Sunday, June 28, 2009

Going Nude in Public? Don't Do It Alone

Tony Cooper, the 66 year-old man who took a naked stroll through Ashland, Oregon, last month, did not break any laws, but his wandering into a school zone wearing only tennis shoes has people calling for a ban on public nudity.
Cooper said he didn't realize he was near a school and didn't intend for the kids there to see him. "That was my mistake," he said. "I messed up completely."..."People in Ashland seem to be very paranoid about kids," he said. "I think they should all send their kids to a nudist resort or have naked day in Ashland where everyone is naked. Then all of those hang-ups would disappear."
In a society so heavily-invested in clothing and body shame, it's not a good idea for one individual to push the envelope on public nudity. Even though Cooper might actually be a sincere nudist and body advocate, his unilateral actions will be perceived by most as kooky, or even perverted.

It's far better to organize groups of people for nude events, such as the World Naked Bike Ride, AANR's skinny-dipping event, or Spencer Tunick's nude photography installations.

When Tunick was taking photos of only a handful of nude people on city streets, he was being arrested. Now that he has thousands of participants, he receives police protection, and is welcomed wherever he goes.

While some cities such as Boulder are still resisting full nudity in the WNBR, the protest event seems to be picking up steam around the world with more and more people participating. This year in London around 1200 riders bared all to being awareness about oil dependency.

And the city of Fremont seems to really love the naked bike riders who kick off the annual Solstice Parade.

After an attempt to exclude nudity from the annual Bay to Breakers run in San Francisco, the numbers of people protesting were so great that organizers backed down and there were more naked people than ever strolling through Golden Gate Park.

Women's topfreedom in Columbus has become a true tradition at the annual Comfest event at a downtown park, and this year I observed more topfree women than ever before. The silly argument that the sight of nude female breasts is somehow harmful to children is debunked in Ohio every year as tons of children frolic in Goodale Park completely oblivious to the women not wearing shirts.

It's going to take more and more mass demonstrations of body freedom before society truly adapts to the idea that exposure of skin is neither shameful nor perverted. It makes me wonder if all the well-intentioned work of the Naturist Action Committee in pursuing legal actions for hot spots such as Huntington Beach and San Onofre Beach in California wouldn't be better directed to organizing protest events to work on public perceptions.

It's logical to assume that a society willing to accept public nudity in downtown parks would embrace nakedness in it's most obvious and natural setting - a beach. What is needed is an army of a thousand people, all nude with body paint and protest signs, marching on San Onofre beach with members of the press in tow. What is needed is a thousand women, all bare breasted, descending unannounced onto a public beach to mingle with the suited multitudes until they blend in.

But going it alone isn't the way to win the hearts and minds of a public which has been ingrained with the notion that nudity is sexual, shameful, forbidden, dangerous, and illegal.

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