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 place
for 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
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
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
ﬂ aws are abnormal. That, in turn, makes everyone cover up in embarrassment of the truth of
our bodies. Nudity is relegated to society’s ﬁ lthy
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.
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