Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Why I Oppose the Asbury Park Topless Beach Proposal

It seems at first contradictory that a nudist would have a problem with a legal topless beach.

But the proposed topless section at a beach in Asbury Park, New Jersey, is on the table for all the wrong reasons.

First, the idea is from a local woman named Reggie Flimlin who owns Yoga Basin, and is quoted as making this astounding statement: "I just thought it would be appropriate for Asbury Park, given how open and accepting we are, to celebrate women's rights in a particular area on the beach." She also stated that "currently men are topless and women should have the same right."

That would be like leaders of the Civil Rights movement in the sixties advocating "coloreds only" bathrooms and drinking fountains. One cannot "celebrate" any right by advocating segregation. Either the right exists, or it doesn't.

Secondly, the topless beach is heralded as being a boost to tourism. This I simply do not understand. Are they proposing to use exposed female breasts as an attraction, like they do at the topless pools in Las Vegas? Are they hoping to draw in more women who want to sunbathe topless, or more men who want to look at them?

Third, this effort totally undermines the women's topfree movement, which advocates equality between the sexes when it comes to taking off one's shirt in public. By creating a "topless" zone on a beach through legislation, this takes away a woman's right to be topfree anywhere except the designated area, sort of like an outdoor strip club. While topfree activists like Andrea Simoneau and so many others are trying hard to take back their female breasts from male ownership and sexualization, a topless beach only serves to further perpetuate the myth that a woman's body from the waist up is somehow lewd and a danger to children and society in general.

Dr. Paul Rapoport of TERA has posted the following statement: "A specific area set aside by any government where women may be topfree is just another means to control them and deny them equality with men. There must be no legislated topfree beach in New Jersey. If women decide to congregate topfree voluntarily in one or more places, that's another matter. They must be lawfully free to be topfree just about anywhere, not in some legislated ghetto --- beach or other."

I was stunned when AANR decided to jump on the Asbury Park bandwagon by offering support for this ill-conceived topless beach proposal.
On Tuesday, the American Association for Nude Recreation sent a detailed letter of support backed by statistics and information in credible publications such Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today to the city of Asbury Park, New Jersey. The city is considering designating a portion of the Asbury Park beachfront as “topless optional.” The package sent by AANR showed the benefits of European-style sunbathing in regard to tourism dollars and community acceptance and was sent by e-mail, fax and Federal Express.

AANR also included a small donation to the city’s Parks and Recreation summer project fund. City officials will meet on July 7 to further discuss the top-free proposal.
This is not a nude beach proposal. This is a proposal to treat women as second-class citizens simply because of the physical makeup of their bodies. AANR should immediately withdraw its support of this topless beach and advocate a woman's right to be topfree anywhere men enjoy the same right.

It has taken years for most states to recognize a woman's right to breastfeed a child in public, and it will take more time to decriminalize women's breasts for other non-sexual activities, such as sunbathing, or merely trying to keep cool on a hot day.

As far as I can determine, while there are legal nude beaches in America, there are no legal "topless" beaches such as the one being proposed. South Beach in Miami has long been unofficially topfree, but this has happened over time due to many less-inhibited European tourists frequenting the area.

Those who view this Asbury Park proposal as a "stepping stone" to a nude beach are pretty naive. Unlike Florida, which has the most nudists per capita in the United States and has 1800 miles of coastline, New Jersey already has Gunnison Beach and only 127 miles of coastline. Other than Friends of Gunnison Beach, I am not aware of any active movements in New Jersey to create a new nude beach. I am also unaware of any groups actively pushing for a "topless beach". This Asbury Park proposal does not come from any grassroots efforts, but from an idea of one businessperson looking to boost tourism.

And unlike Gunnison, which is a half-mile walk from the nearest parking lot and pretty remote, the Asbury Park beach will be overlooked by a high rise for senior citizens.

The city council will take up the matter on Wednesday, July 7. It is likely that there will be some heated discussion, especially from people who oppose the beach idea. One thing politicians don't like is controversy, so unless there is overwhelming support for this idea, the project will likely never get off the ground. It could be that AANR is banking on the beach's failure, using this news story merely as a means to achieve some cheap publicity.

Finding a silver lining in this whole mess is difficult, but one could say that the proposal for the topless beach. albeit ill-conceived and flawed, is a further indication that society is softening on nudity.

But the bottom line is that when it comes to freedom, men and women must be treated equally. Organizations like AANR who stray from this basic idea in the interest of sensationalist publicity should know better than to support regressive legislation.

I urge all readers to write to AANR and let them know how you feel about this issue. The future of nudism and naturism is in YOUR hands.

10 comments:

Rick said...

You're right, the proposal doesn't make sense. It does sound like a marketing scheme akin to the Las Vegas topless pools.

