Bodies. Yep. We've all got one. For some reason, which we will never know, way back in history it was decided to cover them up.
Some of it is practical. Cold. Spiky plants. Biting insects. Sunburn. Etc.
Some of it is hygiene. I have no desire to sit on a chair naked after somebody else naked sat on it. Thanks all the same.
Some of it is power. I'm dressed, you're not.
Some of it is jealousy/possessiveness. That's my wife/mistress and you can't look.
Anyway, the point is that NOW, regardless of what history did, if I show off my body it tends to create quite a strong reaction. So, out of etiquette, I don't.
I'm not an inhibited person. In fact I'm peculiarly uninhibited, even despite being old, ugly, and fat, I would strip naked in public if there was a good reason to. You have been warned. But don't worry, I said a good reason. I'm thinking gesture/protest. Not just because I'm hot. RELAX.
But I don't go any lengths to hide my nipples under a light top, and a few people have been startled. I think it's funny. They're scarred for life. Their problem, not mine. I was "decent".
I find the whole taboo about certain body parts and not others to be absolutely ridiculous, but I repeat, to avoid upsetting others I do not show my tits off at the dinner table. On the beach you take your chances.
This attitude I have is obviously going to influence my attitude to clothing, so I offer it as a disclaimer, BUT I do try very carefully to consider that others may not be so open-minded.
What we feel on this topic is often a matter of conditioning. Whenever I say this I get objections on the grounds that I'm suggesting people are brainwashed/don't know their own minds. Sorry, but it's been proven, and not just once. This is standard stuff. Teach anything well enough, immerse a person in a culture where certain behaviours are universally accepted and others are not, and in time they will believe it's the only "right" thing to do. If you don't believe me, we need to talk, seriously! That is how humans are, in general. Sheep. Sorry.
Every so often you find a rebel. Somebody who rejects that conditioning. How and why are fascinating, some of it personality, obviously, but often there's this element of doubt thrown in from outside. This is why outsiders can be demonized, there's a risk of "new" ideas affecting the entire culture.
I assume I am one of those rebels, but as I am not alone, I don't know if it's innate or what I saw other rebels doing that was the real driver, all I know is I was very young when I decided that I had "other" ideas.
One thing's for sure. The forces trying to stop me having my own ideas were not very powerful. I was not in a family or culture that overwhelmed my ideas, or made me feel shame about them. That allowed me to look at it dispassionately and form a balanced view.
In human society we can find the full range.
We must assume both of these women are comfortable, that they are used to their situation, and that if you swapped them around, you'd cause considerable distress, well at least to one of them.
Do either of them have a choice?
That is the question, isn't it?
When there are no such extremes, the choices are clearer.
Here are two young North American women.
Quite a difference in clothing, but again, both look comfortable, and this time I'm almost certain they wouldn't want to switch.
Do either of these ladies have a choice? Depends.
When it comes to school or the workplace, the choices are different. That is really where I'm interested today, because there has been an issue recently with schools and dress codes, and the question of choices.
It's complicated because on the one hand, I oppose school uniforms on practical grounds. I think it could be done well, but usually it isn't. On the other hand, I'm not stupid, and I don't think the one on the left is appropriate for school. So where do we draw the line? How do we make it fair?
Maybe it's time to let the students speak. To come to an agreement, not by school but for a whole area. Perhaps if they had some input they wouldn't resort to protests.
The problem, as always is one of extremes. It simply isn't that easy to define those extremes. True extremes are the first two images, and anything else is open to criticism by BOTH sides, and it's no good saying there's a sensible or reasonable compromise, because every example you can offer is too little or too much by different people. My idea of "middle ground" is not shared by everyone else, and neither is yours.
So when there is a dress code or a uniform, it means somebody has made an arbitrary decision as to what is appropriate, and sooner or later, somebody will object to it, one way or another.
In other words the word "modesty" has no real meaning, it's just an idea, and it changes. That's the first thing people have to understand. I've heard so many otherwise intelligent and reasonable people get this wrong. Yes, I said wrong. Wrong in the idea that there is some universally understood "modest but not extreme" mode of dress. It's all subjective, and it's all opinion.
Where's the harm?
We could probably argue forever and a day on this one, but I assert that the biggest harm is when people (mostly women) are forced into wearing clothes that make them uncomfortable. As I stated earlier, comfort can sometimes be what you are used to.
I have a hard time working in sleeves. I automatically push or roll them up to do anything.
When I was young I saw a photo of a woman drawing while wearing a kimono. My sympathy for her was visceral, it almost made my claw at my arms. All that fabric flapping around and getting in the way.
I don't like hats. They make me itch, they blow away in the wind, I hate them. Unless it's really cold in winter, you'll never see me wear a hat.
On the other hand you'll never see me in tops with spaghetti straps, because I spend all day pulling them back up after they've fallen off my shoulders. Drive me absolutely freaking screwy. My daughters, on the other hand, who inherited their father's shoulders and have no such issues, virtually live in them in summer.
I don't like socks, they make my feet hot.
I don't like belts, they hurt when bending.
I don't like layers, I feel all bundled up......
I could go on.
So there are some of my comfort issues.
Everyone's comfort is different. I once knew a woman who wore high neck sweaters even in summer because she couldn't bear to have her neck uncovered. Years ago, it was common for women to feel naked without stockings, and almost everyone wore an undergarment such as a petticoat, slip, undershirt, etc. When I see the layers people used to wear I feel hot just looking at them.
And how men wear jackets on TV under those lights, ye Gods, I'll never understand that.
Thankfully I have utter free choice. I can even go braless with impunity because of where I live.
It is the choice that is the freedom. Whatever is preventing the choice is the problem. Clothing is just clothing. Some of it is fun, and some of it saves the old lady across the road from heart failure.
Maybe if there were less rules we'd find that middle ground?