Everyone Cares About Naturism (Even if they don’t know it yet)
If you care about people, then you must care about bodies. If you care about bodies, then you must care about naturism.
Most of my writings so far have been addressed to naturist and nudist audiences, but my real hope for this blog is to address the textile word. So if you’re reading this, dear textiles of the of the world, please pay attention. Naturism is just the thing for you. I’m sure you will care about it.
Oh, and what’s a textile?
If you don’t know what kind of person a textile is, you probably are one.
A textile (rhymes with gentile), or as I prefer, a textilist, is a person who believes that there is something wrong with the human body which can only be resolved by covering it up. The term comes from people who visit nude beaches. When you are on a nude beach, you need a word to call the non-nude beach. That’s the textile beach.
For some reason or other, textilists don’t like the way human beings look, and think they must be covered up with clothing. A textilist has no problem with every animal on the earth running around naked — except one. A textilist thinks that clothing must be the default option at all times, unless nudity can be justified by medical or hygienic necessity, or for certain limited sexual and artistic situations. A textilist, in short, is someone who is not a nudist or a naturist.
If you are a textilist (and statistically speaking, that’s almost everyone), then chances are you are under the mistaken impression that you don’t care about naturism (or nudism, — let’s ignore the difference for now). You have always worn clothes, and this has always been fine for you. You are the type of person, apparently, who never challenges societal conventions. You follow the crowd. You like the safety and security of doing what everyone else is doing. Right?
Of course not — you certainly don’t think that about yourself. You’re not just a follower. If you’re reading this blog on this website, I assume you’re interested in ideas. Well, how about this idea: What if I were to tell you that Naturism is perhaps the most important obscure social movement of the 21st Century?
Yes, as grandiose as that may sound, it’s true. Despite its obscurity, naturism is a concept with the power to fundamentally change the world. It is revolutionary. It is life-altering. Naturism is HUGE. And it is difficult.
It’s so huge, and so difficult, that few people are yet ready to even talk about it, let alone ready to take on the burden of pushing it forward. It’s so difficult that even most practicing naturists haven’t even come out publicly in support of it. Think about that: We live in a culture in which pretty much everything shameless is shamelessly promoted without apology, yet if you even suggest for a moment that people can probably just go without clothes a lot of the time you are going to be given the blankest stare.
To give you some context of how big naturism’s challenge is, consider this (poor) comparison: Every major social movement which has had big impacts in recent decades consisted of a minority oppressed population reaching out to the dominant portion of the population and forming coalitions to remove barriers to progress from both within and without the applicable systems of power. It always takes a partnership of the “oppressor” class and the “oppressed” class, where the two classes are generally not one and the same, and have different strengths and resources to bring to the struggle.
The gay rights movement primarily aims to improve conditions for probably well less than 10% of the population, but they had the benefit of many supporters out of the remaining non-oppressed 90% of the population. Feminism is a movement which primarily aims to improve conditions for about 50% of the population, which means they could reach for help from outside that half of the population from the many men who support them. The African American civil rights movement aimed to improve conditions for about 13% of the population, and they had the benefit of the assistance from many among the non-black population who could work within the white power base.
Naturism, on the other hand, faces a paradox very unlike these other movements. It seeks to improve conditions for 100% of the population, yet is currently opposed by nearly 100% of that same population. Among the population of those oppressed by textilism, there is no power-base outside the oppressed group which can lend us a hand. We all suffer from textilism, so we all need naturism, yet since we all suffer from textilism, we nearly all oppose naturism.
It’s truly confounding and I’m in a bit of a daze just trying to wrap my brain around it. All the people who need the movement are opposed to the movement. When everyone is both oppressor and oppressed, no power base exists outside the oppressed class to lend their support. The naturism/textilism conflict is the rhetorical unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.
Perhaps you’re reading this and you still don’t understand. Why am I declaring that you are oppressed by textilism, this thing you’ve never even heard of?
The answer lies not in textilism itself, which seems almost petty, but the consequences of textilism, which are never ending.
Most people who have heard of it think of naturism or nudism (including many practitioners) as a simple lifestyle choice. The idea is that some kooky people simply like to get naked, so they go to a nude beach or a nudist colony or something and get naked. Weird. Harmless. Nothing to do with them. End of story.
I disagree. I argue that Naturism as a movement is properly aimed at fundamentally re-creating society’s relationship with the body. Naturism’s work is the identification of every manifestation of this collective dysfunction, which I call Body Shame Culture. Body Shame Culture is also a pretty obscure concept, so allow me to explain it.
Body Shame Culture permeates through our society at every level. Like racism, sexism, and homophobia, it starts off with one simple prejudice, texilism (which is a prejudice against all human bodies), which compounds upon itself and intersects with every other form of oppression until it becomes an inescapable echo reverberating throughout your whole life.
You are trained from childhood that the body must be covered. This indoctrination is reinforced at nearly every moment until you early on develop a powerful gymnophobia, or hatred of the natural, naked human body. You must wear clothes, but you can never just wear clothes. Clothing is a medium upon which you tell a story to yourself and others about who you are.
