Nudity and protest

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1914 photograph of Doukhobor nude protest.
Nude Protesters demonstrate against the nudity ban in San Francisco, 2013

Nudity is sometimes used as a tactic during a protest to attract public attention to a cause. The use of the tactic goes back to the Doukhobor social movement in 1914. The tactic has been used by other groups later in the century, especially after the 1960s. Like public nudity in general, cultural and legal acceptance of nudity as a tactic in protest also varies around the world. Some opponents of any public nudity claim that it is indecent especially when it can be viewed by children; while others argue that it is a legitimate form of expression covered by the right to free speech.

Even in places where public nudity is tolerated, it is still unexpected enough that its use by activists as a deliberate tactic is often successful in attracting publicity from the media.

Some nude activism is not to promote a particular cause, but rather to promote public nudity itself, or to change community perceptions of the naked human body, or as an expression of a personal desire to be nude in public.

Animal rights and welfare[edit]

The annual Running of the Nudes in Pamplona (2007) is an example of nudity in the context of political movements and cultural events.

Animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), have used nudity to draw attenton to their causes. (See below.)[1] For example, the Lettuce Ladies, young women dressed in bikinis which appear to be made of lettuce, had gathered in city centers to hand out leaflets about veganism. Every year the Running of the Nudes campaign sees PETA activists run naked through Pamplona, Spain in a parody of the annual Running of the Bulls tradition.[2] Supermodels such as Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell have posed naked on billboards with the slogan "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" emblazoned across their chests.[3]

Peace and anti-war[edit]

London WNBR participants

Several groups and individuals have used nudity in anti-war demonstrations. Some groups include: Breasts Not Bombs and Artists for Peace/Artists Against War, which later became the Work Less Party of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The latter is known for its Naked Bike Rides which Conrad Schmidt later evolved into World Naked Bike Ride.

Groups also started to use nudity to protest the Iraq War. Groups using their bodies to form words and symbols to convey their message included Baring Witness, US-based/founded by Donna Sheehan, which inspired other groups on all seven continents to stage similar events, including Bare Witness, based in the UK.

Clothing-optional bike rides[edit]

See Clothing-optional bike rides.
Protesters gathered outside a courthouse on 17 Feb 2005 to protest against the arrest of Simon Oosterman (second from left), Auckland's 2005 WNBR organiser.

World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR) is an international clothing-optional bike ride in which participants plan, meet and ride together en masse on human-powered transport (the vast majority on bicycles, and fewer on skateboards, rollerblades, roller skates) to "protest oil dependency and celebrate the power and individuality of our bodies".[1] This represents one of the few events that combine elements that could be described as pro nudity and pro cycling (as well as environmental).

Many of the political rides have their roots from Critical Mass and are often described or categorized as a form of political protest, street theatre, party-on-wheels, streaking, public nudity and clothing-optional recreation and thus attracts a wide range of participants. Since 1996 Critical Tits has been hosting a "raucous topless bicycle joyride" on Friday afternoon at the annual Burning Man Festival in Nevada.

Manifestación Ciclonudista Mundial has had rides predating WNBR (since 2001) in Spain and has since spread to other Spanish and Italian speaking countries in Europe.

Public nudity movements[edit]

Activists Terri Sue Webb and Daniel Johnson are being handcuffed and led away by police after a protest in Bend, Oregon on 2 May 2002

Not all people who engage in public nudity see themselves as nudists or naturists or belong to traditional naturist or nudist organizations. Several activists, such as Vincent Bethell, claim that associations with naturism or nudism are unnecessary. Others will point out that many people who participate in events such as clothing-optional bike rides or visit clothing-optional beaches do so casually and without association or formal affiliation to groups or movements. Activist Daniel Johnson believes that labels and affiliations overly complicate a relatively simple phenomenon, alienate others from a fear of over-commitment or undesirable stereotypes, and thus get in the way of integrating nudity into everyday life.

The Freedom to be Yourself[edit]

The Freedom to be Yourself campaign (TFTBY or FTBY) was founded in 1998 by Vincent Bethell. The group, according to Vincent Bethell is about "the right to be naked in public". Supporters of the TFTBY organized several grassroots naked protests in public in London; there have also been protests in Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Coventry, and some in the United States.

