In an open letter published in local Stockholm news paper Södra Sidan, a group of regular visitors to the Skärholmen public swimming pool have demanded that something be done about visitors refusing take showers and saunas in the buff
“This is a difficult subject to bring up, as it is often dismissed as prejudice, as if we are judging a specific group in society or pointing our finger at ‘immigrants’,” the group wrote.
According to the authors, people with foreign backgrounds often flouted the rules posted on the walls of the swimming pool changing rooms by refusing to remove their swim suits or underpants in the showers and in the saunas, or for failing to shower at all before entering the sauna or gym.
The staff at the swimming pool charged with monitoring the situation seem to have ‘given up’ or are avoiding confrontation due to the ‘unpleasant behaviour’ of those that refuse to shower naked, the authors claimed.
“If this is a matter of timidity, they could always wear a towel wrapped around them in the sauna or turn away in the showers,” they wrote.
Thomas Lindell Taylor, manager of the public pool in Skärholmen, does not think that the writers of the article are right in their criticism.
“The article is identifying immigrants as the problem. I don’t agree with that,” he told Södra Sidan.
Instead it could be a question of a clash between generations, according to Lindell Taylor.
In his view, younger visitors to the swimming pool are simply ignoring the rules.
Swimming teacher Lars Birdal agrees added that not everyone is comfortable with nudity, explaining that the pool is many ways is a reflection of society at large.
“The public pool is like a miniature society and the problems you meet outside the walls you also see within,” Birdall told Södra Sidan.
Among visitors to the bath the opinions are mixed.
One Muslim visitor told the newspaper admitted to showering with his swimming trunks on and changing in a toilet stall in order to avoid undressing in front of others.
Another visitor said he is often irritated by the fact that people don’t take off their clothes before showering.
“Some people don’t care about the rules. It may have something to with their upbringing. But when I tell them off they start a fight with me. I am an immigrant to Sweden myself, but have been accused of trying to act ‘Swedish’. But all I want is for things to be clean and nice,” he said.
Not everyone agrees that there is a problem with overdressing in the Skärholmen public pool showers.
“Perhaps some aren’t used to getting naked in public, but I really don’t think that is a problem here,” one visitor said.
This is not the first controversy in Sweden revolving around appropriate swimming pool attire.
In 2008, the city of Gothenburg was ordered to pay damages to two Muslim mothers who were kicked out of a swimming pool for not removing their veils.
This led to some swimming pools renting out ‘burkinis’, a move considered more hygienic than allowing women to swim with their veils or regular clothes on.
And in 2009 swimming pools across the country were forced to take policy decisions on women bathing topless following pressure from the Bara Bröst network – which translates both as ‘bare breasts’ and ‘just breasts’ – arguing that if men can swim without a top on, women should be allowed as well.