The Brighton leg for the WNBR caused a bit more of a stir than usual this year, as it was alleged that a girl – thought to be eight or nine years old – took part, naked.
Chris Holmes, who complained about it to The Argus, said: ‘The fact there was an eight or nine-year old girl on her bike completely naked shocked me beyond words.’ The quote continued: ‘I spoke to the organisers, who seemed to think this was fine.’
While on the other hand, Sarah Bush was quoted as saying the: ‘ones in the wrong aren’t the parents or organisers but anyone picturing [the child] for unhealthy reasons. Let the kids enjoy their innocence while they can.’
Co-organiser for the Brighton WNBR, Duncan Blinkhorn told The Argus that the ride was about being body-positive and that applies to children as much as adults, adding ‘Why can’t children be naked if adults are naked?’
And that’s the point; WNBR is a protest where nudity is used to show the vulnerability of bike riders and to gain publicity. The adult would be saying ‘do as I say, not as I do’, if they were naked but banned the child from doing the same.
As a society, we do seem to have this odd reaction to when it comes to children. We tend to over empathise with the child and by doing so we project our own feelings and fears on to them, for the child’s sake. In an article on a different topic for The Telegraph, Rowan Pelling wrote: ‘A few years ago, when my children were young enough to enjoy the local paddling pool, other parents would frown when I let them run around naked, obsessed as the world is with the notion paedophiles are tracking your offspring’s every move.’
That is so true. We are obsessed with the perceived dangers that lurk in our streets. Whatever happened to the advice ‘Don’t talk to strangers’? Whatever happened to the old maxim ‘A little bit of dirt in your diet does you good’? That should not be taken literally of course, but a child must be allowed to take controlled risks in order to learn from them.
What that child has learned by taking part in the WNBR is what it is like to be naked in a public setting. Next year, she may still choose to participate but not naked. Or she might not participate at all, that will be her choice and an informed one from the earlier experience. We demand all kinds of information about things we are not expert in to make an informed choice. Being a good parent, in my book, means giving children the tools to make better choices in later life.
Incidentally, just as a small digression. The Brighton WNBR is a marshalled event so police officers were in attendance and could have intervened at any point, if they thought the child was in any danger. A Sussex Police spokesperson told The Argus that they had not been approached about the naked child or received any complaints. So, was The Argus guilty of sensationalising an incident that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, or was Chris Holmes just grabbing his 15-minutes of fame? I leave you to decide.