Photo credit: Richie Rich-Allsop
This article first appeared in Malta Today
Last week’s Lost & Found four day music festival is a stark reminder of the inability to grasp the difference between being ‘liberal’ and plain old lawlessness.
Although I joked about the amount of flesh on display in Qawra at the beginning of the festival, with all the tangas and butt cheeks everywhere you looked, by the fourth day the dress code (or lack of) became even more risqué. Photos started emerging of men wearing nothing more than the bare minimum, making Borat’s mankini look dressy in comparison. I had to look up what it is called, and apparently it has been designated as the ‘boomwang’ which covers only what is necessary from the front with a bit of floss holding it up at the back.
The entertainment website where I found this description points out that this, and other revealing male bathing suits, are “all types of wrong” and reserved solely for exhibitionists.
Now, I am not a prude and the sight of near-nudity is not going to make me reach for the smelling salts. I consider myself pretty liberal on most issues, but I also believe that there has to be a line drawn between what is acceptable in a private setting, and what spills over into the public domain. Lost & Found is one long beach party and spending four days in scanty beachwear is all part of the experience. But once the participants step outside of Cafe del Mar (or any other venue) they need to be informed that Qawra (or any other area) is not a secluded part of the island but is a place where many families gather for relaxation. Much as some might wish to turn Malta into Ibiza, seriously, it can never be Ibiza, because thanks to indiscriminate planning, the venues, beaches and nightclubs all merge with family-friendly areas so there is no delineation of areas for adults only.
This is the same thing that has happened in Paceville which has plonked strip clubs smack in the middle of normal bars, clubs and restaurants and a nearby popular cinema complex. In most other countries red light districts are set apart, and this is for an obvious reason – those who want to frequent strip clubs know what they are there for while it is an automatic no-go area for those who are under-age.
Cafe del Mar is situated right next to a much-frequented playground and the whole area near the Aquarium is also very popular with families not only for the Aquarium itself but for the cafe and restaurant. There is also a large open space for children to run around and play in safety – a rare thing these days where open spaces are rapidly disappearing. In stark contrast, we had party-goers exhibiting their wares as they walked casually along the promenade and the residential side streets of Qawra and Bugibba. I think it was highly unfair and unreasonable for parents who objected to this, to be mocked and told that they should not have gone to Qawra on those days. So let me get this straight, instead of ensuring that those who are indecently dressed are told to cover up, we are now going to prevent families from visiting the few places where their children can get some much needed fresh air away from our polluted inner towns?
No where in the world can people simply walk around in the streets like they were walking around on those four days because every country has laws in place dealing with indecent public exposure. And yes, these laws even exist at seaside resorts, where beachwear is restricted to the beach (some hotels even ask you to cover up when leaving the pool area). Our own laws state men cannot walk around or drive a car without a shirt on, nor can a woman walk into Valletta wearing just a bikini. We are not being ‘backward’ or provincial, uptight or ultra conservative by pointing this out, it is simply a fact. The public domain does not just belong to one set of people, as we all have to live with one another and get along, unless we are advocating a complete breakdown of society which descends into anarchy. It is for this reason that in properly-regulated countries you will get police knocking at your door for excessive noise or behaviour which is disturbing the neighbours (which I know might be a novel concept for some). Sure, inside the privacy of your own home you are free to do what you like – as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others to enjoy their own home in peace and quiet.
Above all, where children are concerned there have to be laws enforced which protect them from being exposed to certain adult behaviour. If this were not the case then why are film-makers obliged to submit their productions for age classification ratings according to the amount of sex, nudity, violence and crude language? Some silly online comments were trying to belittle parents who were objecting to the indecent lack of clothing, asking whether they keep their children fully clothed all the time . These inane comparisons are neither here nor there. Parents have a right to protect their own children from the nudity of other adults; in fact, that is their role. It has nothing to do with having any hang-ups about nudity, it is simply a choice which people make about what they want their own children to be exposed to at what age.
And anyway, why should parents even have to justify their objections to something like this when society’s laws are being broken?