Incarcerated? The last thing you want are tan lines

// 27 May 2007

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If you suddenly found yourself behind bars what would be your main priority? Would it be better food? Better living conditions? Ensuring you don’t get ensnared in a bitch fight so ferocious it would make the entire cast of Bad Girls blush? Maybe, but not if you’re resident at the Sagsjon Jail in Sweden, for here the female inmates have an agenda that extends above and beyond the basic need for survival, for they pursue aesthetic perfection.

Oh yes, according to a report by The Local, women at the prison located just outside of Gothenburg are fighting for their rights; their rights to get a faultless tan that is. Sweden’s Justice Ombudsman recently received a letter from the Prisoners’ Council, which outlines female inmates’ concerns that they are being denied a basic human right, owing to the fact they are not permitted to strip to their pasties during the sunlight hours.

As the women are not allowed to wear their civilian clothing throughout their imprisonment, they consider themselves victims of discrimination. The chairwoman of the Prisoners’ Council explains:

“How are we supposed to be able to sunbathe at all? They answer we have got is that we can sunbathe in shorts and sports tops. In other words, we are treated differently because we are in an institution and we are disriminated against because of our gender. We want to be able to enjoy the sun just like everybody else in Sweden, whether they are in an institution or on the outside.”

Oh ok, so these women are not being denied the opportunity to sunbathe, they are just not happy that they are only allowed to do so in shorts and sport tops! Presumably, these women have been incarcerated because they have committed a crime; imprisonment is their punishment for their social transgression, right? So what exactly is the problem here? Nobody likes tan lines, but these women are not on holiday, they haven’t been sent away to a health spa or holiday camp to enjoy themselves at the their government’s pleasure.

So, they want to enjoy the sun like everyone else in Sweden? The majority of society has jurisdiction over their own dress owing to the fact they have respected the laws of their culture, therefore they can frolic around in the sunshine wearing nothing but a thong and a smile if they so wish. Ok, the conditions of prisons do leave a lot to be desired, but I don’t think that in this instance these women are necessarily being mistreated; if this is the only problem they have to complain about, and it makes the headlines, then, as far as prisons go, it sounds like they are having a pretty good time of it.

Are male prisoners allowed to sun-worship in their smalls? The chairwoman believes that herself and her female counterparts are being discriminated against on the basis of her gender, although I am pretty sure that should there be an uprising at a men’s institution for the same reasons they would also be denied the privilege. As difficult I imagine it would be living in a prison, I cannot help but think that these women are playing the gender card in the hope that it will get them what they want. It is exactly these types of unsubstantatied “it’s-because-I-am-a-woman” arguments that undermine and devalue those made by women who genuinely are in pursuit of equality, and who are attempting to change the status quo for the majority, and not to fulfil selfish, personal desires. I cannot help but feel that the plight of the women at Sagsjon (if it can legitimately be called such) is the adult equivalent of a toddler-temper tantrum, with these woment kicking and screaming, throwing all their toys out of the pram until all they are left to play with it the gender card, and even that has been done badly.

Ladies, no-one likes tan lines and I sympathise, but them’s the rules, and remember, you can always roll up the legs of your shorts and the arms of your t-shirts so, realistically, it’s no biggie is it?

Photo by jubilohaku, shared under a Creative Commons License

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