Terri Sue Webb is an activist living in Bend, Oregon, who was one of few activists in the United States active in The Freedom to be Yourself (TFTBY or FTBY) campaign. She has been imprisoned and released multiple times for public nudity. On several occasions she has remained fully nude while incarcerated, often resulting in a much longer jail sentence. There has been quite a bit of media coverage of her activities. Daniel Johnson went nude with her in public on two occasions in 2001 and 2002.

UK activism[edit]

Vincent Bethell made legal history[4][5] in January 2001 by being the first defendant to stand trial naked in a UK court. The trial was at Southwark Crown Court London. Vincent was naked throughout this court case, furthermore he was found unanimously not guilty.[6][7] Stephen Gough, also known as "Steve Gough" and "the naked rambler", is an activist from Eastleigh, Hampshire, famous for walking the length of Great Britain from Land's End to John o' Groats in 2003–2004 and again in 2005-2006 (that year accompanied by his girlfriend Melanie Roberts), with nothing on except boots, socks, rucksack and sometimes a hat. He has been arrested several times and put in prison in the course of his rambles. In his last walk he was only arrested twice in England, and released almost immediately, but due to the different legal system and laws in Scotland, he was arrested many more times after crossing the border and spent time in HMP Edinburgh, then moved to HMP Barlinnie Glasgow in June 2008.[8]

Richard Collins has been cycling naked through his home town of Cambridge, England for some time. He has been organizing several protests on the TFTBY Stop Segregation discussion group (no longer in existence). Richard has been arrested numerous times and released, although he was convicted of an offence under section 5, Public Order Act 1986, in Bournemouth, England, on 13 June after his nude cycling attracted complaints approximately 12-months earlier. Richard says: "My outings are NOT protests as such but 'activities'. Simply me having fun! And exercising my right to nude freedom!"[citation needed]

German movements[edit]

  • Wald-FKK – German movement for the liberalisation of public nudity. Founder Peter Niehenke was fined several times for indecent exposure because he went running nude in public spaces.
  • Nacktwandern – German movement for the freedom to hike in the nude.
  • Integral Nactiv - Nacktiv is a combination of the German word "nackt" (naked) and "aktiv" (active).[9]

The African curse of nakedness[edit]

Main article: Anasyrma

In Africa, women have used stripping naked on purpose as a curse, both historically, and in modern times. The idea is that women give life and they can take it away. The curse initiates an extreme form of ostracism, which anthropologist Terisa Turner has likened to "social execution". The curse extends to foreign men as well, and is believed to cause impotence, madness or other similar harm.[10] The threat has been used successfully in mass protests against the petroleum industry in Nigeria,[11] by Leymah Gbowee and Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace during the Second Liberian Civil War,[12][13] and against President Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast.[14]

FEMEN protest in support of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

FEMEN[edit]

The protest group FEMEN (founded in 2008 in Ukraine[15]) regularly stages topless protests against sex tourists, international marriage agencies, sexism and other social ills.[15][16][17][18][19] These protests got worldwide press coverage in 2009.[18][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27] Since late 2011 FEMEN operations became not limited to Ukraine and they have demonstrated in other European countries including non-Ukrainian protesters.[15][28][29] FEMEN justifies its provocative methods stating "If we staged simple protests with banners, then our claims would not have been noticed".[30] FEMEN receives small financial backing by individuals.[27][31][32] In October 2013 FEMEN had its largest membership in France (30 FEMEN France local activists in January 2013[33]).[15] In October 2012 the organization claimed it had about 40 activists in Ukraine, and another 100 who had joined their protests abroad.[34]

Netherlands[edit]

Robbert Broekstra (now deceased) was involved in a group called "Friends of Nature". They would often go for naked excursions on public lands, sometimes in urban areas, often taking pictures. He was also involved in INIC (International Naturist Information Center). He authored the book Robbert Broekstra's Nude World (1997) and his group appeared in "Naked Travels 1", by Charles MacFarland.

Urbanudista[edit]

There is a group led by Avril X called UrbaNudismo that has led several casual nudity excursions in high visibility public urban environments in Brazil as well as some Western European countries.[35]

APNEL[edit]

APNEL is the French Naked Activities Group.[36]

NAKTIV[edit]

Naktiv.net is a generic Naked Activities site.[37]

FKK, Nudism, Naturism, Free Beach movement[edit]

In 1969, in Denmark, 300 individuals participated in a massive naked "wade-in" at a Danish beach. The event helped push forward dramatic reformation in public policy. It is now possible and allowed to be naked at any public beach in Denmark with only two major exceptions: Holmsland Klit and Hennestrand. The remaining 4,700 kilometers of Danish coast are clothing-optional.

