Nudist Advocacy Organizations and AANR in the Wall Street Journal
The last post about defining the terms nudism and naturism has got me thinking. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the end result; the process and discussion is what I find far more important and fascinating.
It was obvious, from what the people said and the comments that came after, just how unorganized and weak the nudist movement is. But the question is, why? Why is something so basic as a simple definition of a nudist so difficult to answer? This is a new phenomenon for me, because in business, politics and so forth, the terms are clear and leave no room for ambiguity.
A business has a clear leadership structure. An organization has (or should have) a clear mission. A movement is something that comes about to address specific issues due to the lack of structured organizations advocating on people’s behalf (but since it is created to deal with specific issues, it has clear cut goals). So where does that leave the nudist world?
It is no great secret that YNA has had a difficult time trying to get AANR and TNS to be more responsive and supportive. This sends us a clear signal that they believe they are doing a great job and would prefer to maintain the status quo (basically continuing the same way they have been for decades). We respect their opinions but retain the right to disagree.
By now, most of you have probably seen the article about AANR that came out today in the Wall Street Journal. I sent the article to a few people just to get their thoughts and so far, I have yet to get one neutral party to say anything positive about it. The gist of the comments was that AANR came off looking like a small child who is desperate for attention as well as being an organization that does not know how to take constructive criticism (not to mention the fact that AANR gave the impression that they have given up on attracting the younger generation and now cater to the baby boomers).
Basically, the article said that none of the 100 or so companies that AANR approached saw any value of working with AANR. In addition, one of the top marketing experts, Karen Post, weighed in with a very interesting comment. (For those of you who don’t know her, Karen Post is a leading brand and marketing specialist who has been on every major news network, and the author of “Brand Turnaround: How Brands Gone Bad Returned to Glory and the 7 Game Changers that Made the Difference”). Ms. Post flat out said that AANR’s tagline — “The credible voice of reason for nude recreation since 1931″— has got to go. Susan Weaver, the current president of AANR, brushed off that suggestion saying that she was proud of it.
Now, I don’t know what others might think, but if someone like Karen Post says something like that, I believe it should be taken seriously. Just because we like something, it does not mean that it is the best option. At least AANR conceded that their website needs work, but that they will do it with the new funds generated from sponsors. I find this odd… AANR boasts about having a $1.5 Million budget and yet they don’t have the funds needed to revamp their site? Plus, from the way the article is written, AANR might have to wait a long time, so where does that leave its members who might want a better looking and more user-friendly website?
Another issue that got many nudists upset is the fact that the acting executive director of AANR, Jim Smock, is not a nudist. I see their point, but it never really bothered me till I saw the picture in the article today. Now, I might be mistaken, but from the looks of it, Jim just removed his shirt long enough to get the picture (you can still see it in the image!). What kind of signal does that send? Why the need to pretend? It made my heart drop when I saw it because it adds to the sentiment that the article is one big joke or a game (at least that is what some of the people said).
The “nudist movement,” as it is perceived by the general population is somewhat of an oxymoron. Nudists are seen as being an overweight and aging population that simply enjoys sitting around and sunbathing nude all day long. But from what I have seen and experienced over these past two years, the reality is completely different. There is no lack of interest but there is an image problem. Let’s face it, it is not perceived as cool to be a nudist. The article today did not help, and things like this make it even more difficult to change the public’s perception. I am not a believer that any press is good press. Sometimes it is better to say no, even if it is the Wall Street Journal.
In the US we have bigger organizations like TNS and AANR. But the fact that no one really knows why, when or what they do, is a major roadblock when it comes to getting support. Now, naturism is a different type of cause (perhaps because it is not generally perceived as a “cause”). Anyone on the street would probably say that if someone wants to be naked then they should go home and take their clothes off… Should a person want to participate in social nude activities then there are a bunch of beaches, clubs, resorts and home get-togethers. So no need for advocacy there. Therefore, support from non-nudists would be hard to get unless one promotes a different set of values that are currently not being addressed by any other organizations.
