Two members of Britain's royal family have been involved in nude photo 'scandals' recently. One involved a royal cavorting naked in Las Vegas as part of a drunken game of strip poker. The other involved a photographer invading the privacy of a young couple on holiday in France and selling, to the tabloids, the ilicit photos he snapped of the topless wife. In the first case, when world heard about Prince Harry's naked romp, all anyone could say was "Oh that Harry, what a bounder he is!" with more than a touch of admiration. He's a young man, people said. He's out enjoying himself, what's the big deal?
But when Duchess Kate was secretly photographed sunbathing topless, the world went into panic mode. Lawyers descended on the French courts to get an injunction to stop the photos' publication. Newspapers all over the world slammed the editors of the various tabloids that published them. Commentators mentioned how eerily sad it was for the 'furious' William and the 'humiliated' Kate, considering the role paparazzi played in Princess Diana's death. And on magazine covers everywhere, headlines like "Tragic Humiliation for Kate" invited readers to discuss whether, in all fairness, Kate really should have known better and been careful to keep herself covered at all times.
This kind of double standard is appalling. To treat a male royal's naked photos as 'a bit of fun' and a female's as an international incident is downright sexist. But to treat Kate like she is unable to deal with the sexual predation of unscrupulous men and that she is somehow responsible for their atrocious actions comes chillingly close to the kind of thinking that prescribes full out burka for all women.
Furthermore, to act as though Kate's being topless is some sort of crisis only intensifies the idea that female beauty and sexuality are dangerous, shameful, horrible things. If this entire issue had been about invasion of privacy - which it isn't, clearly, since nobody minds how invasive and demanding paparazzi are with this couple and others the rest of the time - then the outcry would be understandable. And we are certainly sympathetic to the couple's anger at having a private moment revealed to the world by the tabloids. But let's not lose sight of the real issue here - we have to take a stand against the vilification of female beauty, and put an end to the hysterical overreaction the world has to the sight of it, accidental or otherwise.