Perhaps, too, it was starting to seem a little one sided with one person writing all the material. So I've decided to try some new things. One thing is, there will be a Question of the Week. I ask, and you the reader get to respond. I will print the best responses in the next edition. Give it your best shot, but keep it short (a paragraph or two) and to the point. The objective is quality over quantity. You don't have to sign your real name (but you can). However, include at least a first name, initials, or a "handle", so I can refer to replies easily. Also, it would be more interesting if you include your home state or country. Any other personal details are optional, and I won't list your email address unless you say it's OK.
Even if you don't have anything scintillating to say on the week's question, feel free to send comments on the Nudesletter and suggestions for any topic you'd like covered. I'd be delighted to have more feedback beyond "When is it going to come out again?" See the bottom of this page for the email address.
They didn't lack for takers. In a follow-up story on February 28 we learn that in Kleider Bauer's store on Vienna's main shopping street -- the Mariahilfer -- dozens of naked people huddled outside in the February chill prior to opening in hopes of claiming the prizes. Only the first five to the checkout got the gift certificates, but everyone else got consolation prizes worth $35 -- and everyone got a towel to cover up in (if they cared to). Wouldn't it be great if a clothing store in the U. S. would be brave enough to try something like this -- let alone find so many eager to play along with the fun?
Unfortunately, it seems that even in Austria there are crackpots who don't like nudity. According to this March 2 story, Kleider Bauer had to terminate the promotion prematurely due to a death threat against employees. However, the story says most customers enjoyed the gag.
Not at all shy about self-promotion, Friedler has made a Web site to showcase the new book and provide some samples of its contents. His personal site does likewise for the Los Angeles and New York books. All of these books are personality studies, consisting of side-by-side portraits of the same individuals with and without clothing.
While one might think there isn't much newsworthy about another book with pictures of naked people, apparently Reuters thought otherwise, in this March 3 article. The gist of it is: here's this Yank who has amazingly been able to persuade a bunch of repressed, inhibited Brits to pose naked -- physically and emotionally -- for his camera. Never mind that folks in New York and Los Angeles such as Friedler has already portrayed are probably even more repressed than Londoners, who are after all much more aware of healthier European attitudes towards nudity.
But the article does touch some familiar naturist themes, like the candor and self-acceptance of people who overcome inhibitions against being naked. "The most exciting thing about the book is not the tattoos nor the piercings but the overwhelming number of everyday people, normal people, not exhibitionists nor freaks," Friedler said.
The pictures show that nudity isn't necessarily "beautiful", in the conventional sense. But they do invite the viewer to try to understand the person portrayed, like the "prim air stewardess [who] blossoms when finally released from her dour outfit."
Most of the people in the pictures aren't active naturists (as far as we know). So why did they volunteer for the project? Many different individual reasons, probably, but reasons that are similar to those which motivate many naturists. As one middle-aged mother says, "I have spent most of my life doing things for other people and pleasing other people and I am doing this for me. There is a little part of me that wants to be a little mad."
Earlier this year, in mid-January (summer in Rio), the arrest of a topfree female sunbather by gun-wielding police on a Rio beach led to a sudden reversal of local policy. Outrage and protests over the arrest caused no less than the city Mayor himself to declare that topfreedom should henceforth be the rule on Rio's beaches. (We may go into this more in a future issue.)
But this month's news is that bare breasts -- and more -- were all over at Rio's annual Carnival celebration. (See the March 6 Reuters article: Topless Takes Center Stage at Rio Carnival Parades. Also here.) Skimpy attire has been the norm with dancers representing the many city samba schools in the parade, but this year was more topfree than ever. The parades weren't without controversy -- but more of it was centered on outspoken political and cultural expression than the bare skin. A major theme of the parade was the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Portugese explorers, prompting various "patriotic" displays such as a dancer wearing only a painted Brazilian flag on her nude body. According to the article, this attracted "the notice of the police as well as the crowds during Sunday's parade, was still the talk of the town on Monday."
Many dancers representing native Brazilians, in line with the historical theme, of course were topfree -- at least. (In this case it wasn't inaccurate to speak of "parading" in the nude.) But best of all, the spirit of freedom spread to spectators as well. "Women in one of the VIP boxes casually removed their shirts," the article reported.
The dorm in question is called West College, known as Westco, for short. Its reputation as a "Naked Dorm" seems based less on reality and more on wistful memories of the 1970s (when dorm nudity actually was more than an urban legend on many campuses) and a certain lingering adolescent pride in being hip and rebellious. Rebellious in the sense that dorm meetings are so radical because they start officially at 10:07 instead of promptly on the hour. And nudity is theoretically allowed, though it appears hardly anyone ever actually goes without clothes. How shocking. Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman (RIP) would not be impressed.
Wesleyan school administrators, for their part, adamantly deny that nudity is acceptable at any of their dorms, including Westco. But the instincts of such folks are fundamentally cowardly and self-protective in nature. They'd never admit a little nudity among their students was tolerated even if it were the case.
And as for the students themselves? It sounds like they enjoy their dorm's racy reputation, even if most deny (especially to reporters), actually partaking of nudity iteslf.
A follow-up article appeared March 20 in the Hartford Courant. It tends to confirm the notion that there was very little substance to the Times article. One student is quoted as saying he always "knew" nudity was an option, though he "never saw anyone walking around naked". (Does every student there have private showers?) And an administration spokesman, one Justin Harmon by name, in the best tradition of political correctness at third-rate educational institutions, explained that the shedding of clothes couldn't possibly be an option because students are simply forbidden to do anything that could be "offensive" to others. It turns out that Wesleyan has also recently been embarrassed by media attention to a course dealing with pornography. Which just goes further to show exactly how stupid U. S. media are. Pornography is an entirely legitimate object of academic study, and courses about it ought to be pretty common in academia. However, its only relation to whether or not a college dorm should have a clothing-optional policy is the moronic inability of our media to perceive the true unrelatedness of the two issues.
Summary: don't expect the kids at Wesleyan University to be leading the way to a more clothes-free future. Or NY Times journalists either, for that matter.
The article consists entirely of an interview with Lee Baxandall, president of The Naturist Society. As such, it's 100% pro-nudity. There are no hostile or patronizing questions. But perhaps the best part of this, at least for online readers, is the message board for reader responses to the article. It's almost 100% pro-nudity also -- and some of the messages are among the most persuasive short testimonials you'll find anywhere. While there seem to have been maybe 2 or 3 non-nudists replying, even their take was that people who enjoy nudity should have places to do so.
Don't bother to go looking for this article at your nearest newsstand or library, unless you are in need of a strong emetic. Almost the only picture containing nudity in the whole thing is of six assorted-gender backsides giving you the moon. And if you bought the rag on account of the cover headline, the article's index entry tells you you've just been suckered: "the whole merry band is ready to strip down and get wet. But with clothes this hot, who wants to get naked?"
Outside used to be a good magazine for -- gasp -- outdoor adventure, and they've run a few pro-nudity articles and ads. But this one is strictly for the insecure 20-somethings out there whose speech is 10,000 times more likely to use the word "dude" than "nude".
This may be changing. A March 22 Reuters article reports that a committee of the Italian parliament is considering legislation that would (shudder!) actually allow people to be totally nude on designated portions of the country's beaches. Imagine that. (See also here.)
Italy's highest court recently ruled that female topfreedom is not illegal, but stopped short of doing likewise for complete nudity. The new legislation would correct that problem. It is being promoted as a means to boost tourism. But in fact, as the main sponsor points out, "There is nothing revolutionary about it, it just brings our country into line with the reality of other European countries."
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