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How nudism can support King's dream
Promoting racial equity in the nudism movement and the importance of non-discrimination policies and inclusive practices
Martin Luther King Jr. laid out his famous dream on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the speech, King called for an end to racism in the United States and for civil rights for African Americans. Nudism or naturism is a philosophy that promotes the idea that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of and that people should be comfortable in their own skin. It may be tempting for well-meaning American nudists to try to find parallelism between these two concepts, and while there may be some similarities in the philosophies of Martin Luther King Jr. and naturism, it is necessary to note that King's speech was focused on the specific and serious issue of racial inequality and discrimination, rather than a general philosophy about the human body. The idea that one should not be judged by the color of their skin and the idea that the human body is not something to be ashamed of are not the same thing, and one should be careful not to conflate the two. As naturism is not a movement primarily focused on issues of race, gender or other forms of discrimination, it certainly would not be the most direct way to address those issues.
Be that as it may, there are small ways that naturism, as a philosophy, does support Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, in the sense that it promotes the idea of equality and acceptance of all people, regardless of their physical appearance. The idea that people should be comfortable in their own skin and should not be judged based on their physical appearance aligns with King's message that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin.
Beyond these philosophical ties, there are also ways that the American nudism movement, through conscious effort and faithful actions, could become a stronger force for racial equity by actively addressing and combating racism within its own community. This could include implementing policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion, such as actively recruiting and promoting people of color within the movement, and creating a safe and welcoming environment for people of all races. The onus for these changes rests on individual nudists just as well as nudist clubs and organizations. By championing the same principles of equality and liberty, nudists can use our platform to make positive strides towards achieving our shared goal of a greater and more equitable society.
It sounds good, but how can the nudism movement put this into practice?
Let’s look at some actions that can be taken at the individual level, the local level, and the national level.
At the individual level, nudists and nudism advocates can work to educate members of the community about the ways in which racism and discrimination intersect with body image and physical appearance. Nudists on social media have a platform to vocally promote the values that naturism shares with the civil rights movement. Additionally, they can use their involvement with clubs, groups and member organizations to promote anti-racism in their local clothes-free communities.
At the local level, this could mean taking measures to promote anti-racist changes within the culture and community of your local nudist club. This could include hosting unconscious bias training, anti-racism workshops, and facilitating discussions on the ways in which people of color have been historically objectified and stigmatized based on their bodies, and how this relates to the nudist philosophy of body acceptance.
At the national level, nudist organizations—especially those with member magazines—could also use their platforms to support and amplify the voices and work of diverse nudists, as well as giving space to anti-racist activists and organizations to share their messages with the readers of nudist magazines. Nudist organizations can also seek ways of partnering with or donating to organizations that work towards racial equity, and promoting and amplifying their messages within the nudist community.
Taking the pulse on where the nudism movement is today on the issue of diversity and inclusion, there seem to be opportunities for growth. One way we can take stock of the work currently being done by national nudist organizations is to look at their policies and practices. The Naturist Society has a non-discrimination policy that it requires its network of clubs agree to, which was first implemented in the mid 1980s. The American Association for Nude Recreation does not have such a policy at the national level. Of AANR’s five regional divisions, only the Northwest region has implemented a non-discrimination policy, which they passed in 2018. Several individual clubs and groups such as United Naturists also proudly promote their non-discrimination policies on their websites. Many others do not.
While the existence (or nonexistence) of such a policy certainly makes a statement, we can’t really infer these organizations’ views on diversity and inclusion from this fact alone. To AANR’s credit, they’ve long promoted their “Nudist Bill of Rights”, which includes the language, “Nudists have the right to decisions about what constitutes acceptable nudity to be made free from considerations of age, gender, marital status, religious beliefs, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” While this is not a binding agreement, it does support the notion that nudists share these values of equality for all.
Still, implementing a non-discrimination policy is an important step for our national nudist organizations to take, because it sets clear guidelines for how members and clubs should behave, provides a top-down approach for promoting these changes amongst its charter clubs, and helps to create a safer and more inclusive environment for all of its members. A non-discrimination policy can include language that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other protected characteristics, as well as reserving the right to revoke a member-club’s charter for failing to uphold this policy. This can help to ensure that members and clubs understand that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
It is equally important for nudist organizations to have a clear and well-communicated complaint and enforcement process for when violations of the non-discrimination policy do occur. This can help to make sure that members and clubs understand that discrimination will not be tolerated, and that there are consequences for engaging in discriminatory behavior. Additionally, it sends an important message to people of color and indigenous individuals in the nudist community that their organizations care about their well-being and their concerns, and have a system in place for ensuring their safety and comfort.
There are many more steps that organizations can take to promote a more diverse and robust nudism movement. They can consider establishing diversity and inclusion training for members and charter clubs, promoting diversity and inclusivity in their communications and events, and partnering with organizations that work to promote diversity and inclusion. They can also actively reach out and engage with diverse communities, and make sure that their communications and events are welcoming and accessible to everyone. This can include having multiple languages available, providing accessibility for people with disabilities and actively working to promote and support diversity and inclusion within their organization. In pursuing these goals, it’s worth noting that nudist businesses do not have to reinvent the wheel. Many other businesses in the nonprofit sector have paved the way for implementing these practices at a corporate level, and experienced consultants and businesses exist to guide and assist in this kind of organizational and cultural growth.
Creating an inclusive environment for diverse groups is an ongoing process, and requires constant work and conscious effort to ensure that everyone feels welcome and respected. It’s not an easy-to-implement, one-and-done policy that can be signed off on and then forgotten about. It will require individuals to grow, and organizations and groups to make structural and cultural changes to their daily operational business. Because it can require such an extensive effort, it’s easy to see how some nudist entities, often run by volunteers and lacking financial resources, still have room for improvement in that department. However, their efforts toward this end will pay dividends for the nudism movement, by helping nudism grow in a more inclusive way, improving the diversity of voices in our movement, and better promoting a view of freedom and liberty for all, supporting the dream laid out by Martin Luther King, Jr. sixty years ago. We owe it to him and to ourselves to try. 🪐
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