Naturism is a philosophy not an activity -Stephan Dechenes
Recently in an open letter to the International Naturist Federation Stephan Dechenes the owner of Bare Oaks Naturist Park wrote “Naturism is a philosophy not an activity”. I agree at least in part with his description of naturism, however it seems many of those who say they are naturist/nudist fall on the other side of the equation. There seems to be a a growing belief among some in the naturist community online that naturism/nudism is something one does. It is an activity, getting naked or taking of one’s clothes. The observed result of this belief is its proponents are quick to praise and embrace celebrities when they post naked images of themselves, when they take off their clothes. Case in point the recent Kim Kardashian’s naked selfie which garnered both praise and criticism from her celebrity peers. The nudist/naturist community seems to be almost lock step in admiration for the celebrity naked selfie. Some even join the chorus of those calling any criticism or questioning of the social impact slut shaming.
The problem with the response of those in the nudist community who rave over naked celebrity photos is the lack of nuance. The response seems to suggest that any naked picture is a naturist picture. Any naked selfie is a net positive because it shows a naked person and that’s a good thing. Yet if we are to accept the perspective of a giant in naturism like Dechenes naturism and I would add clothes free living is NOT simply just being naked. That,s way too either/or. Our society and the world of celebrity is much more complex than that. The approach and assessment of the naturist/nudist/clothes free community should be as well.
For example. Consider last year’s celebrity nudie hero Justin Beiber. Remember when this picture of him a boat out on the water without clothes on surfaced. After the image hit the Internet some in the clothes free community eagerly heralded the Biebster as mainstream role model for nudism. I was not to be counted in that number. Then came a new image announcing the naked photo was deleted with an accompanying explanation.
Interestingly I noticed very little if any response to the retraction from all the “nudist” bloggers and tweeters who were excited to see the Beibster showing his butt unashamedly. So I ask was that a net positive of the nudist cause? The photo that accompanies the Biebster mea culpa has his covered in clothes from head to toe suggesting a great deal of shame attached to the prior naked image. The reason may well be sincere who am I to judge but it certainly should give pause to those in the nudists who too quickly jump to claim celebrity nude pics and a useful way of advancing the cause.
There is also the notion of empowerment embedded in the conversation about nude celebrity images, especially when the celebrity is a woman. The naked celebrity pics are often cited in nudist circles as empowering examples for the rest of us. Often into the tapestry of this conversation is feminist rhetoric lauding the right of women to do whatever they want with their bodies and decrying the slut shaming of women. Women have the right to do what they want with their bodies, I couldn’t agree more.. However it doesn’t follow that a celebrity woman who post naked images of herself is automatically a great advocate for clothes free living. One nudist blogger wrote
Seeing a woman’s confidence enough to show her naked body is a good thing for women and a good thing for nudism.
Maybe, or maybe there is a more nuanced view. Maybe we are reading too much of our interests into the interests and motivations of the naked celebrity posting. Elle Magazine recently chimed in on the Kardashian story. The opinions of feminists and psychologists quoted in the article helped me realize this issue is incredibly complex and phenomenally nuanced.
“Kim Kardashian’s nude photos are empowering for her, but exploitive of her audience,” she said. “She is empowered all the way to the bank. She not only controls her image, she cultivates it. She is a brand. Cyberbullies are her best friends. The more rude things people say, the more people watch to see what will happen.” Rutledge also notes that the timing of the whole kerfuffle—immediately following a swell of articles suggesting a Kylie Jenner usurping of the Kardashian social media throne—is suspect. I also think it’s worth noting that Kardashian’s thoughtful, well-written blog post was shared rather fortuitously on International Women’s Day.
I have come to the conclusion that social complexity of this issue requires a more nuanced understanding from those who advocate clothes free living. The reality is Kim Kardashian and be an empowered woman and not be a good role model. She can be comfortable in her own skin but not good for the clothes free cause. She may inspire women but not be a feminist icon; she can be criticized with out being slut shamed. Despite the barrage of copycat posts this writer strongly believes that it is not naked celebrities pics that will make the difference in normalizing clothes free living, and cultivating body positivity.
“We’ve grown into a culture of idolising images of naked celebrities but body shaming any woman who chooses to go bare without the backing of a billboard or million dollar agency. As though nudity is only for the famous. Only for the fit and single. Only for the bodies ideal for runways.” — serenityhart #justthinkingoutloud #EmbraceYourNakedness
Rather it is images of everyday ordinary people doing everyday ordinary things while being appropriately clothes free, without any monetizing value that will win the day. I hope we can be as excited about the non celebrity body as we are about the celebrity ones. I hope we can recognize the social duality embedded in the western unconscious that regards non idealized, non white bodies differently than we do celebrity bodies. Topless female aboriginal bodies are classified as pornographic by Facebook while idealized images of the female body and celebrity bodies are ok.
So true. The ordinary people are shamed for nudity while celebrities and models are praised or nudity used to sell products. But somehow it’s not OK for the everyday person to be #clothesfree just for themselves their happiness their good. Serenity Hart
Though I am not sure we are ready to take the step, I believe those who want to normalize nudity should endeavor to take a more nuanced approach to the issue of celebrity nude images. It’s not easy to ascertain the motives of an individual in a particular instance. However taking the time to consider the history and pattern of celebrities could give a more nuanced perspective. Personally I am comfortable living with the tension of knowing that despite how it seems on the surface the empowered naked celebrity selfie may not be empowering me to live life clothes free.