We are posting this on behalf of George Davis, and is of particular interest to our friends from the United States, as he compares San Francisco with London and New York.
A Tale of Three Cities
by George Davis
(George Davis is the author of two books: Naked Yoga, and Weapons of Mass Deception. He is co-editor of Free Your Body; Free Your Mind. As a body-freedom activist, he has been arrested more than twenty times, including an arrest for making a public speech on the Capitol Mall in Washington, DC.)
Do you remember George Carlin’s “7 Dirty Words” that you can’t broadcast or publish? That was 40 years ago… but the ban on such words still exists. And word-censorship is not the only in-your-face censorship that is going on.
If you are curious about the real purposes of routine media censorship — the kind that occurs in plain sight in mainstream newspapers and public TV broadcasts, converting words like ‘fuck’, ‘shit’, ‘cunt’, and ‘nigger’ into ridiculous gobbledegook like ‘f**k’, ‘s**t’, ‘c**t’, and ‘the n-word’ — then this tale is for you. If you wonder why Facebook and other social media will not allow you to post pictures showing female breasts, or images of your clothes-free vacation, or of the Australian Nude Beach Olympics, then this tale is for you. If you suspect that somehow this censorship is designed to make you stupid, socially controlled, and unable to perceive the world realistically, then this tale is for you.
On the other hand, if you feel that this this kind of censorship is a step in the right direction for human society, then this tale is probably not for you. If you think that social media are doing you and society a great service by censoring harmless images, and if you feel that our ability to deal with life and with the world is improved by mystifying and tabooing the human body, then this tale is not for you. You should do a mental delete, skip this tale, and move on to another diversion.
My tale is about the growth and social/cultural ramifications of the Body Freedom Movement in the three leading cultural centers in the world: London, New York City, and San Francisco. What is ‘body freedom’? It is the concept that your body and all of your body parts, including penises, pussies, and breasts, are normal and natural. You would think that this concept would be uncontroversial, since most people agree with it. Yet, the Body Freedom Movement is currently the Rodney Dangerfield of political movements. It gets “no respect.”
Aside from being a writer, as a Body Freedom activist, I will ask you to re-transmit this document by May 18, 2017 to anyone you know who has any political, cultural, or artistic leanings via email, your social media, or blogs. If enough people know this story, a potentially revolutionary (or more accurately re-evolutionary) game-changing court decision will occur.
The tale itself
Once upon a time, on an ordinary planet like trillions of others in a universe suitable for carbon-based life forms, there dwelt a dominant species, Homo sapiens (Latin for ‘wise ape’). The species’ control of the planet’s resources derived from its large brain which was capable of developing language, tools, fire usage, agriculture, and social organization. Homo sapiens’ undisputed mastery of Earth has only existed for 5,000 years, a sliver in time compared to a universe that has already existed for 14 billion years.
Let’s fast forward and snapshot the year 2017. Looking at Earth from space you might never guess that its land areas are divided up by Homo sapiens into nation-states whose boundaries are set by oceans, rivers, longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, and most importantly by accidents of history — wars, colonial settlements, dynastic marriages, and the like. Almost every individual Homo sapiens has a nationality. Over the past few centuries global wars have been fought between nations — wars like the Seven Years’ War, the Crimean War, and World Wars I and II. In 2017 and recent decades, there have been no national wars between states. However, in recent years, there has been a nationalist resurgence characterized by groups and events like America First, UK Brexit, Russian annexations in the Ukraine, and “strongman” regimes in several nation-states.
Homo sapiens divides itself into
A quick message to all those who are registered and living in or close to London. The next meeting of the Hampstead Heath Naturism Project will be held at the McGlynn’s Free House, in Whidborne Street, WC1 8ET and close to King’s Cross Station, on 18th October 2014. For directions please see their website. It will begin at 6pm.
Learn how the campaign for open space naturism in London is progressing and if you want to chip in with your own observations, comments or ideas then all the better.
For more details please contact John Paine before 16th October 2014. Much appreciated.
By Duncan Heenan, with additional material by Reg Barlow
Don’t be ridiculous; you can’t make everything illegal!
You may think that, but currently before Parliament is the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill (“ASB”) 2013 and Section 1(2) defines anti-social behaviour as “…conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person,” with the provision of a Community Order – an ASBO-like banning order – for anyone falling foul of this proposed law.
“Bravo!” you might say, because no one likes truly antisocial behaviour, and this Bill was introduced to tackle yobbish behaviour that terrorises people in a small locality. However, under this definition any kind of behaviour can be deemed ‘antisocial’, as in
Melenie Roberts has announced that Oxford Crown Court and Nottingham Magistrates Court have dropped their respective charges against Steve Gough. More details can be found in BBC article “‘Naked Rambler’ freed on bail after Oxfordshire charge dropped.” Facebook users can also gain more news by going to Free Steve Gough. Ms Roberts adds that Steve is now with Oblone film crew.
This is good news, and we shall be studying the arguments used at Oxford Crown Court to see if they have any value elsewhere.
It is a common belief that the difference in attitude towards public nudity in the US and Europe is as wide as the Atlantic Ocean, with the US being repressive compared with the more accepting Europeans, with the UK perhaps leaning more towards America. But as with all generalisations, this is not the true picture.
In case you missed it, in the dying months of 2012, US activist Gypsy Taub caused a stir in San Francisco as that city’s Board of Supervisors’ Neighborhood Services Committee heard arguments for and against a civil ordinance (bylaw) to ban public nudity in that city, except for specified places or events. Her actions, of course, gained all the column-inches and airtime you can imagine, but my question is, did they advance the cause of naturism in California or push it back?
