Nudes and Prudes

22 01 2007

Written today in response to an eponymous post at K-Dad:

Scott,
To connect your meditations on husband-wife relations to dad relationships for teaching children, I’d like to add a parent’s perspective on nude-prude, and what children learn about it from us. I came back last night from a long weekend of media-heavy dance performance classes and competition. We took a chartered busload (of kids, chaperones and adult dancers who all treat each other as extended family) three hours to an urban hotel with all the costumes, props and gear to perform more than a dozen big musical theatre production numbers for world-class entertainment industry master teachers. (All male in this case.) Several studios and performing arts schools did the same, almost exclusively girls.

My extremely innocent, unselfconscious, always unschooled young son is the only male dancer in our company this year. He actually had two stuffed animals in his dance bag, to sit with quietly during the longer waits. But a VERY nasty scene over his “sex” ensued in the ballroom designated as the common dressing room for all the studios, during Saturday evening’s adjudicated performance, when a mom spitting venom from across the ballroom shrieks at our group, “will someone GET that boy OUT of here! My daughter’s in puberty, and he can’t see her business!”

Her own daughter began to cry in humiliation. Indeed her “business” was visible if you’d been looking, because those dancers apparently hadn’t been taught about a nude-colored leotard-like garment called a camisole, that female dancers wear under all their costumes so that no one CAN see their “business” during changes. Our dancers have changed quickly and unselfconsciously in hallways when no dressing room was available, their only concern being to keep themselves unseen by the AUDIENCE until their next performance, but not unseen backstage by other players male or female — an appropriate detachment from backstage theatrical nudity as sexual is something young performers need to learn.

Apart from that, this prudish mom might have had a legitimate concern if some male did gain access to the dressing room and begin leering or perhaps flashing his OWN business at the girls. The facts were though, that my son isn’t in puberty, doesn’t know or care about sex differences yet, and didn’t even know she was yelling about him. He was obediently running through a bit for the next big number with several of our adult female dancers, one of whom is a high-ranking law enforcement official IRL. He certainly was not checking out anybody’s “business!” And he wore the nude-colored male equivalent of a camisole, called a “dance belt” so no little girls would see any of his business. . .and then changed in the men’s bathroom anyway.

I don’t comment to elicit practical suggestions about separate male dressing rooms or whatever — that’s the policy level of the issue, and there are various solutions already under discussion. My point here is what’s in people’s heads, harmful ideas and beliefs that policy cannot fix. Stuff that hurts children when parents and teachers and role models get it all twisted. You have to THINK, not just take the written rules and beat each other over the heads with them until the stronger, louder, ruder, more heavily armored warriors are left standing.

I can’t give you a full power of story interpretation yet, but I just had to comment for K-Dad while it’s fresh — to me the obscenity was hers and it was spiritual, not really flesh-based at all. Her prudish and self-righteous hysteria, about skin and eyeballs and biological differences, completely missed the deeper magic (like Aslan versus the White Witch) — modesty, self-control, courage, family, compassion, civility, conflict resolution.

Humanity, not nudity. We could have been flagged by the event’s authority for a technical violation, sure, but she violated the IMPORTANT rules as parent, teacher and adult role model.

JJ


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15 08 2009
Home Education Curriculum That Swings Both Ways Is More Fun « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Finally, I remembered conservative Christian dad Scott Somerville who with his family, markets a home education curriculum called Tapestry of Grace. He and I nevertheless had great overlap in our (imo well-educated) ideas about education as worldly power of story, not just bible study. Here’s an example on one such conversation I wish the home education community could move back toward, as neighbors loving each other and the whole world, and loving learning with all our kids not as competitors for the favor of Authority but as the only power of story that counts as real education: Nudes and Prudes […]

13 04 2011
BpBpRoadrunner

I am really glad you posted this link. What an interesting story. We use a local YMCA and when you use the locker rooms, minors have their own locker room. This means that moms and little girls and/or boys might be in the girls locker room. No children are allowed in the Ladies or Mens locker rooms. Fathers and children of either gender might also be found in the boys locker room. My girls are only just now becoming aware that boys are sometimes in the room. And they prefer to either change in a stall when a male is present or to have me hold up a towel. We don’t make a big deal. After all these are young boys who need to be with their parents. Most are 5 or 6 and younger. So I teach them to avert their eyes and how to maintain some privacy in a crowded room. But there is no need to make anyone feel bad. Recently we had an incident where an older boy of about 11 looked up my daughter’s skort on the playground equipment at a park. She doesn’t wear those skorts any more and when she does wear a dress she wears longer shorts under them. That is how she is and I respect that. For girls the world is a different place sometimes. Things that a female might unconsciously do is sometimes taken as an invitation. It’s not fair or right, but it is a reality that females of any age have to deal with But I certainly understand the scene that didn’t need to happen over your son’s presence. I hope that some kind soul showed this mother the trick with the flesh colored tights. Or maybe there was no way to do that. I know I would have been thankful if someone had shown me such a cool thing to avoid future uncomfortable moments if nudity was such an issue.

13 04 2011
JJ

Hi Beep, thoughtful stuff! — more layers, I love it. 🙂

With the perspective of time, I realized there was another whole layer not about sex or skin at all, of stress born of competition for limited resources, and of the mutual suspicion and distrust that competition breeds. We never enjoyed those competitions and tried hard to treat the weekends as educational only. But more and more I’ve learned that education IS competitive, almost always, and think now that probably all us moms were vibrating with cortisol and adreneline and fight-or-flight instincts . . . there were many run-ins not about sex but food and injury and room assignments and seats on the bus, among ourselves and in competition with other groups for rehearsal space or a better slot on the program or the attention of the judges or any little perceived edge.

So we could think about how much of what passes for “sex” issues are really general competition and survival of the fittest pressure. That’s what sex is biologically about in the first place, right? 😉

13 04 2011
BpBpRoadrunner

Actually that last part you posted, about sex being a cover for competition. Yes, that is a very astute observation. Often sexual harassment is about competition and sexual posturing is just the vehicle.

13 04 2011
BpBpRoadrunner

I realize that is a bit of a tangent, but one worth noting. I don’t know what the mother’s motivation was about. I have some friends and acquaintances who are very conservative and would be by some standards, prudish and it would be all about skin and all. But others–it might be this last one. This competitive edge being grasped at through some very low brow means. Sometimes a crotch shot is just a crotch shot after all.

13 04 2011
JJ

Mix that with the primal “protect your young” instinct, and the surprise is that we didn’t rumble backstage more often!

13 04 2011
BpBpRoadrunner

What a mess! Better you than me. Of course if I were to dance for you, you would probably have gouged your own eyes out. That is one of two things I know for a fact I am not meant to do where other people can see me.

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