Over the past month or so, conversation around women’s participation in the clothes free community has risen to the top of the discussion plate across various platforms. These discussions prompted clothesfreelife.com to establish Women on Wednesday, a weekly endeavor to contribute to the conversation around women and clothes free life. Each week, we will look at women’s (lack of) participation in clothes freedom and topfreedom around the world and consider the issue from a number of perspectives.
To kick things off, I reflect on some things that came up for me after reading the black history month series “Naturism, nudism and clothes free living: African Americans and the clothes free community,” which was written by Earl D, the Founder, Curator and Editor-in-Chief of clothesfreelife.com. The final installment of the series, published this past Monday, left me thinking about trends I have observed primarily on Instagram with regards to black women and nudity.
Last year, I had the opportunity to visit four outdoor social venues and play clothes free. At each of these places, I found myself to be one of few black women in attendance, although the visit to clothing optional Gunnison Beach revealed a wide range of people from various backgrounds in higher numbers. Although the small number of black attendees at these venues did not make me feel much differently than I normally do in everyday life (I’m usually one of a small handful of blacks), I did make note of it. I have also observed that there are few black contributors on various online platforms as well, particularly females.
Interestingly enough, though, there are some initiatives on Instagram around the naked body in which black women seem to participate. I have observed a number of black women making a kind of return to just being in their body and connecting with the inner essence of who they are. In these images, black women often portray themselves clothes free with paired with thought-provoking and soulful comments. The thing is, these posts are not tied to naturism, nudism or clothes free life labels. Rather, these images are placed in conversations around freedom, reclaiming the body for oneself (as opposed to being judged, consumed and managed by others), returning to nature / being “natural”, reconnecting with earth, tapping into an inner essence of being queens and creators, reclaiming and expressing one’s divine power, stopping rape / rape culture, self love and so forth. Such posts often carry these kinds of hashtags:
Some of the women participating in these conversations on their public Instagram profiles are:
One might notice that not all of these women’s pages are exclusively about nakedness or clothes freedom. In some posts, they are wearing clothes while in other posts, they are without clothing. Rather than engaging the naked body in an all-or-nothing venture, it is woven into the tapestry of their lives, outtakes as individual breaths of fresh air or steps to rediscovering self and freedom. It seems that they are reconnecting with the possibility of being without clothing at all in non sexual ways, little by little, here and there…a process of self discovery and an unfolding expression of personal power.
This is showing me that, although the term “naturism” and the expression of social nudity that we often use might be foreign to black women, non sexual nudity might not actually be too distant. It’s just that the concept is wrapped in a whole other host of discussions and movements that speak to individual power and independence as well as women connecting with each other in sisterhood. The conversations are about nakedness as a way to take back what was stolen (historically and currently, on a broad scale and in individual circumstances); feel beautiful from the inside out; reconnect with earth and nature; be healthy; feel whole again and wholesome; feel valuable; and feel powerful in social, economic and political contexts that normally do not afford these feelings. Of course, much of this is actually is part of the philosophy of naturism. It’s just that, for some of us, it’s not about pétanque at a private resort far away. It’s about returning to a home that, perhaps, we’d never had, and doing so one step at a time.
Looking out, this could be a consideration for women from any background. One thing that seems to be very important to any of the women you find through those hashtags is the emphasis on individual freedom / independence (“This is just for me”) combined with a feeling of community (“and she is doing this, too, and we can support each other”). In other words, there is this dynamic of individual + sisterhood. Speaking from my personal experience, that resonates as critical for me, too. I have always wanted to cultivate my clothes freedom as my own organic way of being. At the same time, I want to know that there is a community of sisters out there for conversation, connection and support.
We might not find many women under #Naturism, but we might see more under #SelfLove and other labels concerning specific issues. We might be found without a hashtag at all, but through one-on-one chats of, “Haha, yeah, me, too. When I’m working from home, I never put pants on. I totally work naked.” That might be the door through which some walk into clothes free life. And some might not be drawn to a far away resort’s naked barbecue, but they might consider a “Girls’ Night In…and Free” hosted at someone’s home or at a place where the event is led by a woman. The journey to clothes freedom for some might be slow, step by step, peeling each layer through these various hashtags, until it is fully embodied authentically.