, representation is more important.
Sports Illustrated really did that, huh?
For those who don’t know, burkinis are basically just full body swimwear – they cover everything except the face, hands and feet, and were actually designed right here in Australia by Aheda Zanetti. They’re used by Muslim women to cover up at the beach, though other women sometimes use them because of their intense sun protection. Burkini’s don’t seem like a big deal, but there is a lot of history surrounding their legality.
Halima Aden clearly knows the impact she is having on her community. Her Instagram post just oozes pride and joy:
View this post on Instagram
Don’t change yourself .. Change the GAME!! Ladies anything is possible!!! Being in Sports Illustrated is so much bigger than me. It’s sending a message to my community and the world that women of all different backgrounds, looks, upbringings… can stand together and be celebrated. Thank you so much @si_swimsuit & the entire team for giving me this incredible opportunity.
To some people, having a woman wearing a burkini on a magazine cover might not seem important, but for Muslims? It’s amazing. It normalises us and says that we are welcome in the fashion industry, and that our clothing choices are valid. We’re finally starting to see ourselves represented in the mainstream media and fashion scene, like everyone else – because we are everyone else. It feels great to see other women who look like me, who are me, to be out here breaking barriers and taking the world by storm. Halima Aden, you are a hero.
Image Source: Instagram @halima