Drawn image of two naturistsPlanet Nude has recently published a critique of Nu, a 2018 French television series about a fictional totalitarian society based on the proposition that transparency implies everyone being nude all the time.

As I say, it’s fiction.  But the authors of the critique allow themselves to be drawn into a critique of naturism which makes a number of highly misleading and unhelpful suggestions about what naturists stand for.

You can read the full article here.

The section to which I object follows the sub-heading “A lesson for naturists?”  Below, I offer some responses to the arguments put forward.

“How does the naturist philosophy address the problems of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism, and ageism—problems that are all undeniably rooted in the subjective perceptions surrounding the human body?”

By treating everyone as an equal without regard to any of these characteristics.  That’s fundamental to naturism.

“If naturists argue ferociously for a woman’s right to bare her body, do they also support a woman’s right to make certain medical decisions involving that same body?”

Yes, why not – while recognising that abortion, for example is an intensely personal decision.

“If naturists assert that going nude represents a freedom of expression, do they also advocate for a person’s right to wear the clothing of their choice, even when it does not conform to their perceived gender?”

Naturists do not, as a whole, advocate for the wearing of any sort of clothing, but do believe in freedom of choice.

“If naturists protest censorship of their lifestyle on social media, do they also condemn book bans?”

Freedom of expression means just that.

“If naturists insist the movement is not about sex, do they disavow decades of pinup girl “nudist” magazines and the beauty pageants and lingerie dances that have occurred at some of their resorts?”

Seen from here, such events and publications are nothing to do with naturism, whatever they may call themselves.

“The refusal of naturists to confront any of these problematic questions or to “politicize” naturism by connecting it to any broader civil rights or civil liberties movements has resulted in a purposefully vague bodily autonomy movement that declines to address any controversial topics involving the body, creating justifiable confusion and cause for skepticism among its proponents and critics alike.” 

Let’s just stand back for a moment and consider what has been criticised here.  It’s not as if naturism, on its own, could deal with problems of racism and xenophobia the world over.  You might as well ask what naturists are doing to cure cancer and end starvation in Africa. There are lots of problems in the world which definitely deserve attention but you can’t just simply lump them all together. Racism within naturism should be addressed by us. But racism in the world isn’t something naturism can address.

“If Nu has a lesson for naturists, it is that the movement should be careful about arguing that societal harmony can be achieved through the simple exposure and recognition of our physical similarities. It should view its cause as one of radical individuality and free personal expression rather than conformity and cultural homogeneity. Its advocates should steer clear of evangelism and proselytizing, which teeter precariously close to violating what should be the unassailable pillars of consent and choice, and instead focus their energies on articulating what the movement has to say about controversial topics surrounding bodily autonomy and what value its ideas might have in the larger society.”

I do not think I have ever seen naturists argue that the movement is about “conformity and cultural homogeneity” – far from it.  Naturism is by its very nature a non-conformist movement.  But if encouraging people to try naturism and discover its benefits counts as “proselytizing” (I prefer “campaigning”), then we’ll plead guilty.

“While Nu is not meant to serve as an indictment of naturism, it encourages viewers to consider how the long-on-vision, short-on-specifics proposal of naturist crusader Jean Lanvin gives rise to the repressive Transparency Act.”

(The Transparency Act is the fictional creation of the authors of Nu, just in case this article makes you believe it’s something that real-life naturists endorse.)

“While it is unlikely that naturism will lead society down the path toward authoritarianism as it does in Nu … “

Thank goodness at least that is recognised!

“ … its inarticulate ideals, lack of clear goals, and inconsistent messaging have left it vulnerable to exploitation and at risk of being dismissed and abandoned as a cultish fad or relic of a bygone era with little if any real relevance in the modern world.”

Aside from the fact that the arguments leading to this conclusion in this article are misconceived, I do not dismiss the conclusion out of hand.  Our conference in March 2023 lamented the absence of a sufficiently clear message and the need for naturists to make the case for their philosophy.  I stand by that.

But the misleading series of assertions in this critique of a TV series about a fictional totalitarian society should not lead anyone to think that naturism is irrelevant today.  On the contrary, the movement is alive and kicking, and attracts millions of participants around the world.  Those numbers imply many different political, religious and cultural views.  Their interest in naturism draws them together as a group of people who believe not only in communal nudity, but also, among other things, in respect for others, respect for themselves, and respect for the environment.

The authors of the article are, of course, entitled to their opinions.  But these arguments should not be allowed to stand unanswered.

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