Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Daily Newds

What is Offensive?

The definition is different for everybody. While I find human nudity wholesome and natural, there are many people with different opinions, varying from mild acceptance to total disgust. A fellow blogger over at Naked/Nudism has an essay entitled "The Right Not to be Offended" which addresses part of the issue, but I feel that he misses the mark.

By quoting from the Bill of Rights, the blogger says that he cannot find any reference to a "right not to be offended", meaning that there seems to be in America a "prevailing notion" that people have the right to live free and unfettered by offensive things, and that sex and nudity seem to be the sole offenders.

This is not even close to being true. Society has ruled against many, many things that have been deemed to be offensive, such as dog poop, smoking, excessive noise, speeding, creating a disturbance, fireworks, and so on ad infinitum.

There is a fine line in this society over what is decent and what is indecent, and it will always be so. As society changes so do public perceptions. It was once perfectly acceptable for people to swim naked, but in Victorian times the bathing suit was invented and it became the norm to be covered on the beach. It was once thought scandalous for a woman to show a bare ankle, and today there is no problem with women showing much, much more. Laws and ordinances are enacted by public demand - proposals are made, bills are voted, laws are created. In a representative republic such as we have today, it is generally the majority will of the people that decides what is offensive and what is not.

Concerning nudity, the overwhelming opinion of the American people has determined that it is indecent in public places. This opinion has been shaped by many years of societal give and take, and when you consider the fact that we are largely a religious society, it's no surprise. And don't tell me that we are a secular society today. Yes, we generally believe in the separation of church and state, but with most Americans believing in God and belonging to some organized religion, there is no way to completely separate the egg from the yolk.
And you know what? I like having a right to offend, and I don't mind being offended in turn. If you're able to censor your environment such that you never come across anything that offends you, be it sex, nudity, Sean Hannity or the religious right, you're not living in a free society.

This is essentially a non sequitur. I have no difficulty coming across sex, nudity, Sean Hannity or the religious right; all of these are ubiquitous.
When I come across things I'm offended by (and there are many), I simply ignore them. I change the channel, I tune them out, I walk away. Frankly, they're not worth the time and energy it takes to get upset over them. I'd only ask that anyone who's offended by nudity and nudism to do the same: support the spirit of the bill of rights and look away rather than try to censor us. Being offended once in a while is a small price to pay for freedom.

I'm offended by something every day, and this is true for every American. Society cannot and will not eliminate all things deemed to be offensive, but it will attempt to curb and control activity determined to be offensive by the majority. The Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to do or say anything you please (shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre is the classic example), the wording was designed to allow open dissent without fear of reprisal from the government. It's unreasonable and naive to think that thousands of years of developing public perceptions of decency and indecency can be simply passed off with the phrase "look away" - it's much more complicated than that.

So don't expect public sex and nudity anytime soon. In the meantime, don't break your TV next time you throw something at the screen during Hannity and Colmes.

The Daily Newds

Enjoy true freedom!

  • Filipino students stage annual naked run.
  • Peter Dreyer writes about nudists in a condescending manner.
  • Martha's Vineyard is cracking down on nude beachgoers.
  • Parents complain about a Florida school that showed a PG rated film to 16 year-old students because it contained a glimpse of male frontal nudity. The name of the movie under attack? "Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Naked Britannia

In a stunning new survey, it was revealed that 84% of Britons would purchase a home next door to naturists. If the poll is accurate, nudism is becoming mainstream acceptable social behavior in the British Isles. Nearly 20% of those surveyed have gotten nude outdoors, and over 20% have seen their neighbors nude.
Andrew Welch, Commercial Manager of British Naturism said: "Nude sunbathing is the most natural thing in the world. It is terrific news to hear that it is becoming more socially acceptable too. Naturists are incredibly considerate and take great care not to offend. The seclusion of a back garden is the ideal place. Why not give it a try?"

Friday, August 25, 2006

More on the Naked Kids in Vermont

I'm on record for stating that no good can come of the situation in Brattleboro, Vermont, where young people are congregating in a downtown parking lot, stark naked. I believe that the only course of action the townspeople will have will be to enact an ordinance banning public nudity.

