During the past few weeks – at least here in the United States, but also in other parts of the world – there has been an accelerated, cathartic intensification of opposition to the dehumanizing, abjectly cruel ways in which people of color have far too often been treated by police, by healthcare systems, and by authorities in general. Is there a connection to naturism?
Why yes, yes indeed, because some aspects of naturist history, especially in its modern inception in Germany, were tainted by objectives of racial purity. Not everyone was on board with such a goal, but it did exist in the background (and, at times, the foreground) of the writings of early naturists such as Richard Ungewitter. There’s nothing wrong with promoting physical activity outdoors, even rather obsessively (which they did), along with a good diet and abstention from abuse of alcohol and tobacco, but race perfection as some sort of ideal goal for being naked in the sun is ridiculous, incredibly insulting, and flat-out wrong.
Moreover, it ignores or supplants the very genesis of this nude ideal, which Europeans ascribed to the “noble savage” as imagined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The “noble savage” was a European interpretation, but it was based on the cultures of the Native peoples of the Americas, who, although certainly no strangers to clothing, eschewed it when practical to an extent that the Europeans found unsettling, just as they viewed the frequent nudity of their more proximate neighbors, the Africans.
Today’s nudist parks and resorts in the United States are generally sustained by white, heterosexual members and visitors. Certainly, there are members and visitors who are people of color and/or LGBTQ as well. But the fact is that nudist parks and other nudist or naturist organizations have done precious little to reach out to non-white and non-hetero populations. What is particularly damning about this is that nudists *should* be able to understand the history of discrimination and police intimidation that they share with Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, the LGBTQ population, and other groups. We naturists should be able to embrace the full story and the full spectrum of humanity.
But it’s easy to get comfortable behind the passcode-entry of a gated nudist community. And without condemning such locations outright – because it is disingenuous to paint them all with the same brush, and because they do form a vital part of the relatively few options for naturism available in the world – I know that I feel that there could be a lot more support from naturist parks and organizations in the face of what’s happening in the world today.
And I am not alone. Much of the constructive criticism is happening on Twitter, one of the few social media options that is still nude-friendly. If you don’t have a Twitter account, I’d recommend you get one, if only to follow the outstanding voices I list below. And if you do have a Twitter handle, but don’t already follow these accounts, please consider doing so.
I would like to recognize a few of my Black naturist colleagues to help amplify their voices. Earl D. (@liveclothesfree), founder of clothesfreelife.com, has consistently curated that site as an important source of naturist news, opinion, reviews, and original content including essays on naturism and African heritage. @AfroMandinka brings a unique and intense energy to supporting naturism on Twitter and Facebook both. His messages about body acceptance and the joys of social nudity are spot-on, heartfelt, and quirkily sincere. @DrKeonWest is a psychologist, DPhil from Oxford University, whose studies on attitudes toward body acceptance reinforce naturism because they prove decisively that nudity improves body image by reducing anxiety.
Additionally, the voices behind the following accounts have been incredibly helpful in highlighting the importance of speaking out, simply as a matter of integrity as well as an issue of historical precedent among naturists. @NaturistVintage has been posting editorials and opinion pieces from the post-war 1940s (!) decrying the fascist, racist tendencies that some nudist individuals and communities seemed to be espousing at the time – a vital precedent for us today. Similarly, @CampNaturist has been focusing on the messages of Lee Baxandall, founder of The Naturist Society, who always considered naturism to be a big-tent concept. And yet, as the same account and also @AlmostWild have been pointing out, there is little to show as far as official statements from the leading naturist and nudist organizations now, at a time in which silence implies compliance.
I urge you to do your part in crafting this narrative. At the same time that we push for normalizing naturism, we need to make sure that the message applies to, and can be upheld by, peoples of any color, creed, class or other categorization. The work is not over yet, not by a long shot.
3 thoughts on “The Full Story and the Full Spectrum”
Excellent piece again, Will.
Absolutely, Will. Too many of us, I think, who try to liberate ourselves from the “oppression of the textile industry” think we’ve accomplished our goal by cruising the Caribbean on the “big nude boat”. But that’s only to dip our toes in the proverbial water: it’s still only a luxury and only for those who can afford it. To tell the truth, I’m able to stand naked on my back deck, but, again, only because I can afford property with a fence around the back yard that gives me protection from the enforcers of the textile industry, who may actually be nothing more than otherwise good neighbors. If we’re going to be advocates for living free of textiles we actually find ourselves among any number of liberation communities: as the World Naked Bike Ride has shown, we find ourselves among advocates from freedom from the gas and oil industries. We find ourselves among environmental advocates. We find ourselves among native Americans whose sacred lands are taken away by the gas and oil industries. It feels good to get naked within the confines of a gated community or even our own back yards, it’s true. But when one begins to think more carefully and connect the dates, we find that our personal liberation from clothes begins to make us a part of a revolution with a much more far-reaching scope. Getting naked is only the beginning.
I think this is absolutely true, Allen, and connecting the dots between different pathways toward a holistic lifestyle (and away from privilege) might just be the easy part. Protesting, resisting, throwing off old habits and standards is the call to action to heed in the present moment – I say this to myself as much as to anyone else.