I don’t aspire for a world in which everyone is nude all of the time. I do, however, aspire for a world in which everyone has the right to choose how little or how much to wear without being penalized.
Wednesday morning, I woke up to the following tweet from Emma / Socksoff:
My feelings were similar to Emma’s, and reading some of the comments on the tweet and article about how this woman should have been forced to disrobe, because she was imposing her religion on others and needed to be freed of her own bondage left me feeling a great deal of frustration. Apparently this woman was simply sitting there on the beach like many others, peacefully enjoying a day in the sun with her family.
I wonder why we resort to telling people how they ought to live their lives (and I do mean “we” myself included, because I’ve done it / do it, too). Why do we insist that our way of doing things is the only way to do them, that our definition of freedom is the definition of freedom?
A few months ago, I wrote a piece “What is freedom to us?” where I pointed out some perspectives from women in Islamic environments. One young woman’s words I heard in the documentary referenced in that piece (Mediterranean Women: Fighting for Their Rights – 2013) really stayed with me:
“I’ve been wearing the headscarf since secondary school, but personally, I wear it out of conviction. The day that the Parliament forces me to wear it, I’ll tear it off and throw it in their faces.” Samira Ebranim, Egypt
This incident of the woman on the beach also brought to mind the incident at Hanlan Point Beach in Toronto where two nude men approached a young woman and insisted that she get naked on the clothing optional beach.
All of this raised the issue of choice. As a woman, one of the most important things is to be able to choose how I live. Women’s bodies are policed and legislated all of the time. Everyone has an opinion about what we women should be doing with our bodies, but we rarely have the right to choose for ourselves. We want to choose.
Most people at the event chose to wear clothes, but no one harassed or disrespected me as I walked about being my happy naked self. And no one seemed to cross the line towards others or make things out to be sexual. Three days of camping clothes free, walking about nude, listening to amazing live music in the buff, dancing in the rain naked, and talking to people, and no one seemed to disrespect me for choosing to be nude. And I didn’t feel threatened or uncomfortable that most people chose to wear clothes. I was just happy to be at an event where I could be my naked self.
To be honest, I found it really cool to experience a true clothing optional environment where people were encouraged to just be themselves. I stood proudly in my skin whether I was at the pool, upside down during the outdoor yoga class or busting moves at live music events. Some men wore dresses. One guy ran around in a diaper and chef’s hat (I dunno). There were a lot of funky hairstyles, tattoos and piercings. Some women walked about bare chested. I even saw plenty of people wear black outfits that covered them from head to ankle. Although long black outfits are not something I personally choose in 97 degree humid weather, I didn’t care that they chose it for themselves and they didn’t seem to mind my walking around being my bubbly laughing self in the buff.
Side note: I was on a role with jokes that weekend. Super clever. Example:
We had falafel one day. After eating, I was all, “Mmm that was so good. I’m fala-FULL!!!”
(ba dum tish)
I did observe that, of those who chose to go nude, most of them were men. I saw some women choose to walk about bare chested, mostly at the pool area. But there was one young woman who had been camping nearby with her nude significant other. She had started off wearing a brown skirt and being bare chested. However, later she ditched her skirt as well and was walking around the festival completely clothes free. Sunday night, she stopped me as I was walking by and said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that you were the first other female nudist I saw here. And because of you, I decided to go fully nude.” Not even her fully nude male significant other forced her to do anything she didn’t want to do. She truly had the experience of being able to choose on her own terms.
Similarly, the day before, another young woman told me that seeing me at the morning yoga session choosing to be nude inspired her to take her top off for yoga. Mind you, I hadn’t actually said anything about it to either of these women prior. I was simply walking around being my happy naked self, and that was enough to serve as an inspiration for them to try something new for themselves and decide on their own.
Yes, I loved being an inspiration for women to see possibility. For those two women, seeing men walk around naked didn’t have the same effect as seeing me, another woman, walk around naked. I loved that they took the time to share with me about their experience! We had wonderful conversations. But I also truly loved that everyone had the right to choose to be themselves, and that our choices were respected and protected by the rules and attendees of the event, whether nude, diapered or fully clad in black long sleeves and 90s baggin’ saggin’ pants.