Smiling with shame

There’s a lot of fun to be had also from the slightly vicarious position of being a bystander at a WNBR, taking photographs, enjoying the colourful sights, smiling, waving and cheering the participants on. However, there are always a few reactionaries to every revolution, the ones who are terrified of anything new, any change, any challenge to the status quo. Doug Whitman, from the Toronto rides, describes the typical case clearly: “I’ve been on four rides so far and the rule is that there is always one person who objects. The number of people with big smiles and cameras are uncountable.” Some have even been known to join in spontaneously as the WNBR rides past.

The photo of the two mothers turning their children’s faces away from the procession of naked cyclists, and making them hold their heads in their hands, while both adults are guiltily smiling behind their own away-turned and ashamed faces, says so much. Gordon Allport describes their behaviour clearly: “Prejudice was not ‘taught’ by the parent but was ‘caught’ by the child from the infected atmosphere.”.

Body shame

These are the negative body-shame attitudes which participation in a WNBR goes so far to counter, to clearly demonstrate to the ‘great unwashed’, the public, all of us, how safe and healthy simple nudity is, whether public or private, there need be no shame, unless it comes from within. In Portsmouth, UK, the ride even got a lot of publicity courtesy of a lady from a fundamentalist church sect who was trying to oppose the ride, helping thereby to bring both the main national TV stations to the event, the ITV and the BBC.

It is clear that our lives are defined by the space between the two camps of; firstly, our thoughts on our own actions; and secondly, by our fear of what other people might think. Never mind Shakespeare, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius pointed this out some two thousand years ago: “All is as thinking makes it so.”

Extract from the World Naked Bike Ride book.

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