But there are positive signs in the situation. First, the young people are comfortable in their own bodies, which is a good thing. Part of this is certainly rebellion, but part has to be the fact that they have a bit of naturist inside themselves.
The young men and women, many still in their late teens, are not merely indulging in the long-cherished Vermont tradition of nude sunbathing and skinny-dipping. They have been riding their bicycles naked down Main Street, busking in the buff and congregating for nude hula-hoop contests in a car park. (link)
"We have a nuclear power plant a few miles away and a ridiculous war in the Middle East, countries getting bombed," said Ian Bigelow, a 23-year-old who had gathered with some of his friends outside a bookstore. "So why's it such a big problem if we chose to get nude?" (link)
Well, the problem lies in the fact that many people find any sort of nudity offensive. People who don't even want to see nude classical art. These are the people who are making the most noise over this, crying "think of the children" as if the sight of nude bodies is going to irreversibly corrupt young minds (there is no substantiation to this claim; in fact, the opposite seems to be true).
"I don't see why it's such a big deal," said Alec McPherson, a recent high school graduate as he sat at a coffee shop table, browsing a thick volume of artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Everyone's naked in this book." (link)
It's difficult to make the argument that a bunch of nude teenagers doing the hula-hoop is akin to a Rubens painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the kid does have a point. So what is the big deal about public nudity?

You will notice that when the conservatives talk about nudity, they will label it "indecent". Just what is decent, and what is indecent? There is no solid definition, the meaning is in the mind of the beholder. As justice Potter Stewart once said back in the 1960s regarding pornography, "I know it when I see it". This shows just how difficult it is to define decency, it seems to be more what a social community is willing to accept. Although public nudity is not now illegal in Vermont, since the matter is being tested the community will be forced to make a decision, and it's not likely to put it's stamp of approval over nude teenagers downtown.
"I think most of Vermont wants Vermont to be nude," said Hannah Phillips, 15, who added that she has not disrobed. "People have a basic human right to be naked if they want to." (link)
Most nudists/naturists will agree that being nude is a basic human right, but most of society does not accept nudity in everyday situations. In order to change hearts and minds, the nudist movement must be steadfast and patient in promoting the lifestyle as something good for human beings. Nudism has not grown so profoundly over the past 10 years by being confrontational, and ultimately the situation in Vermont could be harmful because it will mobilize the hard right which thrives on exploiting such causes. It would not surprise me to see Jerry Falwell jumping into the fray eventually as the debate heats up.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Children, Clothes, and Nudism

The New York Times has a provocative article here (subscription required) on the fashion industry and how it is targeting the 4 to 9 year-old market. Yes, just like toys and cereal, children are now asking for Seven jeans, leggings and pedicures.

“In general, the awareness of fashion is getting younger and younger,” said Pilar Guzman, the editor of Cookie, a magazine aimed at the parents of children under 12. “Just as we’ve seen in the teen market, the interest in clothes is fashion- and celebrity-driven, and that interest has been trickling down.”
And the clothing companies are all falling over each other in the race to compete.

While that news may be welcome to some in the clothing industry, the notion of children dressing and preening like sawed-off adults can be dispiriting. “You get this idea that there is a kind of lost innocence,” Ms. Guzman of Cookie said. “It’s not so much that there is now a little-girl’s version of adult clothes as that the gap is diminishing between what’s meant for children and what’s intended for their elders. I find that a little sad.”
With the JonBenet Ramsey murder case back in the news, and the endless television images of her dressed in high heels and wearing lipstick at child pageants, this new trend can be alarming.
Juliet B. Schor, the author of “Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture” (Scribner), ascribes children’s heightened acquisitiveness partly to increasingly aggressive marketing. “The very insidious thing about this,” she said, “is that kids get the message that they need this product — whether it’s a sugared cereal or the latest fashion trend — to be O.K., to be cool. That is potentially interfering with their intrinsic sense of self. Kids from the very beginning are learning that your self-worth depends on what you have and how the market evaluates you.”
Which brings us to the opposite of clothing - nudity. Children are natural nudists, they have yet to adopt the self-inflicted shames of society. In the "205 Arguments and Observations in Support of Naturism" document, it is noted that children who grow up in healthy nudist environments "feel better about their bodies, and more comfortable with their sexuality". While nudism de-mystifies and de-sexualizes the human body, the fashion industry is attempting to turn innocent children into sexually-charged versions of mature adults, thus introducing them into a form of pornography at a very young age.

