Is there a difference between being naked or nude, in private or in public? John Berger makes the case: “To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be seen naked by others… nudity is placed on display.”
This highlights the perspective that the protesters are naked for their own cause, using the historic value of nakedness as the expressing truth and innocence, while the media are seeing the riders as on display for the public’s benefit. Can one be both, or is being naked or nude a binary state? Is it possible to be yourself, while others see you in their own way?
Can we ever be free of the ‘considered opinion’ of the judgments of another, unless, as John Stuart Mills said, we stand firm for our inalienable right to hold an alternative view from the ever popular “tyranny of the majority”, regardless of the potential personal cost to the individual and thus society itself.
Having the freedom to clothe your own body in the way you see fit, and not from the dictates of prudish, guilty and shameful thoughts, is a step towards personal freedom for everybody. We actually can use our own bodies and minds in the way we each choose, but we need to believe in this as individuals, and to know this as an inalienable civil right.
Naked or nude as a public nuisance?
This is what Vincent Bethell’s Freedom to be Yourself campaign , started in 1998 in London, was concerned with, and after spending five months in solitary confinement awaiting his court appearance for being a ‘public nuisance’, he insisted on attending court naked. This was a jury trial, and he was judged by a panel of his peers, who unanimously found him not guilty of the charge. While the presiding Judge George Bathurst-Norman warned him darkly: “I would not go away too much with that idea”, he also appended the crucial: “It is simply not a public nuisance in these circumstances.”
Notwithstanding the judge’s hesitating support for the defense, essentially this was a great victory for the cause for freedom of choice where individualism, and public nakedness, is concerned.
Extract from the World Naked Bike Ride book.