Why Are Naked or Even Semi-Naked Babies and Children Making Us Uncomfortable?

This is in response to the Yumi Stynes baby in a nappy controversy.

A few Sundays back my wife and I took our sons to the beach. Having spent many years in the hot sun over many Australian summers, and having been sunburnt more than I would care to admit, and more so, care to have experienced, I am mindful we are mindful of keeping our sons safe from being burnt themselves. So they don their rashies and boardies and we slip, slop, slap as best as we possibly can. And I do it too because it’s best to lead by example.

At the Beach
A rare occasion where the boys aren’t wearing a hat in the sun… Photographer: Mummy

On this day in question, seated not far from where we were building a sandcastle, there were two young girls about the same age, maybe a little younger than my boys. They were they with their grandparents. They spent most of their time running from where their towels were laying on the beach down to the water, splashing around a bit and then running back again. I took notice of them when the older of the two kept running awfully close to our creation in a way that she looked as though she could pounce on the castle and ruin it as other kids on the beach love to do. But I’m fairly protective of the sandcastles we make, hence the reason why I install a mote for added protection.

The boys and I continued to play in the sand digging out a channel that lead down to the water’s edge hoping that when the “seventh wave” is big enough, it will fill up the channel pushing water up to our mote.

Being the mindful person that I am, when we are going to sit down and start building a sandcastle, I like to make sure that we’re doing in a location that isn’t getting in people’s way, especially those who were there before us. The young girls running back and forth between the water and their grandparents were there before us, along with so many others on the beach on what was a beautiful sunny and hot spring day in Sydney.

Having been there before us it was not surprising when the grandmother called out to the girls that it was time for them to go. And then something happened which surprised me; she walked down to the water with the girls with dresses in her hand and got them to wash the sand off of their legs and body before getting them to completely strip off before putting the dresses over their heads. And she took her time about this.

At the time I was facing in the opposite direction to where I am in the photo above and as I was continuing to dig out the channel with my left hand (because I’m left-handed) I noticed the grandmother getting the girls changed in public. My mind is a funny thing. Whenever I see something out of the ordinary it’s like my brain starts searching through the archives trying to match what I see with something from my past. There’s even a partition (computer talk) where quotes from the Simpsons are stored. They’re regularly defragged (more computer talk) for easy access because you never know when a Simpsons’ quote will be needed.

At this moment in time my mind was taken back to the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Swimming costumes on young children is a relatively new thing on the Australian landscape. There were plenty of naked babies and toddlers roaming the beaches back when I was a kid. I remember we had family friends who lived on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, walking distance from Collaroy Beach. When their daughter was not even a toddler we went to their apartment for lunch and then to the beach for a swim and while my parents got my brother and I to change into a swimming shorts, her mother simply stripped her off and took her in the water naked. It’s just how things were done back then.

On that Sunday a couple of weeks back, a young child, easily less than 12 months old played with her mother on the sand not too far from us. She was completely naked. Maybe that’s how things are still done. I have to admit that I don’t see it all that often, but then again, I don’t go out actively looking for naked babies and children. But when it happens, it is noticeable.

Being a grandmother to these young girls, I assumed that the parents of the girls would more than likely have been children of the mid-to-late 1970s or early-to-mid 1980s. I expect that this grandmother, back when she was just* a mother to her own children, she would have had her sons or daughters frolicking on the beach without clothes. As I said, it was the done thing back then.

I’m going to tell you something that might come as a shock to regular readers of mine. I felt uncomfortable having those young girls get naked on the beach, albeit for no more than a minute, but still, they were naked. I wasn’t uncomfortable in a prudish way. I simply turned my head and looked away. There was no problem there. Where my mind raced to though – and you have to know that being a blogger about parenting issues and things to do with children that I’m always switched on and noticing things around me – I started thinking about those other people, okay, I’ll call it, men on the beach who might like to check out little naked girls.

Actually, it’s not really that. That scenario is like the current “don’t let children sit on Santa’s lap because he might be a paedophile” story that the media in Australia are talking about this week. The truth is, with the grandparents standing nearby, and a hundred other onlookers on the beach, it’s not as though these young girls have been put in a position whereby they can be abused in that 60 seconds or so of nudity. Where the problem lies today is all those long range digital cameras and what must be an abundance of paedophile rings on the internet if those cases on the news of men getting caught with child pornography are just the tip of the iceberg.

You have to keep in mind that I’m of the belief that not all men are paedophiles and I’ve been campaigning to that effect long before I was blogging about the subject. But all it takes is that 1% hiding on the foreshore, using technology for immoral purposes to ruin something so innocent as a child experiencing the feel of the warm sun on their otherwise “hidden in a nappy” bottom.

Maybe I’m too cautious, but I prefer to get our boys changed in the car or in the change rooms rather than out in the open. It’s one thing for me to share photos of the boys in their swimming costumes or tick the approval box on the forms at school and preschool to agree that if the boys’ photo is taken in an action shot, or a promotional shot for the school, it can be used in their newsletter or on the website, but it’s another thing to possibly subject my children to being photographed unwillingly whilst butt naked on the beach.

yumi stynes baby
Yumi Stynes and daughter Mercy at the Paddington Bear premiere. Photo: Getty Images

So how does that tie back into the other current issue being played out in the media in Australia this week? Well, the fact of the matter is Yumi Stynes’ cute little baby is not butt naked; the child is dressed in only a nappy on what was a very hot day in Sydney. Get over it all you people who are being offended by it. Now I can’t add much more to the argument than that and what Yumi wrote herself. Click here to read that.

I have no problem with Yumi taking her baby dressed in only a nappy on the red carpet at this event even with the paparazzi present to take photos. It’s a baby. It has all the important bits covered. And the truth of the matter is, I think that Yumi has only felt the brunt of the haters because there are many who haven’t forgiven her for the comments she made about one of our most decorated soldiers back in 2012.

I wonder, if it was any other celebrity, male or female, one who is the darling of the general population, would there have been such an outcry? Regardless of who the celebrity is, this semi-naked baby has made some people uncomfortable and I expect it may have even made some people uncomfortable if it was Cate “I can do no wrong” Blanchett. And you can attribute that to the same reason I was uncomfortable with those young girls I saw getting changed at the beach.

What do you think? Should she have dressed her baby up on a hot day for this red carpet event? And what about naked kids on the beach or at public pools? Is that an acceptable practice in this day and age?

*That “just” is based on her being a mother and not a grandmother, nothing else

One thought on “Why Are Naked or Even Semi-Naked Babies and Children Making Us Uncomfortable?

  1. I totally get what you are saying here. On a rational, thinking level, there is nothing wrong with it. But somehow, culturally, we are being conditioned to be afraid. Afraid of everything. So being naked (vulnerable) is not okay, even if it is a baby. Because “what if?” It’s sad, really. But yeah, I wouldn’t let my babies out naked in public, even on a beach, even though I think it’s fine.

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