The topic of modesty has been somewhat on my mind of late. And not because our sweltering Irish summer weather has folk going about with hardly a stitch on! No, it was because of a new 'social justice campaign' that got a few mentions in the media. Stop reading now if you blush easily … and if you're still reading, don't say I didn't warn you! The campaign styled itself as 'free the nipple' campaign.
It was was launched by a few people who decided that it is a matter of grave injustice that men can go topless in public while women can not and that equality demands that the female of the species should have the right to stroll around naked from neck to navel while out and about if she so wishes. The idea isn't gaining much traction, I think. And small wonder. There are enough real issues relating to social justice in this country and the world. Public nudity isn't one of them.
Also, when it comes to the issue of men and women and going topless most I think realise that the simple explanation is that men and women are physically different. Trying to suggest that this is injustice is a bit like trying to claim that the lack of urinals in women's toilets is somehow discrimination. It is true that they aren't there, but they're not there for a reason, and that reason is rooted in physical reality.
One of the weaker arguments I heard put forward in favour of it was that in other European countries that sort of thing wouldn't even raise an eyebrow. Oh really? Even if it were true, what sort of an argument is that? It is essentially the 'everyone else is doing it' that children try to make to their parents when they are laying down the law. My dear old mother, may she rest in peace, had a great response to that sort of thing: 'and if everyone else threw themselves off a bridge, would you want to do it too?'
But anyway, it simply isn't true that this is common practice abroad. I'm just back from my holidays in France and I didn't see the like anywhere – not even on the beaches. In fact, I was struck by how modest people were when it came to changing into their bathing costumes. None of your wrapping a towel around yourself and hoping there wouldn't a gust of wind like we do here ! I was at several lakeside beaches while there and was astonished to see folk trooping to the loos to changes into their costumes before a dip and to towel off and get dressed again after.
It was so obviously the done thing that my family and I felt that our Irish towel-wrapping ways would be somewhat exhibitionist – so we changed in the loos, behind a locked stall door, like everyone else! It was a bit of an effort, true. But we figured it was worth it. Modesty, after all, is important.