When are you old enough for a double standard?

The other day on the radio I overheard the tail end of a discussion around a recent incident where a swimming pool attendant confronted an eight-year-old girl who was not wearing a top. (Here are a couple of articles about the incident: 1, 2.)

At the end, the radio host asked listeners to let them know: What do you think is the right age at which girls should be required to wear tops when swimming? I missed most of the radio piece, but I can imagine arguments – the prudes on the one side, the nudists on the other side, and a lot of sensible people who are neither prudes nor nudists taking positions between.

But the obvious answer lodged itself in my head pretty quickly. Girls should be required to wear tops at the same age that boys are.

If you think (as the City of Guelph apparently does) that “females ages four and older must wear a bathing top” in public pools, then require males four and older to do the same. Surely covered male bodies won’t offend anyone, so that should be an easy sell, right?

On the other hand, if we are unable or unwilling to make men and boys relinquish a freedom, then perhaps we should not be so ready to take that freedom from women and girls either.

I have a mountain of points I would like to make on this issue, but I suspect I would just fall into ranting tl;dr territory. So instead I’m going to leave it there. What do you think? Is there an appropriate age to require people to cover up? Is there any good reason to restrict one group more than another in this sort of issue? Let me know in the comments.


2 Responses to “When are you old enough for a double standard?”

  1. Hugo van der Merwe Says:

    From 1938, via http://www.neatorama.com/neatopicto/2014/06/30/When-Men-Could-Get-Arrested-For-Going-Topless-on-Public-Beaches/ :

    “In Europe and on the West Coast topless bathing for men has long been no novelty on public as well as private beaches. But in the more inhibited East a male costume consisting solely of trunks was, until just recently, cause for arrest on almost all public beaches and raised eyebrows on many a private one.

    “At Atlantic City topless bathing suits are still forbidden, and only this year has Long Island’s ultrademocratic Long Beach allowed men to air their backs and chests. This trend which originated on the French Riviera has seriously distressed manufacturers who claim there is little field for originality of design in trunks. For proof of their contention, see Long Beach pictures below.”

    My question at this point is, given “the prudes on the one side, the nudists on the other side, and a lot of sensible people who are neither prudes nor nudists taking positions between” – what makes you not a nudist? Ah, I guess because we’re talking only about tops, not bottoms. But I think you’re arguing for the freedom to bare breasts? I think that’s fine, but then again, I’m living in Europe. 🙂

    • Timothy Mills Says:

      I have seen some old swimming pictures along the same lines. As someone who leans toward liberty over restriction, I would prefer to avoid going back to that. I also suspect that public sentiment would tend to prefer allowing topless women over prohibiting topless men.

      What makes you think I’m not a nudist? It’s because I live in Canada, isn’t it? 🙂 Seriously, though, I don’t know a solid argument for a blanket prohibition of nudity (top & bottom) in public spaces. I think there are many situations where a requirement to wear clothes has merit.

      But, to bring things back to my main point above, I have yet to see a defensible argument for having different rules for men and boys than for women and girls. I think making men wear tops, as we did until the mid 20th century or so, is silly, but more defensible and just than the current double standard.

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