United States[edit]

Australia[edit]

  • Save Sandon Point Nude Installation Protest

Topfreedom[edit]

Protest for Topfree equal rights
Main article: Topfreedom

The topfreedom movement has challenged the law in a number of countries, especially in North America and in Europe, on sex equality grounds arguing that the present public indecency laws discriminate against women. The movement advocates equal rights for women to be topfree in the same circumstances that a man is permitted to be bare-chested.

The Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA)[39] is a Canadian organization which endeavors to assist women who are having legal troubles exercising their rights to be topfree. Their website states that they serve both Canada and the United States. The organization also aims to inform and educate the public about topfreedom, and to change laws against topfreedom in North American jurisdictions. GoTopless goes further and organizes demonstrations to protest against the legal and public attitude to the inequality. In Sweden, Bara Bröst is active in advancing topfreedom,[40][41] as is Topless Front in Denmark.[42] In France, the feminist collective Les TumulTueuses has moved beyond seeking equality with men as indicated by their slogan: "My body if I want, when I want, like it is" ("Mon corps si je veux, quand je veux, tel qu'il est").[43][44]

Transgender Rights[edit]

In November, 2011, a transgender woman from Morristown Tennessee was arrested and jailed for 21 days by Tennessee police for indecent exposure after removing her top in the parking lot of her local DMV after they refused to alter the gender designation on her driver’s license from male to female, despite the fact that the U.S. federal government Social Security office already had.[45] As it is legal for a man to go topless in public and since the Tennessee Department of Public Safety refused to recognise her as female,[46] Ms Jones decided to protest her treatment by going topless, stating "if I was a male, I had the right to, when I stepped out the door, take off my shirt... It's not right for the state to ask me to be both male and female. A choice needs to be made. They cannot hold me to both standards."[47]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lunceford, Brett (2012). Naked politics : nudity, political action, and the rhetoric of the body. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. ISBN 073916709X. 
  2. ^ Runningofthenudes.com (video)
  3. ^ "Fashion and Dress", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2006.
  4. ^ Millward, David (2001-01-11). "Buff justice as naked artist is cleared by jury". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-09-01. [dead link]
  5. ^ Judd, Terri (2001-01-11). "Nudist campaigner walks from court a free (and naked) man - This Britain, UK". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  6. ^ "UK | Nudist 'not a public nuisance'". BBC News. 2001-01-10. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  7. ^ Tania Branigan (2001-01-11). "Injustice laid bare by naked campaigner | UK news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  8. ^ [http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/sln/blogentry.aspx?blogentryref=7521 report in University of Edinburgh School of Law's Scots Law News
  9. ^ Anita & Wolfgang Gramer. "Nackt und aktiv, Bücher über nackte Menschen in der Öffentlichkeit". Nacktiv.de. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  10. ^ The Curse of Nakedness. Imow.org. Retrieved on 7 October 2011.
  11. ^ Naked Ploy Is Latest Threat in Oil Wars. Commondreams.org (2002-07-31). Retrieved on 7 October 2011.
  12. ^ Leymah Gbowee and Abigail Disney Shoot for Peace in Liberia. Oprah.com. Retrieved on 7 October 2011.
  13. ^ Bill Moyers Journal, June 19, 2009
  14. ^ "The Ivory Coast Effect" (article). The New Yorker. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d Fearless … and topless: Femen activists to bring 'sextremism' to the UK, theguardian.com (19 October 2013)
  16. ^ Femen wants to move from public exposure to political power, Kyiv Post (April 28, 2010)
  17. ^ High voter turnout in snow, cold shows triumph of democracy, Kyiv Post (January 21, 2010)