Andrea Hermitt Scares Me

Every once in a while someone writes something on the Internet that is so far-right conservative that is frightens me a bit. Andrea Hermitt, a self-professed "Christian woman human being artist writer homeschooling mom", who lists "sleeping" as one of her interests, writes about the human body as if it is something to be reviled.

At the left is an image of one of Hermitt's "spirual trading cards" (available here). Take note that Eve is clearly depicted as being naked. Nakedness in the Biblical sense is apparently acceptable, as long as you don't show the breasts and genitalia.

But nakedness in the mothering sense is not OK with Hermitt, who declares quite emphatically that she is "appalled" by mothers who breastfeed in public, declaring that they are putting on a "show". Wow.

In another column entitled "Nudity on Trial", Hermitt declares war on low-rise jeans, saggy pants, low cut shirts, showing too much leg, and even goes so far as to express her indignation at shirtless men!

Her lack of self-respect is so deep that she declares that she would be personally happy in her modesty wearing a burlap bag, and that the only reason she takes any care in getting dressed is to "honor other women".

Hermitt goes on to "honor" breastfeeding mothers by accusing them of creating "stirrings" and making "some lucky guy's day". This is a woman who would find a rapist not gulity because the victim wore a tight sweater.

She then goes on to chastise men for being seen shirtless in public. At least she's an equal opportunity critic. She then astonishingly declares that she believes that the "human body is a beautiful thing", after making point after point contrary to reaching this final conclusion.

So read Andrea Hermitt's posts, the links are above, but be forewarned that her mixed-up and juvenile sputterings have given me a headache.

Building the Perfect Body, Nudist Style

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Building the Perfect Body

When I was a kid, I remember all the ads in comic books promising the "perfect body", just send in the coupon along with a buck and the secret would be revealed. I longed for bigger biceps and a "he-man" chest. I also remember looking through my mother's magazines, marvelling at all the ads for "bosom" enhancement. The quest for a perfect body also goes way back to ancient times.

But there is something different happening today - perfect body creation is a huge industry, from diets, books, videos, health clubs, and finally the plastic surgeon. And not only are women being sexually objectified, the pressures are now extending to men. Ohio State University has studied the problem, and has found that men who are exposed to media images of muscular men are more dissatisfied with their own bodies, and that can lead to behavior that can prove to be dangerous. In the quest for the ideal body, men tend to use supplements or steroids, and calorie counting can lead to the elimination of important foods from a healthy diet.

I personally feel that EVERY BODY shoud strive to be healthy and happy, but there has to be BODY ACCEPTANCE, the realization that we are not "perfect", that we sometimes sag where we don't want to sag, that we tend to wrinkle with age, that we don't all have big chests or breasts to fit the sexual ideals of our objectification-prone society. Poor body image has to be treated as a disorder, related to bulimia and anorexia, it's a state of mind that is harmful to the overall well-being of any person. It's becoming increasingly more difficult to block out the visual and concentrate on the internal characteristics of people.

Which leads directly into nudism/naturism. When we are all naked, we have nothing left to hide on the outside, which leads to a new openness from the inside. If one is able to accept others as they are, it becomes easier to accept one's self. The key is to work for the demystification of the human body, to resist the ultra-conservative moralists who want every "shameful" body part covered up "for the sake of the children". I say that the normalization of the nude body IS for the sake of the children. In removing the mystery of something we ALL HAVE, which is a HUMAN BODY, we can create a healthier attitude in our children, so that they can realize that it is NORMAL to be different, that even the most "perfect" model or movie star is an airbrushed or digital illusion. Physical health and mental health are of paramount importance in a strong society; censorship, paranoia, pornography and moralistic opression are signs of a sick society.

So, for the sake of the children, work for body acceptance. You don't have to be nude, but believe me, it helps.

Is the Nude Female Breast Always Erotic?

According to the conservative administration of Warsaw, Poland, it is, even if the bare-breasted female happens to be the city's symbol. The artist who created the 2006 Miss World poster was ordered to cover up his offending creation by adding a white scarf because the exposed mammary gland was deemed to be "too suggestive" and "strongly erotic". Women should be outraged that the masculine sex can exert such overt control over a female body part. Hell, lips are probably the most erotic part of any human body and we don't see cries for covering up everybody's mouths. Why are men's nipples perfectly OK for public consumption, yet the female nipple is an object of shame and is criminalized? The breast is a symbol of life, of love, of nurturing. Narrow-minded conservatives should not be allowed to censor art to this degree, it's utterly nonsensical.

