We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Baring all

I used to visit the South of France as a kid and one day, walking down the beach in St Tropez, yours truly, then a pretty wet-behind-the-ears lad from Suffolk, espied a whole row of lovely French women lying on the beach with nary a stitch on. Mon dieu! After my silly childish embarrassment wore off, I thought nothing of it after a while.

It appears that for health and fashion reason, though, that the lovelies of Europe are covering up. One of the main factors may be a concern about skin cancer. Also, I notice that in France, a lot of the men and women’s skin gets very lined and aged if they sit out a lot in the sun, so for reasons of vanity or beauty – depending on your point of view – it makes sense to cover up. I have to watch it in the sun as I am pretty fair-skinned.

I did sort of half wonder whether any of this story from France has something to do with the large Muslim immigrant population in the South of France that takes a dim view of baring any female flesh at all. It does make one wonder. I hope not.

16 comments to Baring all

  • This is terrible news, if true. Even skirts are getting longer: “It is like mini-skirts. You don’t show your legs any more, you cover them up more”. Isn’t there something about hem lines and the economy?

  • Ham

    Do you have any reason to believe Muslims are to blame?

  • Rob

    My family and I were staying near St Tropez a couple of years ago and we visited la plage de Pampelonne a few times. Our oldest children (ages 15 and 12 then) acted as an advanced party and headed for the beach whilst my wife and I got all the stuff ready, and organised the younger children. As we approached the beach, we were rather surprised to see the older ones heading back towards us with a look of shock on their faces. I asked them what the matter was but they were too shocked to answer. I strode on while the others waited behind. It soon became clear to me why they could go no further. Before me lay, like a colony of bloated sealions, a crowd of aging Germans, not a stitch of clothing between them. Be thankful for small mercies.

  • WalterBoswell

    I’d imagine that a fair amount of French Muslims like to see a bit of leg as much as the rest of us*.

    Based on my own experiences in France (north mind you never south) the Mus’lads like their ladies flashy and fleshy in display.

    This is more to do with fashion than anything else. Where once it was rebellious and progressive to bare all it’s now seen as common and therefore vulgar.

    But not if the legs belong to a sister**.

    But that’s probably true of most brothers despite how much we like to yak on about individual freedom.

  • MarkE

    When I was a young and impressionable lad I once had a summer job as gatekeeper for a private beach attached to a posh hotel. I noticed then that there was a strong inverse correlation between the willingness to expose flesh, and the quality of that flesh; those who exposed most were (generally) those I would prefer to have seen covered, if at all.

    It was a good summer though, and I still can’t see a spaniel without fellings of nostalgia.

  • Midwesterner

    My first thought was the same as Rob Fisher’s. Hemline theory:

    Fashion is always a mirror of society. Thus, in a strange forecast of what the Federal Reserve discovered in the banking system, overexposure and total transparency in the wardrobe has been followed by complex cover-ups and a downward spiral. Fashion designers now seem clairvoyant.

    If covering up more leg correlates to a tanking stock market, an end to topless sunbathing in France would surely be the end of life as we know it. This trend must be reversed. For the sake of civilization.

  • Ian B

    Possibly, but I think maybe it’s just part of the fact that the 1960s are now like soooooo over.

    I have a particular view of recent history- I think the (social) liberalism of the twentieth century is misunderstood. It comes partly from the fact that I am a child of the 60s (born 1966) and grew up with a generalised assumption that the trend was towards (social) freedom and we would all just keep getting freer and freer. It seemed natural enough. It thus perplexed me as I got older that clearly there were powerful forces against that and we were becoming steadily less free again, and that the trend for social freedom had peaked in the late 60s- although we have gained some freedoms since then in some areas they have been more due to e.g. new technologies (the internet for instance) than due to a trend.

    I first blamed this on conservatives, not an unreasonable hypothesis in the Thatcher years. The ascendent Tories then were clearly social conservatives, increasing censorship and the like. But I now think that’s wrong.

    I believe that ordinary people, for the most part, exclusive of outside influences (e.g. religion or other strong social forces) seek greater freedom from themselves. There had thus been a slow, steady push towards greater social freedom in the West as the old institutions (e.g. monarchy and the church) were weakened. But what happened in the 20th century was that those old hegemonic institutions weren’t just being reduced; they were being replaced. A new hegemony was being constructed by a coalition of progressives, the left, whatever. They had to downgrade, destroy and subvert the old institutions first, before the new hegemony could be bedded in, and as that first part of the process was underway, social freedom was increasing for ordinary people, like sunlight peeping through the clouds.

