no shame

‘It’s time to rethink the social shame of nudity’

afro sitting


By Andrea Chapin Ferris

In our modern world, a degree of prudence is, of course, necessary to prevent social awkwardness. There’s a time and a placfor all things personal, or that which society has deemed to be,well, private. Discretion will always be a key factor in what we call civilized society.

That being said, I think nudity gets a bad rap.

Now, before everyone starts writing a fuming letter to the editor, let me clarify. It’s not merely nudity that I think needs discussion or even understanding, it’s the candidness and nature it represents. I’m not talking about Playboy’s idea of nudity or the kind of nakedness associated with The People’s Park; rather, the media obsessions, cultural barriers and social taboos of undress.

Any form of nudity in American media is inevitably perverted: a quick browse through even the most unassuming magazine rack or just about any Google search will prove this to pretty much anyone. This is not the nature of the beast—it’s an artifi cial product of our culture. For whatever reason, nudity in any form is automatically deemed perverse or pornographic instead of, well, the natural state that it is.

From “magic squares” blurring bare breasts on Jerry Springer to deviant rags like Hustler, we give and get the message that nakedness is perverse, uncultured and unacceptable.

At the mere mention of Janet Jackson, millions of Americans recall the Nipplegate scandal.

A quick fl ash of boob proved to be the undoing of Jackson’s decades-long career. Just as she will forever fi eld grief for a moment of exposure, so too will even the most discreet of mothers trying to breastfeed their children. The simple act of feeding a child has fallen victim to this disease of desecration. It has gone beyond the matter of
just trying to reach a level of common decency; the distortion of nudity is a complete disregard of mother and child’s nature to proliferate an arbitrary, contrived ideal.

I say let Janet and breastfeeding mothers be: be it by mistake or by nature, a little skin never hurt anyone.

By that same token, distortion of our nature is universally hurtful. Our stigma is both self-perpetuating and self-destructive. On one hand, the airbrushed, adulterated images we do receive from the media give the impression that our flaws are abnormal. That, in turn, makes everyone cover up in embarrassment of the truth of our bodies. Nudity is relegated to society’s filthy gutter and makes everyone feel the worse for it.

Across the world, it’s been shown that it doesn’t have to be this way. European television and print shows unabashed male and female nudity for something as simple as a soap commercial. Classic National Geographic photos portray bare-breasted women of Africa in a matter that is routine, frank and objective. Nearly 99 percent of mothers in Norway breastfeed in public without fi elding any grief. Topless beaches are commonplace in Europe and infamous in the United States. When it comes to accepting the human body, America is the prude of the world. What’s so different about us?

There’s nothing different. From state to country to continent, this is our common denominator: the human skin. We can’t forget that. Why forgo dignity and nature in trying to disregard it?

Trying to make nudity into the societal scourge that it is now is like trying to pervert blinking.

It’s simply a part of us; it’s not shameful and it’s a ridiculous thing to emphasize as degenerate.

It’s time to re-examine what it is we think must be covered up. It’s time to rethink the social shame of nudity: the only thing that deserves shame is the bastardization of skin itself.

Stardust gets naked after nudity ban passes at...

Stardust gets naked after nudity ban passes at San Francisco Board of Supervisors (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

My defense of the birthday suit doesn’t call for a nudist’s revolution any more than a lobbyist’s support of change calls for anarchy. Like I said before, some degree of social standards make for a livable society, but there is a point at which those standards become absurd.

In seeking comfort through prudence, Americans have undermined themselves by creating more shame and embarrassment than we sought to prevent.

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One Response

  1. Jose December 9, 2012

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