Anyone who has explored or engaged the issue of nudity social or other in modern society knows that it is fraught with moral and political implications. However an upcoming congressional special election in Montana has brought the politics of nudity into the mainstream political conversation. In effect, the nature of the debate makes merely being in the presence of nudists a moral values test. Case in point is the candidate in the special election for the congress in Montana. His moral values have been questioned because he performed clothed as a musician at an Idaho nudist venue.
Politics in the United States today is more divisive than ever, no debating that. Moral values or what constitutes moral values is a flash point for heated debate between conservative and progressive or liberal political groups. Add in the subject of nudity and it seems one has a prime example of the shift of the political process in America. But this observation is really not about politics in the bare. Rather I want to share some thoughts on lessons that can be learned around this situation and the candidate. So here are my observed lessons for naturists, nudists and body freedom activists.
The naturist/nudist movement is nowhere close to being a political force, or having a strong enough voice, to speak positively to the circumstances as they were brought to light. If anything, the social perception of nudists/naturists is negative. Although nudity has been historically expressed in both a positive and negative light, it is clear that in modern America nudity or closeness to nudity is cause for shaming. Both sides of the political spectrum do it lest we forget this.
The voice of the nudist/naturist community seems absent from broad social and political conversation. The focus seems to be only on the business of getting naked without an appreciation of the broader social climate that impacts that focus. Despite any perceived public gains social nudity continues to be a political and moral issue.
Event-based public nudity like World Naked Bikes rides in Philadelphia, body painting days in New York City and Bare to Breakers run in the Bay Area notwithstanding; a huge, huge negative stigma around nudity remains in most places in the US. Nudist and naturist organizations and advocacy groups do not seem to be visibly doing anything to address the negative view. Since we started sharing links to news pieces about the Montana controversy we have not seen or heard much by way of advocacy or voice from naturist organizations or advocacy groups. The response has been muted. Only one group, Young Naturist of America, discussed it with us on twitter and subsequently wrote about it on their blog. There was no noticeable response that I found not even from the venue where the candidate, then musician, played.
Just because something posted on the internet mentions nudism or nudity does not mean it is worth tweeting or posting. The first link I saw about the Montana race was from a nudist news collecting site. I followed the link before tweeting or linking to the site. I discovered the link was from political web site. The author was clearly intent on smearing the candidate and disparaging him for not having “Montana values”. This because he performed as a musician at a nudist venue. We should think before we post considering that the impact on the cause of normalizing simple nudity may not be helped. Time to take the blinders off and be more discerning.
— Clothesfreelife (@liveclothesfree) April 26, 2017
Morality is always and has always been subjective. It is important to note that no one has said that the candidate in question was himself naked at any time. He was a musical performer playing a “gig”, doing a job. The fact that the people who were enjoying his musical performance were clothes free somehow made him fall outside the scope of “Montana values.” This despite the uncontested fact that he was not unclothed. As an aside, this approach may suggest that massage therapists in Montana who ask their clients to undress, should consider themselves immoral by Montana standards. As should doctors or any other professional who comes in contact with naked individuals in the process of doing their job. This lesson learned is one I have shared before. Those who wear the label nudist or naturist span a broad spectrum of political and moral world views. At times, those views override allegiance to the cause of normalizing simple non sexual nudity. Psychologists call this identity protection. Human beings will often choose to protect a primary social identity associated with well-being at the risk of losing a secondary one.
These lessons suggest to this writer that, despite proclamation to the contrary on social media, naturism and nudism are less of a movement or community, and more of an individual practice. That practice is driven and expressed in part, when and only when the self-interest of the individual is benefited. What about the naturist/nudist body politic you say? I ask, is there one?
Read these other sources to get additional depth to this story and controversy and bare your thoughts in the comment section.
Photo by quinn.anya