    But then, as the new hegemony institutions were emplaced- massive government, health bureaucracies, politicised scientific institutions etc, the sun started to go in again. There wasn’t a long term trend toward freedom, merely a “dip” when neither hegemony was dominant. We are now on the hegemonic upswing again, with the new institutional system in charge, and social conservatism is again becoming dominant. For instance, under the old hegemony, nudity was disallowed for moral reasons; under the new one for health reasons or to prevent offense of hegemonically preferred interest groups. The social freedom peak correlated with the hegemonic power dip, and both are now over. The 60s was merely the point of “handover” of power. In that sense, it really was a revolution.

    In my view, we can thus see why libertarianism has so fallen from favour. Libertarians seek to create a power vacuum, and when the old institutions were being dismantled we were on the “winning side”. Classical liberals were strongly aligned for instance with the reduction of Church power- The Age Of Reason and all that. The reduction of the old hegemony was a liberal goal. But classical liberals/libertarians didn’t and don’t want another power structure to replace it. But it seems those Enlightenment men wildly underestimated the ability of a new hegemony to fill the power vacuum; the best attempt at preventing that happening, the US Constitution, has ended in utter ruin. As such we should recognise that Libertarianism needs to address two key political points- how to dismantle power and how to keep it that way.

    By initiating and enabling the first of those but inadequately addressing the second, earlier liberals allowed new power structures to gradually arise, often using the foil of the old power structures as a ploy to portray themselves as liberal while actually being the exact opposite.

    So, we can expect less bronzed boobies on beaches in general in future. It was symptomatic of a brief changeover period in social history, which is now over. Social freedoms only flourish in the presence of weakened centralised political power.

  • Ian B

    Which is why, paradoxically, Thatcher should be seen as the first New Labour, new hegemony, prime minister, while Attlee to Callahan represented the hegemonic interregnum. :)

  • Ian B

    For instance, under the old hegemony moral rules were set by religious institutions. Under the new one, the coalition of pressure groups, charities and NGOs assume that role.

  • Laird

    Interesting thesis, Ian B; I shall have to ponder it.

    However, on first blush I don’t think I completely agree with you. I come back to a thesis of my own (an axiom, if you will) that political power can be neither created nor destroyed, but merely moved around. A fundamental human motivation is to arrogate such power to oneself, either directly or via an organization or group with which one identifies (your “hegemonic power structure”). The goal of libertarianism is not to “create a power vacuum” (which, I posit, is impossible), but rather to divide power into ever-smaller quanta, with the untimate devolution being the individual himself. What we are fighting, therefore, is the centralization of power, in whatever form that takes (governments, religions, NGOs, etc.), for the purpose of increasing the (relative) power of each individual.

    Perhaps if libertarianism were marketed in that fashion it would sell better.

  • virgil xenophon

    A more prosaic reason besides the newly (comparatively) developed health concerns is a fact not yet mentioned here. To wit: When there are large numbers of foreign nationals flooding into society who are considered inferior and are of a darker skin complexion, whites avoid at all costs excessive tanning which makes them seem physically closer to the “inferior” or “foreign” race. This is best seen in the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexican border and in other border states in the US. No white sun worshipers there, lest they be seen as Mexicans. Such concerns among whites having a long history in the border States. Whites don’t worry about being mistaken for Blacks however, due to otherwise unmistakable differences is overall physiognomy in most cases. (A major exception seems to be So. Calif. which seems historically and as of yet to this day immune to this phenomenon.)

  • Well, it may just be an example of a reflex action by a dying paradigm, but this week there has been a suggestion mooted that a tourist resort for sky clad wannabees be opened on Australias North Coast.

    Bet there will be loadsa old buggers there.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Ah, it’s a terrible shame.

    I have many fond memories of holidays in Carnac in Brittany when about 13 years old when it was unusual to see a woman with a top on. And not just the ugly ones.

    Mmmmmmmmm… When you’re 13 that’s pure heaven.

  • tranio

    Surely it’s the burqa clad women who more likely will get cancer. Vitamin D obtained by your body from sun exposure is a known cancer fighting agent. Don’t get much sun through those eyeholes.

  • Concerns about hemlines are localised, as my recent trip to Budapest showed. Plenty of very short and, in many cases, barely opaque, skirts on show there.

  • I’m not so sure there has been a sharp reduction but as I wrote my blog yesterday, such reduction as there is seems likely to be due to the cancer thing. Far less leathery skin these days.