Stand up for modesty

  • October 4, 2011

Even people who abhor the unrelenting sexualization of Western culture are generally reluctant to speak out on the topic. Who needs the attention? Who wants to be called a prude?

So there is a lesson for all in the simple protest of a Northern Ireland farmer who recently told pop superstar Rihanna to put on a shirt or get off of his land.

“I do not believe young ladies should have to take their clothes off to entertain,” he said. “I’m entitled to hold that opinion.”

But by voicing that opinion — by defending common decency —  Alan Graham, 61, landed in an international media storm. He was ridiculed worldwide for his “old-fashioned” notion of propriety and mocked because, shame of shames, he didn’t realize the half-naked woman cavorting in his barley field was a music diva who is idolized by a generation of young women and teens.

He had rented his property for production of a music video, and although singing and dancing were surely anticipated, he never imagined a young woman might rent a farmer’s muddy field in chilly September to make music naked above the waist. During filming, a vehicle got mired in the mud and Graham was summoned with his tractor for a tow. That’s when he saw the topless singer.

“I realized, hold on, this is getting to a stage I am uncomfortable with and I can’t allow this to go on,” he told the BBC. “From my point of view, it was my land, I have an ethos and I felt it was inappropriate.”

It would have been easy for Graham to avert his eyes, turn around his tractor, collect his fee and get on with his life in silence. Society does that daily. Instead, he barged into a maelstrom. He demonstrated a moral conviction that, once commonplace, is too often absent today in a culture that idolizes celebrity and supports a media industry that parades the anti-values of permissiveness, vanity and vulgarity.

Society’s failing morals are particularly evident in the disgraceful way media interacts with young females. Even before they are teenagers, girls are bombarded by suggestive images through television, videos, magazines and, of course, the Internet. The message delivered by such millionaire pop celebrities as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Beyonce is that sex and sexiness bring acceptance and happiness.

In this coarse world, young women routinely see modesty and virtue give way to indecency and impurity. Seldom does anyone speak out. As one commentator put it, society rages at the degradation of the natural environment of our planet but largely accepts the degradation of the moral environment of our young women. That’s shameful.

Then along came Alan Graham to tell a pop star to get dressed or get lost. His message was long overdue.

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