I don’t want to write an angry blog. But right now, I’m not in a very good temper.
A property developer wants to build some flats near the naturist club I belong to. There’s a serious shortage of housing in our part of the world, and new builds are necessary – but there are real problems with this one. The biggest is traffic: many more cars on the narrow roads, and the risk of illegal parking, obstructed driveways, accidents and chaos.
Also, the new block of flats is close to the club and might overlook part of our grounds. So we wrote a letter to the local council with the concerns we would like considered. Then – knowing this would end up in the papers – we issued a press statement.
The statement was sensible, positive and calm. We spoke of our right to privacy, and explained a bit about naturism. ‘We believe that values of acceptance and respect for all make a clothes-free lifestyle a healthy and positive choice’, we said.
But we needn’t have bothered. Because when it was reported, it came out like – this.
‘The bare cheek!’- snicker snicker. ‘Nervous nudists’ – titillate titillate. ‘Don’t want to be spied on’ – giggle giggle. ‘Bouncing about’ – lewd and rude. ‘Fun will be ruined’. And more.
Now – sex sells. I get that. Except… this isn’t a sexy story. But the person who wrote it knew what to say before they’d even glanced at our ever-so-sensible press statement. Nothing we put would have made any difference. They were out to make naturism a smutty joke.
I don’t think it’s over-reacting to say that I find the report in the paper aggressive. Deliberately making someone else sound foolish or dirty-minded is a pretty aggressive thing to do. It’s aggressive to take away someone’s right to define themselves – robbing them of their own words and substituting yours.
Our press statement made clear that naturism is our positive choice; we will not cease to make it because we might be overlooked. We’re not afraid of ‘being spied on’ – let them spy. We are doing nothing that is rude or disrespectful – naked bodies are neither of those things. Our wish for privacy is out of consideration for those who feel differently about our nakedness.
Ours is a position of dignity. But the way it’s reported deliberately makes us undignified. It’s trying to take us down. So… why would they need to do that?
We tell jokes about politicians because they are powerful. Their power is uncomfortable; it’s frightening. They’re more in control of things than we are. And I think it’s the same with naturism.
In this blog, I’ve already said that I find naturism subversive: a threat to the established order. It doesn’t always feel that way: for me in the day-to-day, a clothes-free life is chatting to people who drink cups of tea and occasionally ask if I fancy a game of badminton. But naturism has big implications for the way society works.
That newspaper needs its advertisers; it pulls in big money. And advertising runs on discontent. Lots of people earn lots of cash because lots of others aren’t at peace with themselves, and new stuff makes them feel better about it. Stuff like holidays and cars and phones and gadgets and beauty treatments and gym memberships (‘get the perfect body!’) and different sorts of food and drink and more food and more drink… oh – and diets.
Recently, a train station in south London removed all the sales hoardings and replaced them with pictures of cats. The group – called the Citizens Advertising Takeover Service, or CATS for short – said they wanted to give passengers a break from constant ads. ‘Imagine,’ said the organiser, ‘that instead of pictures of holidays we can’t afford to take, and perfect bodies we’ll never have, the world was full of images that made us happy.’
There’d be a revolution – that’s what. If our restless dissatisfaction ceased. If we grew self-accepting and calm. If we needn’t buy stuff, didn’t seek stuff, needn’t wear stuff, didn’t worry about stuff. If we all could be well just the way that we are, enjoying pictures of cats… there’d be some sort of global economic emergency.
So what we have here is a very big threat indeed. I’m not sure we quite realise it. But the person who made up the article in the paper realised. Or – more likely – his boss did, and made pretty clear what she expected him to write. Making naturists sounds stupid postpones the revolution, and sells a few more copies.