Naked Activists and The State Of The Nudist Movement
(Guest Blog Post By Gymnos)
Nudist Movement And Naked Activists:
A state of the state of our nudist movement, the beginnings of a map for raising consciousness and support for the rights of nudists everywhere.
liberty, fraternity, nudity !!!
This is the slogan of a possible movement… calling out from a time when the bond of men in brotherhood was understood as the basis for “la communauty.” Yet, in this moment, it is presented with a twist on the revolution that it calls to mind. This time let it be a nudist revolution lead by naked activists.
A few years back this was one of the faux slogans marched down 5th Avenue in NYC by the men of Males Au Natural (MAN) for the annual Pride festivities back in 2007. Yet those men were not naked: their crotches and butts were strategically covered by smaller signs with shorter slogans like “NUDE RIGHTS NOW” & “this crack don’t kill.”
But why use faux slogans? Why are they considered a performance costume any more than a call to action? In fact the line separating the performance from the slogan may only be semantic, yet the men of MAN are hardly a politically charged lot.
Since the women of NYS won their right to be topless in all those places men easily took for granted (1992), & since the TNT!MEN (Totally Naked Toronto Men Enjoying Nudity) won the right to march in their Pride celebrations with only shoes & hats… the courts just couldn’t admit that any harm would be done or it was just enough to deem them ‘not naked’ depending on whom you ask (2000), since the first segregation of beaches along lines of textile options (how far back do we have to go?)… Since the rise of modern society, public nudism has been the center of its own civil rights tug-of-war.
In America, exercising our right to be free of covering is a drama-ridden morality play of the first order. In Europe, it’s more a matter of social convention & propriety. In parts of Asia, it’s a practice deemed entirely illegal & severely punished.
Yet, with the arrival of 2012, we see the rise of the [virtual] nudist community and a determination to win the battles for more body freedom. These are cause for a palpable urgency.
The urgency itself may be a matter of simple perception – seeing new social associations and internet communities propagate, older groups have responded in some cases as if threatened for their very existence. Likewise, the rise of this online community, fueled by the speed of the newest social connectivity presents new fault lines for the encroaching of fetish life on a more naturist aesthetic. Yet to underscore these new developments, the online communities are not staying virtual. Nudists involved are attending organized house parties and events with a new vitality.
Yet the road ahead is anything but assured as progress towards more freedom.
The infighting among naturist groups is but one symptom of a larger anxiety about the dwindling of our adherents. Recent updates to nudity laws in my home city of New York nearly included language that would have outlawed social nudism of any kind. While 2011 saw serious soul-searching in Vermont and San Francisco as anti-nudity laws were debated and nearly enacted.
The disparate local responses to the rising number of World Naked Bike Rides vary from open acceptance (in cities like Philly and Chicago) to the overwhelming police presence in other localities (NYC stands out). Despite the landmark case in NYC where Spencer Tunick established a state constitutional right to assemble nude people in public places based on our freedom of expression, artists making nude art is public must expect harassment and arrest.
And with economics as they are, community based nudist clubs are under extreme pressures to keep their membership numbers stable, while the succession of these family owned businesses is hardly guaranteed.
The fact of the matter remains that exercising our rights as nudists is not as simple as the innocence of teenage skinny dipping. The political implications – whether it’s a matter of our neighbors knowing that we’re entertaining tonight, or the intricacies of local law & it’s possible enforcement – make being a nudist no small personal statement.
To move forward, we need much stronger legal advocates at both the local and national levels. We also need data and lots of it. Currently we don’t really know what over-arching attitudes exist either within the nudist communities or beyond them.
Sure, each of us has had passing conversations, some even with depth and honest conviction, but this cannot pass for a scientific census of our attitudes, beliefs, desires and practices. We need to learn how to sway public opinion and to advocate for our rights as equal citizens. And we need to move beyond the cloistered, nudist-only communities and engage the larger populace in clothing optional and nude-friendly spaces and events.
Only after data is collected, poured over, and truly understood can we begin to steer our movement to one of greater human freedom without internal shame or external condemnation. The future is ours, but only if we’re ready, willing and able to develop strategies, and implement a game plan that will win the war of hearts, minds and bodies.
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