I agree, for top freedom to work there has to be equal treatment everywhere, not just designated areas.

nicknpas said...

But is incremental "progress" better than no progress at all? Equal treatment is best, but perhaps this step will convince more people that there's nothing to fear.

Nudiarist said...

nickpas,

"Incremental" to what?

Women should have the right to topfree equality anywhere men can take off their shirts. This proposed beach is segregation, which is regressive, not progressive. Separating topfree women from the rest of society is not a way to achieve equality.

Jim P said...

I agree. The proposal doesn't make sense and the woman who propsed it clearly did not think the idea thru completely.

As far as it being supported by the AANR, I am not surprised. Aren't they the ones who supported the state of Califoria about ticketing nude beach users? Another organization clearly not for nudists everywhere.

nicknpas said...

"Incremental" to no top-free beaches at all! It is a partial step, but isn't that how most change comes about? Are you saying the state should close nude beaches like Haulover, Bonnie Doon, Hippie Hollow, etc because nudity is not allowed at all beaches? All or nothing is likely to get you nothing for a very long time.

Nudiarist said...

nicknpas,

What you are saying makes no sense. Nobody is advocating closing existing nude beaches because there are also textile beaches.

We are talking about this specific beach proposal, which was the idea of a businessperson and not a result of a grassroots movement. Please explain how the topless beach, had it passed, would have been "incremental" to anything.

This whole "stepping stone" idea is bogus. I don't see how anyone advocating a woman's right to sunbathe topfree can justify a "topless" section of beach. That's not a right, it's segregation. It's no different than "coloreds only" restrooms and drinking fountains in the "Jim Crow" days. Once society settles in to segregation, it's very, very difficult to overcome.

Women's topfreedom has come a long way in the last decade. The idea of a topless section of beach is an incremental step backwards, and is not a progressive idea.

Publius said...

You are dealing with politics, and you are promoting an all or nothing approach. It will never work as your idealistic views will want it to.

If you wish to win the topfree right everywhere, start doing it. Get friends and family to join you. Have topless marches through town, not just on the beach. Prove it is a right by exercising it.

A parade once a year is nothing. Completely meaningless. Proves nothing. Accomplishes only a smirk on some faces. And a giggle by more than one.

Live topfree. Not one day a year, but all your days. Blacks did not turned to being "colored" when MLK, Jr came to town. They were black before, during, and after. you want the right? Act like it is not something a government can bestow. It is your natural state of being.

If you cannot lead the lifestyle in public and recruit followers, perhaps an incremental approach will eventually gain you favor into having plenty of followers to lead. Someday.

Is today that day? Your post makes it sound like it is not.

Nudiarist said...

Publius,

Yes, that's the point of the beach in Asbury Park. The proposal failed because there was no grassroots support. I said that. In addition, the proposal that was made was discriminatory to a greater degree than the existing law prohibiting topfreedom.

Women ARE marching for their topfree rights. Two demonstrations were held recently in Vermont. Yes, as you point out, at first people get all worked up at the sight of female breasts, but once everyone realizes that topfreedom does not equal The End of Days, normalcy resumes.

Asbury Park and other beaches will go topfree when women decide they want the right. This does not mean that the rest of society should deny women the right simply because there is not overwhelming public support. Even if one women decides that she wants to be topfree the same as a man, that should be enough, but, as you point out, it doesn't always work that way.

Publius said...

Two demonstrations? Two whole demonstrations?

If topfreedom is a right, it is something to be lived not only twice a year. That's like calling it religious freedom because you can go to church each Easter and Christmas.

Where are those that want to LIVE topfree? Why not start living it? You must claim your right lest others think they can deny it.

Ashbury Park or any other beach - you will make it topfree by being topfree. No city council will make it so. Same goes for city parks and city streets. Either claim the right or admit there is none - and what a sad day that would be for all.

Nudiarist said...

Pub,

Don't be disingenuous. You know that there are more than two. Topfreedom is legal throughout New York state, Vermont and Oregon. Columbus Ohio is also topfree friendly. South Beach in Miami is unofficially topfree. Many women have fought for this right, just go the TERA website.

Remember, in most states, it was INDECENT EXPOSURE for a woman to breastfeed her child in public. It has been a long, hard fight to get state legislators to correct that wrong and protect a woman's right to breastfeed.

Yes, I agree with you that more grassroots support is needed for topfreedom to be recognized as a woman's right, but what I am saying is that even if one woman wants to claim the right, that should be enough. I fully understand that society does not often recognize civil rights until groups of people decide to make a claim, but sometimes one single person can make a difference.

Eventually topfreedom will be taken to a higher court. Eventually there will be an Equal Rights Amendment. Until these things happen, religious and cultural factors will continue to cloud public perceptions of topfreedom.