For everyone unfamiliar with the state of naturism in California here is a potted history; I apologise to everyone already familiar with it. Unlike the UK, where public nudity is legal, in Re Smith (1972) California’s Supreme Court ruled that sunbathing (nude) on an isolated beach was not lewd and subsequent court rulings have stretched this definition to a point where non-sexual nudity is now neither permitted nor not permitted under state law. So, it might be prudent to suggest that just because people in California can walk down the street naked, they would not necessarily choose to do so. Where as we in the UK might say, “only in America” they say “only in San Francisco”. In general, San Francisco is said to have nice weather, not warm, although often foggy, which had the effect of curbing the population that would insist on walking around naked. Supervisor (the equivalent to a counsellor in the UK) Scott Wiener, the antagonist in this story told the New York Times in November 2011: ‘It used to be that there would be one nude guy wandering around the neighbourhood and no one thought twice about it. Now it’s a regular thing and more obnoxious.’
Despite the generally unpromising weather, pockets of micro-climate that are frequently sunny are known about the city and one of these is Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro District, carved out of an intersection and a tramcar turnaround. Almost daily, roughly a dozen men – locally known as The Naked Guys – top up their tans by sunbathing naked in this urban plaza. I should also note here that none of the articles I’ve read indicated that this display of public nudity is happening elsewhere in the city or that women are involved. Anyway, back to the story; Matthew Johnson, a Castro resident, spoke in favour of the ban despite having bared all at the city’s nude beaches and at Folsom Street Fair (a BDSM event) and was quoted by SFGate.com as saying: ‘You expect to be nude [at the beach], however when it’s in my neighbourhood and I can’t enjoy lunch because a guy is spread-eagle near me, it’s a problem.’
Let me make myself clear. I found nothing that Ms Taub said in defence of public nudity objectionable; in fact until she flung off her dress and the meeting fell into momentary chaos, it was a fine example of presenting a logical argument. What I do think, however, is that it was not the right time or place to appear naked. The moment she removed her dress the event turned into a minor farce and more about Ms Taub’s actions than the rights or wrongs of public nudity. This was a moment when the campaign could have spoken indirectly to the 11-member Board of Supervisors, although only three were present, and to all San Franciscans about why public nudity is not the threat some would like them to believe. And why Wiener’s proposed civil ordinance was an overreaction to an issue that only affects the district of Castro.
I grant you, the lack of drama would not have made good television – boring even – but so much in political activism is exactly that. Unfortunately I have enough grey hair to tell everyone that I am old enough to remember the Thatcher premiership and the upheaval caused by the protests against the Community Charge, more popularly known as the Poll Tax. The largest of these demonstrations had an estimated 200,000 people marching to Trafalgar Square, a figure not surpassed until the people voiced their opposition to the Iraq war. It was not these demonstrations, however, that ended Margaret Thatcher’s leadership of the Conservative Party. Among voters Thatcher was never as popular, as an individual, as her party and had the second lowest approval rating of any post-war Prime Minister up to that time. By September 1990, the Labour Party had a substantial lead in the opinion polls. The Conservative Party grandees decided if they were to win the next General Election then Thatcher had to be replaced. Although the leadership was contested in public view, it was behind the scenes negotiations that led to the realisation that Thatcher had insufficient support among her fellow MPs to continue, and her eventual withdrawal from the contest. The new leader, John Major, needed something to improve his party’s ratings in the opinion polls, and the quickest and easiest way to do that was to abolish the poll tax.
Activism of any kind needs two types of people: the flamboyant publicists and their opposite, quiet behind-the-scenes diplomats. Public demonstrations are needed to gain awareness, public support even, as like-minded people hear about an issue that has the potential to affect them and they take an interest. If you want action, however, then more often than not, it is the persuasive powers of the diplomats among those seeking change that will win the day by obtaining an agreement to act by those with the power to do so. In the end the Board of Supervisors voted six votes to five in favour of introducing a nudity ban. The Neighborhood Services Committee meeting could have been the beginning of a 15-day blitz to persuade any supervisor that showed willing to listen to either change their vote or to abstain. They only needed one to do so.
While the actions of Gypsy Taub may have gained even more publicity for the campaign, in my view it was not what was needed at that point. What was needed was the quiet diplomat to begin breaking down the barriers with cold logic. This, I’m sure however, is just a battle, the war is still to be won. My sincere hope is that more diplomats get on board and begin to win friends among San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
The following article is by Duncan Heenan, and only posted by me.
As part of NAG’s long-term project to get some sense in to the policing of public nudity, last September I attended the retrial of Nigel Keer. His acquittal will now be widely known and great news for Nigel, but what does this mean for naturism?
Nigel Keer was out walking on the moors at Otley Chevin a year ago, and it was a lovely day so once he was well away from the car park, he stripped off, as he has done many times before. He encountered several people, none of whom seemed at all bothered by his nudity, until he was unlucky enough to meet Mark Buxton, an off duty police
Shortly, Steve Gough will be returning to Kirkcaldy Sherriff Court following his Breach of the Peace conviction and another assessment his mental health.
On 26 August 2012, Bernard Boase – a long-time naturist and a campaigner for Gough’s release – had an article published in The Daily Express, which argued that his continued incarceration would be against his human rights. Regardless of whether you think Gough is a hero or a villain, we believe his re-imprisonment amounts to a cruel and extraordinary punishment and it shows the distance between society and the Scottish judiciary when it comes to simple, non-sexual public nudity.
With the author’s permission, we reproduce the article HERE.