Do they always need a fig leaf?

CoppertoneThe other day I read an article in an Italian newspaper about child nudity that quoted this article in the New York Times. The article discusses, with the aid of interviews and psycologists’ opinions, whether it is appropriate to let children play around in the nude, and until when. The article also discusses whether it could be appropriate at home but not in public places, and also whether the presence of unknown adults matters.
From the sheer number of comments (on the online article) I realized this topic is quite hot and controversial.
I think I have an “average” attitude toward the issue, in the sense that I typically encourage my children to have their clothes on at home (or outside of it), but do let them run around naked on the beach or in a friend’s garden if they so wish. Even at home we take a relaxed approach; I never go about doing my business in the nude but I also never hide myself when dressing or coming out of the shower. Sometimes my children point at me, after all my body is different from theirs, and sometimes they just don’t care.
Although I’m pretty sure that any child below the age of 3 should not offend anyone’s feeling if he or she is seen naked, I’m not too sure about when, and if, this freedom should stop for the comfort of the child and the people surrounding him/her.
I actually have stronger feelings, like some of the other commenters, about some types of clothing which tend to “sexualize” things that are not sexual. Baby girls in a bikini bottom are not actually topless in my world; I actually find it more strange when I see a 5-year-old girl wearing a bikini.
We are now at the seaside, so I  had a look around. Most babies and toddlers (mine included) wear a swimsuit, but it can happen that they get rid of it because it’s wet or sandy… and then nobody has any problem with that. Preschoolers and older children are typically dressed all the time, but this is Italy after all. I’m sure that on a beach full of northern Europeans there would be more children in their “birthday suits”, and I’m also sure nobody would object.
I also think that I have an aesthetic criterion: naked children are cute — naked adults much less so (most of the time)!



Comments (7)

July 27, 2009

My husband and I read the NYTimes article and we both believe that it is inappropriate for our 3 yr. old to run around outside naked. If he wants to be naked in the house that is fine by us but not if we have company. We believe that at this point he needs to conform to certain social expectations. With that said, neither my husband or I go out of our way to cover up in front of him. He seems to care less and we have never made a big issue about it either. He is only now starting to notice a difference between him and me and that is mostly potty training related. When I go potty he will tell me to hold my penis down. Of course, I have to explain that I don’t have one, which is something that he is still confused about.

I am in total agreement that naked children are cute and adults much less so. Toddlers and babies have the sweetest behinds in my book.

July 28, 2009

As you pointed out, here in the Netherlands we really don’t care about kids (until a certain age, obviously) running around naked. In general I share your opninions, and I really agree about the little girls in bikini tops!
I think we shouldn’t fuss about it too much. But I know it’s country specific; here in the Netherlands we have a pretty relaxed attitude towards most things 😉

July 28, 2009

one of the thngs that surprised me most on our first trip to the beach in italia was nakedness. or should I say toplessness for small girls and big girls alike.
I am from New Zealand, we are a nation of beach going people and I had never seen small girls running around with just a bikini bottom on before.
Perhaps that is due in part to our lack of ozone layer. Kids in my part of the world have rash guards and long shorts usually. Or those little swimsuits that zip up the front, and go from elbow to knee.
I have no issue with it essentially, it was just a huge cultural difference. Having said that, I felt more comfortable on the beaches near Rimini than anywhere in NZ or California where I know live. That is because people of all shapes and sizes wear bikinis… and everyone is perfectly okay with that. How wonderful to be totally accepting of any body. I dont know that I would pick to see some of the large men in speedos though, but hey each to their own.

I am of the opinion that at home, nakedness is fine for under fives. Although not making some big issue of it. In public… covered private bits and pieces. Not because there is anything wrong or dirty about those areas…just because there are sickos in the world… I like what Kahlil Gibran says “For what is modesty but a shield against the eyes of the unclean.”

great topic.

July 28, 2009

It’s so funny how cultural this topic is. Because it is very different in America than it is here in Europe.
Every time I take my kids ‘home’ to the states, they get teased about wearing ‘underwear’ on the beach, when in fact it’s more like a Speedo-type swimsuit and not undies at all. In America, it is more common to see swim trunks on little boys rather than a tighter, smaller suit.
And forget being naked, my kids would be ridiculed if I let them run around naked on a beach in America!

I sort of think that it’s best to follow the general ‘rules’ of the culture that you’re in. Like I would be happy to let them run around naked on a Dutch beach if all the other kids were doing so, and I’m happy to make them wear their swimsuits on a beach in America.

July 29, 2009

I agree with you Courtney, though I really don’t see any harm in having kids run around naked. It makes them so happy and they look so free. I find the idea of bikini tops for little girls so ridiculous it makes me cross. It is just another thing they don’t need to worry about. Let kids be kids for as long as they can, I reckon.

July 30, 2009

Oh wow – I posted about this here this week:

I will update the post with a link to here!

While not getting 500+ comments it has also been interesting to see how readers reacted with a variety of views.

Carlos Ramos
July 24, 2014

Not one of these comments discuss the major point raised by use of the Coppertone illustration. First the image of the girl is a painting and not a photo and has been used on Coppertone products as far back as I can remember. The point is why should a successful product be forced to change its brand when it is the personal and individual issues of leftist socially screwed up lesbians who find “the patriarchy” what ever the hell that is – to be a major problem in their thinking. I did not run around naked as a child but my neighbors (three kids) certainly did. That did not disrupt our play nor did I view them anything less tham human. Appropriate is a bullshit word that means nothing to most of the world and is a term used to control others. I personally find it ridiculous that adults have a problem with their children enjoying sun, sand and water without their clothing – Goodness, they will grow and experience the pressures of responsibility soon enough. Allow them the freedoms that children deserve and unless there is a big and obvious problem remain out of childrens lives (and the Coppertone company as well)

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