The Daily Newds

Monday, August 21, 2006

Brattleboro Could Test Vermont Nudity

Young people have been gathering recently in a downtown Brattleboro, Vermont, parking lot. Nothing unusual about that, except that they are naked. Now, there is no law in Vermont prohibiting public nudity, but some areas have enacted ordinances to prohibit the behavior. Local residents have been up in arms over the naked people, mostly with the "What about the children?" argument, and in response several people stripped in protest of the protest.

No good will come of this unless the nudists take their naturist ways to a less populated area. This is not to say that their nudity is wrong in and of itself, but one of the basic philosophies of naturism is to respect the views of others and take care not to offend. While nudity in Vermont is not against the law, the practice should not be made into a confrontational issue, because it is certain that the law will come down against the nudists and set back the naturist movement.

Vermont is a beautiful state with lots of wonderful green areas to be nude. Perhaps stripping down in a city parking lot is not the best place to enjoy nakedness. Here's hoping that the young people come to realize that forcing the issue in this manner will only cause more public opposition to nudists/naturists.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Weekend Newds

  • Austin, Texas, schoolteacher Tamara Hoover has resigned her position rather than argue her case in a termination hearing. When the school was alerted to the fact that nude photos of Hoover were posted on the Internet, she was immediately put on paid leave. She apparently felt that she was better off to simply move on and will pursue a career at the university level.
  • In London, an art gallery is featuring a live naked woman holding a dead pig. The true meaning of the performance was not explained, perhaps it lies in the mind of the beholder.
  • Libertarians in Kansas have filed a lawsuit against local sheriff's deputied for blocking a fundraiser at the Lake Edun nudist resort. Local rulings prohibit the staging of commercial events at the resort, but the plaintiffs argue that a fundraiser is political, not commercial, and there is nothing on the books to prohibit political activity.
  • A Maine art gallery is featuring "What's Nude?", an exhibit celebrating the human form.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Daily Newds

  • "When you go on to a naturist beach, everyone welcomes you", says a photographer for British Naturism, which is sponsoring a series of "taster days" to engourage new nudists.
  • IN Britain, a passport photo of a 5 year-old girl was rejected because her bare shoulders could be offensive to Muslims. The post office says the clerk made a mistake.
  • A Chicagoland community is up in arms over high property taxes and a protest calendar is planned where people will pose naked with just tax bills covering up private parts. Protesters would be sending the message that they are taking "the clothes off our backs to pay for our taxes."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Weekend Newds

  • Are naked passengers the solution to air safety?
  • A club featuring nude women is slated to open in a church-owned building.
  • A writer observes that the people who look the best naked are not necessarily the ones with the "best" bodies - they're the ones who look "at home" in their skin.
  • Paradise Valley resort in Georgia is going upscale.
  • A reporter visits a nudist resort and copes with interviewing naked people by imagining them in their underwear.
  • The first nude resort exclusively for celebrities has opened in California.
  • An art show entitled "As Naked as You Wanna Be" is being held as a benefit for Texas schoolteacher Tamara Hoover, who is facing unemployment due to nude photos of her posted on the Internet. The irony here is that you cannot be as naked as you wanna be at the exhibit.
  • Hilary Swank dances naked for a new Guerlain ad.
  • London has its own nude teacher scandal. A 37 year-old woman posed nude for the "How to Look Good Naked" TV show, and the private school that employs her will be discussing the matter when everyone returns at the end of summer.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Daily Newds

  • A reporter is embarrassed while conducting an interview at a nude beach, but not for the obvious reason.
  • 150 people have signed a letter which will be presented to the City Council in Loveland, Colorado, requesting that a recently installed bronze sculpture entitled "Triangle" should be removed because the three human figures depicted are nude. Loveland resident Terri Bellinghausen, who rode her bike out to look at the statue, said, "We understand that it's raising up humanity," Bellinghausen said. "But I'm not sure I like looking at naked sculptures." The simple solution is don't look at it, and let the thousands of other residents who appreciate art enjoy the piece.
  • Shakira wants to live permanently nude.
  • Three men in Sweden were found walking completely naked and were escorted home by police. Apparently some unknown women snatched their clothes.