The recent efforts of some naturists to require visitors to be nude at the clothing optional designated part of Hanlan Point Beach in Toronto was a monumental fail. The experience of a woman who was confronted by two male “naturists and told she needed to get undressed. was reported first on Reddit and then picked up by media outlets in Canada and internationally. In the eyes of this writer the misguided efforts of the nude only proponents which include a leader of the Canadian naturist federation did more harm than good. It may well have created lasting consequences for clothes free beach goers in Toronto and those trying to normalize simple nudity and clothes free living in general. Here’s why I believe it was a major fail.
Engagement diversity fail – The wrong people, the wrong time, the wrong place. Two older men telling a woman that she needs to take her clothes off when she visits a public clothing optional beach is nothing short of creepy. Regardless of their intentions it reinforces the public perception of naturists/nudists as being a bunch of pervy old men. Naturist/nudist organizations separately seek to add more women to the ranks of those who take part in clothing optional activities. Instead of allowing the first time visitor to the clothing optional beach space to move at her own pace the men may have turned her off to the activity all together.
“Fully nude” should be the only option, said a man who gave his name only as Dick, explaining he did not want to be fully exposed. “It’s referred to by the city, it’s referred to by most people as nude beach. Everybody calls it nude beach. So it’s bloody well nude beach,” he said while in the buff.”
PR fail – The all or nothing approach of the proponents attempting to block others from using a resource because they don’t approach things your way mirrors the way that naturists/nudists have been treated by the broader society. That treatment has generated a fair amount of defensiveness, and resentment by naturists and nudists. It is certainly understandable that it would generate the same response from those who are not a part of naturist/nudist communities. This public quote from an official of the Canadian Naturist Federation is disturbing and short-sighted.
I don’t despise them for posting those signs, because sometimes you have to hit people with a hammer before they’re actually willing to listen,” says Ron Schout
It begs the question of whether the hammering of the nudist/naturist community by those who would just as well see no clothing optional beaches at all has been effective in getting those of us who want to enjoy that simple pleasure to listen. For an official of a naturist organization to make that kind of statement to the press suggests some of the current leadership of naturist organizations have no idea how to effectively market nudism/naturism. Anyone with even a tiny bit of public relations savvy would have avoided making such a comment, particularly when the person involved was a woman. It evokes images of male abuse or domination of women.
Legal fail – Another spectacular part of this fail is the simple fact that this is a public beach. So the sign and the effort is illegal as Toronto park officials have noted and removed the signs. Had this occurred at a private naturist venue where members have the prerogative to set their own rules or standard the situation would be different. Places like Bare Oaks Naturist Park are well within their right to set nude only operational expectations. However this is a public facility and as such ordinary members of the public cannot arbitrarily set rules of operation. It would seem that given the current social climate, where opponents look for any reason to undermine the availability of public facilities for clothing optional uses, naturists and nudists would want to avoid legal missteps. In fact the expectation of public dialogue about such issues has been a significant part of the effort to help keep clothing optional beaches open and create new ones. The official word from Toronto Parks and forestry is below.
— City of Toronto PF&R (@TorontoPFR) July 18, 2016
Political fail – Finally this was a huge overreach to think this would not have a negative backlash. A cursory view of the response on Twitter and Reddit suggest that most people do not appreciate what was done. It points to the reality that not only does this effort lacks both legal and political clout. What’s at stake in both cases is the good will of local public authorities. Groups like the Naturist Action Committee encourage groups to make the effort to develop and keep up good will with local authorities. The incident and the response may will put the existing good will expressed in the tweet above from the Toronto Parks and Forestry Department about in jeopardy. Below is a response to their tweet from a Toronto naturist.
Efforts to justify the availability of clothing optional beaches for the use of the public may well be undermined by this kind of incident and the doubling down of a segment of the naturist/nudist community in response to the negative backlash. The Hanlan Point Beach naturists may want to follow the example of the Haulover Beach folks who have established a strong community presence for an official clothing optional beach in Florida. Or maybe they can look to the Okanagan Naturist Associations work at an unofficial clothing optional beach that was under pressure from last year but now have clothed and clothes free sunbathers coexisting. Only time will tell if there will be lasting consequences positive or negative. From where I sit it isn’t very helpful for the promotion of clothes free living and normalizing simple nudity. Simply put FAIL
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