Earlier this month (January) I was intrigued by the title of Jordon Blum’s post on the Young Naturist America’s (YNA) website: ‘Nudist Advocacy Organisations: is there still any need for them?’ He isn’t the first person to ask this question (and not answer it) and I don’t suppose he will be the last under the current circumstances but why should such a question ever arise? Is it perhaps a lack of expectation by some or too much by others? Or could it be that Blum is right and organisations such as American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) or British Naturism (or indeed NAG) are just not needed?
According to Blum: ‘A movement is something that comes about to address specific issues due to a lack of structured organisations advocating on [the] people’s behalf.’ Blum, however, believes that neither AANR nor The Naturist Society (TNS) are providing the service American naturists need to enjoy the clothes free lifestyle to the full. His evidence – he claimed – was the inability of both organisations to collaborate to get the San Onofre beach nudity ban, introduced by the California State Parks Service, overturned. Interestingly, he did give faint praise to the Naturist Action Committee (NAC), stating they had been ‘quite helpful’ without making the link between NAC and TNS obvious.
In my opinion, Blum’s criticism is not proven but then an article aimed at younger naturists is perhaps not the place to argue a case either for or against national organisations. But he is also assuming the only reason such organisations exist is to react to whatever non-naturists do to us, like the San Onofre beach nudity ban. The best people to effect that change are the people affected. Guest blogger on the YNA website, Melissa Dejanude, explained in November last year that there is already a facebook group (Friends of San Onofre Beach (Official)) and called for action. What hasn’t been mentioned, however, is whether they have their equivalents of Gypsy Taub and/or George Davis who are campaigning to overturn a similar ban in San Francisco. As I tried to argue in January, any successful campaign requires a variety of skills, which are unlikely to be seen in a single person and therefore it needs to be a team effort.
So, believing that national organisations are important to naturism, what else could they be doing?
Establish a Quality Assurance Scheme for naturist clubs and/or resorts: when booking a room in a hotel do you just take pot-luck on the quantity and quality of the facilities on offer, or do you look at how many stars (or whatever symbol is used) the hotel has been awarded to judge what it could be like. A British Tourist Board accreditation has worked wonders for our Bed and Breakfast market over the years, seeing a steady improvement in the quality of service and facilities on offer. Rising standards brings new customers – which brought new entrants to the market. For naturism, a QA scheme has the potential to raise standards in clubs that would benefit both members and visitors alike.
Promotional campaigns: this could be on the back of the QA scheme suggested above. While clubs and B&Bs might have the budget to advertise in the naturist press and seek out those who go by that tag, it is unlikely they could afford the kind of promotion necessary to attract those who do not. Let’s face it, the membership figure for BN is estimated to be around 10,000 but their latest survey commissioned from YouGov suggested that there were approximately 1 million people in the UK who prefer to sunbath naked. That still leaves 99 per cent of the potential market untapped. Similarly, in the US AANR is said to have 34,000 members in the USA and Canada among a combined population of 350 million.
Commission or sponsor research: As I write this, I’m listening to a radio programme that includes a lot of facts and figures from different organisations that tells us how Government policy has effected the elderly as they make sure they get enough to eat while living on a pension. Without research, there would be no programme.
Empirical research will carry more weight with others, especially Government agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations, in persuading them that naturism can make an economic contribution by supporting businesses and jobs. For example, research on how much naturists are likely to spend while visiting another part of the country, can be used as evidence to a local council to support a naturist beach, providing an economic benefit to the area. It can also provide the kind of data that lenders need to make a decision on a loan for anyone thinking of developing a commercial operation or extending their existing facilities.
Collect Comparative Data: for example, gather data about those in the ‘industry’ to show how they compare with their peers. While one club may not see another as a rival, it would be useful for them to see, in an anonymous way, if their costs and other expenses are above, below or on par with the average. Collecting this kind of data helps the management of naturist clubs and resorts to make better, more informed decisions, rather than on just relying on ‘gut feeling’. While the majority of UK clubs are social enterprises and serve a limited number of members, they still need to know this information, to ensure they are providing a cost-effective service. On the other hand, we do have a small number of commercial clubs, to whom it would be important. In the US the commercial sector is much larger and accordingly, such information would be more important.
Trade Associations like the British Christmas Tree Growers Association or the Publishers Association gathers the type of data outlined above so its business members can compare ‘notes’ and they can represent the industry’s views to policy makers and legislators. Other organisations like the Automobile Association do the same thing, but with a membership based on individuals rather than businesses. Drivers may join because they see the need for a reliable breakdown service (in the case of the AA) but by paying a subscription they also pay for and benefit from all the other things the association does to improve the lot of motorists. With similar information, national organisations can use such data to represent the ‘industry’ to their local and national governments, and bans such as those in California will be harder to justify on political or economic grounds. The voices of our national organisations will be heard over the ‘moral’ minority, whose arguments are often subjective (e.g. children are psychologically “damaged” by seeing a naked person.) and it is doubtful that their existence will be questioned again.