Clothes optional

Someone shared this article from a Canadian blog called “The non-adventures of” with me today about whether small children should be allowed to run around naked or partially clothed in public. Or I say “should be allowed”, what I really mean is “are able to do so without the wrath of public opinion bearing down on them”.

The final paragraph really struck me:

“Most of all I worry about the sexualisation of infants and young children. My detractors couldn’t see the correlation, but to me to have another parent looking at my child and seeing their nudity as shocking and a possibly lure for paedophiles is sexualisation. They are looking at my beautiful, innocent child and thinking only of sex – and that is wrong. It’s almost impossible to guard your school aged children from closed minds and senseless taboos. I hope I can guide them through the minefield safely, without them losing their freedom to be comfortable in their own bodies.”

There are a couple of events recently which make this ring true.

The first event occurred when I was sitting with Cath having lunch after our adventure at the baby screening at the cinema (you see we do occasionally see each other – not just communicate via blog). There was a wonderfully eclectic Notting Hill mummy (we were in Notting Hill after all) with a bohemian designer coat that looked straight off a runway and she was trying to herd her, I think, three year old through lunch wearing a top and occasionally a anorak tied round her waste to hide her knickers. The anorak was not always viewed as “this season” by the little girl and so was often abandoned, leaving her wandering around in her knickers. The background to this story was not a new Notting Hill fashion-fad but that they had been trying to go to some kind of concert for kids and an incident had occurred which sullied her trousers, leaving her with only an anorak to protect her modesty. This wouldn’t do for the concert, so they had attempted lunch instead and having achieved that with some measure of success were ready to brave the streets in their daring mother-daughter fashion combo.

The second event is what Toddler Evan would refer to as “Baby Elphie in the bath”. I have an adorable video of Elphie kicking up a ruckus in her baby bath, including such highlights as splashing herself in the face and a commentary from Grandmama. I love this video and feel it adds joy to the world, but on a few occasions I have shown it to people such as some other mothers from my NCT group, they have been rather aghast at her nakedness, and so I don’t share it any more. Before this I was also dying to share her joy in the bath with her facebook fans (within a closed group of course), yet such nakedness would probably go against Facebook’s image Ts & Cs (as breastfeeding boobs have) and my friends’ view of propriety; so I did a video with her covered by a flannel. But I haven’t posted it – it’s just not the same as the original: the unbridled joy of nakedness and excited commentary gave the original something special, which a flannel just dampens really.

And yet I totally understand, as before I had my little naked bundle of joy (whose nakedness is actually extremely limited due to my fear of bodily fluid attack when sans nappy) then I was prudish as well. One of Fred’s colleagues had shown a video of her son in the bath to him and I remember asking him why she would do that, surely it’s a bit inappropriate to share naked pictures of your children with your co-workers?

And maybe it is, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

I am struggling with this one – should I lay down my prudishness and let my daughter run naked through the fields? Is it her right to do so, which we shouldn’t give up because there are some sick individuals in the world?

Or would allowing her to go naked in a world where nakedness is abhorred become Emperor’s New Clothesesque? I wonder if my prudishness has come from those feelings of shame when I realised I was the only topless girl at the hotel’s children’s club when I was eleven – all the others covering their non-existent chests with bikini tops.

I have a feeling whatever choice we make will psychologically scar her for life one way or the other.


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