Why We Should Promote Gender Equality As Part of Naturist Values
In the search terms for the Kingston-Frontenac Free Body Society, we include “Gender Equality” and “Feminism.” Why?
The Culture Lags the Law
In Canada, complete legal equality of men and women has been part of the highest law of the land since 1981. It’s so important that we even put it in our Constitution twice, first in the “Equality Rights” section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
And then again under “Rights Guaranteed Equally to Sexes”:
28. Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.
Despite that, equality in practice is still some time away. Recent estimates of the equal pay / equal work gap still show women at 70-something percent of what men earn to do the same job. Recent nationwide discussion over court-mandated reforms to our outdated and ineffective prostitution laws revealed a shocking level of contempt and prejudice (from both genders) for women who, for whatever reason, work in “less savoury” occupations. Despite legal guarantees and plenty of practical experience proving that it’s perfectly OK for a woman to be top-free anyplace where the men are also top-free, nearly all Canadian women still feel pressured to dress according to what they believe everyone else on the beach would expect them to wear. “Slut shaming” and “rape culture” are, despicably, real things with real consequences.
We could come up with twenty more examples, but the point is clear. Legislating equality is not the same as enacting equality. What really matters is what happens at the grassroots level. That’s where equality has to be internalized if it is to become a permanent cultural norm.
The Law Lags Basic Ethics
We’re told that in some parts of the US, the situation is considerably worse – apparently there are about a dozen American states where women are legally second-class citizens, subject to volumes of special laws and restrictions that do not apply to men. And we haven’t even left the continent yet. If we do, we find places where a woman’s legal status is somewhere between that of a goat and that of a car, or worse. We find places where schoolgirls get abducted by Kalashnikov-wielding thugs for the crime of “reading while female.” We find places where rape victims get stoned by lynch mobs to “erase the shame” from their families.
This is emphatically Not OK.
We can’t solve it. Not as individuals, not from over here in our comfortable, developed-nation bubbles. But we can put pressure on the people who are able to solve it. And we can, one person at a time, build the kind of culture that would never even consider accepting such things as part of its fabric. That’s how bad laws eventually get fixed – and enforced. Race segregation in North America only became legislated against when the public as a whole began to cry out to the government for change. The same can be done for gender equality, and the support of feminism is key to the change in values society needs.
We Need Civilized Culture
We at the Free Body Society, along with the YNA crew and many other folks around the world, are trying to create little pockets of civilized culture. Places where equality is part of the ground truth, where the outer world’s negative influences can be torn down and we can begin an honest conversation about how to deal with them. The openness, respect and honesty that naturally create a naturist environment are crucial keys to making this possible.
There’s a particular need to encourage female contributions to this conversation, because in order to counteract the negative influences of today’s culture, the marginalized voices must be given greater weight. We make a point of welcoming the 20- and 30-something women and trans/polygendered folks who tend to be on the receiving end of “slut shaming” and other destructive forces. They are the people who best understand the need for the kind of supportive, open, positive environment we want to create.
Will we succeed? Who knows. Hopefully we do. Feminism’s old, vocal style may be on the way out, but the new feminism – the quiet, smart, insidious kind that slowly and subtly reshapes a culture into something better – is just getting started.