If you are a nonprofit or advocacy group, you need support and donations. Very few people will donate to AANR or TNS simply because they believe in “the cause” or “mission.” TNS has a good publication which is why most people become members. People join AANR because they want discounts (and some are basically forced to become members if they want to be part of certain nudist resorts or clubs). The fact that people ask, “What do I get if I join?” pretty much sums up the point. People who feel passionate about a cause or organization will donate regardless of what they will get in return. Since there is no true nudist advocacy organization out there today, there is nothing for nudists to rally support for or rally behind.
YNA is probably the poorest of all the naturist groups and yet we are the most vocal and active. Curating content that addresses specific issues takes a ton of time and dedication and while other groups can AFFORD to do this, none of them really do.
The closest thing that we have to a true advocate is The Naturist Action Committee (NAC). In my humble opinion, it is probably one of the best things to come out of the naturist / nudist movement. They have a great track record and are extremely effective when it comes to dealing with legal issues pertaining to public lands and beaches. Perhaps if they had more support from the other groups and organizations, they could be even more influential. But without proper funding and a growing network of support they will have a tough time raising the funds they need to deal with the legal issues as well as establishing a more prominent presence. All these things cost money and NAC can’t fight legal battles and still spend money on furthering their reach so they are left to pick and choose which ones they can and should take on.
One of the major hurdles that nudism faces today is nudists. There are far too many egos in this industry and too many people believe they know what is best. “We” (as in the nudist movement) have no real dialogue let alone collaborations.
Some say that I have a “pie in the sky” approach because I believe that TNS and AANR should be working together more often and supporting other like-minded groups and organizations. If Democrats and Republicans can see eye to eye every now and again then why can’t “we”? (Not the best example but I think you get my drift.)
This seemingly simple suggestion is not as viable as one would hope. For this to work, a decision must be made to share information and work on structuring a collaborative effort. Since most of the issues seem to revolve around money, here is an example of the immediate financial benefits that could be had – tracking of legislation. The biggest company that offers this service would probably be LexisNexis, and the service is not cheap. I wonder if each organization pays separately for using this type of service? If that is the case, then wouldn’t it make sense to have one account and share that information? Perhaps even dividing the responsibilities? For example, NAC has a great track record when dealing with legal issues that involve public lands – let them spearhead that department. AANR has a good record with lobbying? So let AANR focus on that.
San Onofre is a great example where NAC and AANR got involved, took different approaches and probably did not have a clear plan of how best to deal with the issue (as a collaborative effort). The end result? No clothing optional or nude beach in San Onofre. I can’t help but wonder if having a partnership in approach might have yielded a better result. I can’t say exactly what happened because as of yet, AANR has not made an absolute transparent statement as to what exactly happened (at least none that I have seen). NAC on the other hand has been quite helpful with making information available and for that I would like to say thank you :)
I understand that negotiations are kept quiet while they are going on. But we see no harm in doing a postmortem analysis whereby information could be made available, lessons could be learned and maybe such a fiasco could be avoided in the future.
But that is a monumental task and we need to start somewhere. So I propose settling the basic issue first. I would like to reiterate that for me it makes no real difference but just for argument’s sake, let’s try and come up with a basic definition for what nudists and naturists are.
As far as I could see from the discussion online, a sweeping broad term that I feel everyone can agree on would be something like…
Nudist – A person who enjoys nonsexual nude recreation and social nude activities in sanctioned public locations and / or in private ones.
Naturist – A person who enjoys nonsexual nude recreation and social nude activities with a major focus of interest on those activities that take place outdoors and in nature. This group also believes that Naturism and environmental issues are intertwined.
Since we are already at it…
The definition of a YNA Nudie – A person who believes in the benefits of nonsexual nude recreation as it pertains to the broader issues of acceptance and social responsibilities. For this group of people, nudity is not the main focus but rather a tool that is used to teach people about acceptance, tolerance and compassion. Some causes that a nudie would be advocating for are: body acceptance, prevention of online and offline bullying, working to end body shame and tackling censorship of “innocent” or simple “nudity.” (These are just a few examples.)
Once we could get a majority consensus on this basic issue, perhaps it could be a starting point for more discussion about other issues. At least we can hope! (And we do need a starting point where we all could agree.)
Nudist Advocacy Organizations: Is there still any need for them? was published by Young Naturists and Young Nudists America YNA