The Publication of Private Undress is Anti-Social
(c) 2012, Davd
CBC News recently reported that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, also known as Prince William the second-generation heir to the Throne and his wife Kate, have sued a French magazine for publishing photographs of the Duchess’ uncovered upper body, which photographs were taken by means of a telephoto lens at very long distance, without consent, while the couple were vacationing at a private chateau. In other words, some photographer found a way to photograph private undress which would have been invisible to the naked eye and not clearly visible to an ordinary pair of binoculars, and some redactrice was greedy-and-insensitive enough to publish the photographs, thus making public what was proper, modest private behaviour—but would be improperly immodest if repeated in public.
It is thus la redactrice and the magazine that have been immodest, not the Duchess. The sneak-photographing invaded privacy and that, plus the “imposition of publicity on private conduct”, is the key issue—not whether other women of the Duchess’ age might choose to “go topless” in public places, nor what public places ought to allow women “topless”1.
Since la redactrice has invaded privacy and exposed conduct which was modest enough as intended but immodest in print, to the immodesty of print, without consent, the matter might even be criminal; and whether or not it be in France, an “exemplary shaming” seems to be desirable.
I suggest la redactrice be sentenced to some messy and unpleasant but useful work, such as cleaning pig stalls or sorting kitchen garbage, said work to be done in her office clothing and photographed, with the photographs published as she published the sneak-photos of the Duke and Duchess. Readers are invited to suggest even better forms of Public Shaming if they occur to you.
I further suggest that any and all co-workers who suggested or encouraged the publication be sentenced similarly, with shaming and publication in proportion to the initiative they took in publishing the sneak-photos and their rank in the administrative hierarchy of the publication. If the magazine be a corporation, i suggest the corporation be sentenced to pay the costs of and publish the results of an interfaith conference in pursuit and support of the restoration of modesty and fidelity.
We learn nothing of merit from the publication-without-consent of a private scene. Duchess Kate is now royalty and a “public figure”, but public-figures are entitled to privacy so long as their actions in private are proper and not contradictory to their public roles, and royalty especially so since dignity is important in their public roles. Married couples of all social classes and occupations sometimes wear less in private than they would in public—there is nothing distinctively royal to be shown and nothing improper to be exposed. If her [and his] anatomy is normal [as all indications be], its exact details are none of our business.
It is not immodest for the Duchess to be in whatever state of undress in the private company of her husband the prospective future King. In all probability, she and he were both conceived by parents who, at that moment-of-conception, were completely naked—and in completely private spaces. All you who read this have probably been totally naked at least once a week, this year, even if you are sexually abstinent—at least, i hope you bathe weekly or oftener. The magazine had no more business publishing photographs of the Duchess privately sunning her upper body, or bathing if that were what she was doing, than it has of photographs of you or me in our tubs and showers.
Private conduct can legitimately be made public when there is an over-riding public good-purpose served, the usual examples probably being criminal investigation and trial. Snooping with telephoto lenses to catch public figures wearing less than they do when they know they are in public, is the opposite of a good purpose; it is an attack on the public virtue of modesty. Public display of the reproductive organs—and lactation is part of the reproductive process—tends to be socially disruptive; and the Duke and Duchess are quite right to condemn the publication of private undress.
I’m not eager to see either the sneak-photos, nor even the photos of la redactrice undergoing public shaming—but in the interests of modesty, she should be shamed.
I would recommend that women “go topless” in public, only where sexual display is intended. Infants can be breast-fed, even, without baring the mother’s upper body.
It often seems that the more sand and the fewer office buildings a place contains, the more likely both sexes are to bare their bodies… with however, the exception of major deserts, whose indigenous inhabitants more-often cover up to protect their skins.