  18. ^ a b Ukraine protest over NZ 'win a wife' competition prize, BBC news (2 March 2011)
  19. ^ Ukraine feminists protest ‘Win a Wife’ competition, Khaleej Times (1 March 2011)
  20. ^ FEMEN, Organisations MySpace page
  21. ^ How they protest prostitution in Ukraine, France 24 (August 28, 2009)
  22. ^ Ukrainian women activists protest against Saknieh execution, Euronews (November 4, 2010)
  23. ^ FEMEN coverage on Kyiv Post, Kyiv Post (May 22, 2009)
  24. ^ Exclusive Interview with FEMEN, (December 22, 2010)
  25. ^ Ukraine's topless protesters gain fame
  26. ^ Ukraine's topless group widens political role, Reuters (November 15, 2010)
  27. ^ a b Topless protesters gain fame in Ukraine The Washington Post (November 19, 2010)
  28. ^ Keywords: FEMEN, UNIAN
    FEMEN takes its act to Paris, Kyiv Post (1 November 2011)
    FEMEN participate in Berlusconi protests, Kyiv Post (2 November 2011)
    Huffington Post: FEMEN, Ukrainian women's rights group, protests Russian election, Kyiv Post (9 December 2011)
    Ukraine topless activists raise SOS from Belarus, Kyiv Post (20 December 2011)
    Turkey acts to better protect women from abuse, Kyiv Post (9 March 2012)
  29. ^ Naked Protesters Draw Attention at Moscow Polling Station, The Wall Street Journal (4 March 2012)
  30. ^ “Ukraine is not a bordello”, Russia Today (December 14, 2009)
  31. ^ (Ukrainian) Femen: "Ми даємо чиновникам і політикам, проср...тися", Табло ID (September 20, 2010)
  32. ^ (Russian) Бюст героев, Kommersant (September 20, 2010)
  33. ^ Femen in Paris: Ukraine's Topless Warriors Move West, The Atlantic (2 January 2013)
  34. ^ Ukraine's Femen:Topless protests 'help feminist cause', BBC News (23 October 2012)
  35. ^ "gays hombres bisexuales fotos contactos at". Urbanudismo.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  36. ^ "Association pour la promotion du naturisme en liberté". APNEL. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  37. ^ "NAKed and acTIVe - Welcome to the Naktiv website - here to promote Naked Activities!". Naktiv.net. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  38. ^ http://naturistaction.org Naturist Action Committee
  39. ^ http://www.tera.ca Tera.ca
  40. ^ "Swedes fight for topless rights". Metro.co.uk. November 19, 2007. 
  41. ^ Victory for topless bathers Article from The Local
  42. ^ "Topløs svømning har altid været tilladt". Politiken. 19 December 2009. 
  43. ^ Mon corps si je veux, quand je veux, comme il est Tumultueuses website
  44. ^ Des féministes enlèvent le haut dans une piscine à Paris Article of Nouvel Observateur
  45. ^ http://www.fightforequalrights.webs.com
  46. ^ http://www.wate.com/story/16039917/morristown-transgendered-woman-says-she-went-topless-to-make-a-statement
  47. ^ Wong, Curtis (2011-11-16). "Andrea Jones, Tennessee Transgender Woman, Goes Topless In DMV Protest (VIDEO)". Huffington Post. 

Further reading[edit]

Books[edit]

  • Carr-Gomm, Philip (2010). A brief history of nakedness. London: Reaktion. ISBN 1861896476.
  • Lunceford, Brett (2012). Naked politics : nudity, political action, and the rhetoric of the body. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. ISBN 073916709X.

Articles[edit]

Press coverage[edit]

  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Exposed and stark naked -- on purpose: But not all nudists support 'guerrilla' plans for prominent public exposure, by P-I reporter Kathy George, April 7, 2003. George, Kathy (2003-04-07). "Exposed and stark naked - on purpose". Seattlepi.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 
  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Trio behind the arts: Three activists put on an eye-opening display yesterday by taking most of their clothes off at the Fremont Fresh Art Festival, by P-I reporter Kathy George, 16 June 2003 Front page of local section, with color picture George, Kathy (2003-06-16). "Trio behind the arts". Seattlepi.com. Retrieved 2010-09-01. 

Filmography[edit]

  • Being Human A film by Lisa Seidenberg, 31 minutes, 2003 Metro Video
  • Taboo - 40 Years of Censorship. Part 1 of 4: Shock of the Nude; BBC2 Television series ran at 9:50 pm (40 mins). Aired Wednesday, 21 November 2001.

Videos and pictures[edit]

External links[edit]

Videos[edit]