This storytelling contributes to so many aspects of social stratification and prejudice that I should hardly need to point it out. A man in a business suit is different from a man in greasy overalls. A woman in a tiny miniskirt and high heels is different from the woman in a hijab. Your clothing becomes a pseudo-identity so powerful that you forget that it is an artifice, a mere shell, that can be altered at will at any time. It is not your identity, yet you let it control your destiny in countless ways. “Clothes make the man”, they say. A textilist (and sexist) lie.
But this hostility towards the natural body does not end with skin and fabric. Natural desires and sexualities and expressions are repressed. “Real men do this”… “Real women do that”… Body parts are objectified, whole women are objectified, children are objectified. Everyone is exploited. We are told we must be thin and fit and beautiful, and feminine or masculine. Rigid gender roles are impossible without the textilist compulsion to be dressed a certain way at all times.
And then technology and wealth and laziness provide us with cheap garbage to eat, which we never can exercise away. So many of us aren’t shaped the way we want to be shaped, so we much cover up, perpetuating the cycle. Your disconnection from your body allows you to be further disconnected from your body.
Ultimately we are all doomed to fail in this perpetual competition for artificial, superficial status, because this beauty is always fleeting, if not impossible. Then we feel deep shame about our failure to be the perfect sexual object or to get the perfect sexual object. Probably you don’t even want conscientiously to be a sexual object, yet you know you have failed to measure up somehow, because you know that someone else is on the cover of all those magazines and that person doesn’t look like you — barely even looks like a person at all.
For some, this shame results in illness or causes them to lash out in emotional and physical violence and self-harm. Countless people have written better words than I can on depression, suicide, eating disorders, and sexual assault, and you don’t need me to spell it all out for you here. Body Shame Culture is not an abstraction — it is a killer.
We cover the body, despise the body, then build our social world on the swampy foundation of status from thinness and clothing and photoshopped beauty magazine advertisements. Even if you are the one who wins this game, who can sustain everlasting lifelong beauty, chances are you are still wracked with terror over the thought of losing it all and being reduced to one of them, the flabby Wal-Mart-shopping masses.
Even these elite still cannot escape the gymnophobia that convinces them that no matter how beautiful and perfect their body may be (according to the fickle fashions of the day), they still cannot face the commotion and violence that awaits them should they walk out their front door without their curtain of fabrics and latex and leather.
From the lowest to the highest of society, Body Shame Culture is a problem for everyone:
Naturism is about respecting bodies.
Everyone has a body and wants to be respected.
Naturism is for everyone.
Naturism is the movement to understand and undermine this Body Shame Culture. Naturism’s work is to propose a new culture, a Free Body Culture, where shame and humility and suffering is never the result of simply having a body. The Free Body Culture, if there ever is one, is about growing up never beleiving there was something wrong with your body. It’s about never knowing ignorance and shame. It’s about respecting people for who they are, and not what their body looks like, or what they cover it with.
This is not a movement about skinny dipping. This is a movement with no lesser goal than the lifetime well-being of the entirety of the human race. If you don’t care about that, then you’re just completely lost.
So, what now?
I realize that there’s no way I’ve convinced you to be a naturist from just one blog post. I appreciate you reading this far, and if you want to go on, here’s what I’d like from you:
- Learn more about naturism and nudism. Understand that my version of naturism is not like everyone else’s. Understand there are many people calling themselves naturists or nudists, who’s objectives are something very different from the uplifting of society. But learn all you can about the lifestyle that exists today and look for ways to improve it.
- Think about the way that textilism and clothing affect your life. If you want to see this through an intersectionalist lens, I encourage this. Textilism combines with classism and patriarchy and racism and homophobia and other “isms” in countless way. Up until now, very few people have focused on how clothing-compulsion and the confusion of clothing and identity confound all these other oppressions. But this is what naturism should be doing — adding to these other progressive movements by bringing a new analysis of the body.
- Start trying to spend more time getting comfortable without your clothing. You don’t have to call yourself a naturist or go to a nudist resort or beach. Start by accepting the simple idea that clothing is a tool, not a cage. The start of summer is the perfect time to experiment with releasing yourself from that cage. Sleep naked. Swim naked. Read naked. Meditate naked. Shower naked — and stay naked for as long as you can. Do this conscientiously, with intention, and see if it changes you. You can do this alone for now — it’s not about exhibitionism, it’s about alleviating suffering. Move at your own pace.
- Do some hypothetical planning. Unfortunately the naturist scene in America is a little sad, especially compared to France, but learn about what clothes-free recreation opportunities are near you. Plan a hypothetical trip (my favorite place is Club Orient). Find someone to come with you. Learn the etiquette and culture. You don’t have to go through with it…but maybe you will.
Again, there is a depressing mismatch between the great potential for the naturist movement and its actual state of affairs in America. Don’t let that dissuade you, let it inspire you. If activism for progressive causes is where your heart is at, please consider joining this cause. This is a field that is ripe for growth, a movement where every single individual activist can make a real and lasting difference, because we are still early in the game.
Again, everybody has a body. Everybody suffers under the textilist system. Everyone has a stake in naturism’s success. Everyone needs to care.