Naked at the Gasthof

Occasionally we glimpsed the surrounding peaks getting smaller. After several hours of zig-zagging upwards through the trees, we emerged from the forest onto the ridge and a welcome pause. We were going slowly and stopped for lunch just below the top. We were going slowly and stopped for lunch just below the top, Doug, Mira, mid-p1050335Jacques and Sylvie, then joined us for lunch and then to walk back up to the top of the hill, many people passing us on the fairly busy ridge trail.

Several looked a little surprised to see our group walking naked along the same way as they were, but were all friendly enough, with several smiles and waves exchanged, as one would expect when out on a mountain hike. Continuing along the spine of the alp, we quickly dressed to enter the Hochzelleralm Mountain Gasthof, nestling nicely on the shoulder of the ridge with extensive views of the lower valleys all around. We were just sitting down when Jerome, (organiser of the Brussels WNBR), suggested I ask the staff if it were possible to sit on their terrace naked. Naturally I thought they’d say no, but was happy to ask.

Guests at the Gasthof

The young and friendly waiter looked suitably surprised, but said that it was late in the day, with not many guests, and if the few that were here didn’t mind he had no objection either. So I asked a couple on the nearest table, and they said they didn’t mind, I dutifully fed the response back to the waiter, and he said, “fine, enjoy your drinks on our terrace naked by all means, then”.

We needed no further encouragement and our flimsy wraps and shorts came off, much to the surprise of one other couple, who’d I’d neglected to ask. They however were quite ok with us being naked too, furthermore they were happy to be video interviewed by the naked Gilles as to how they felt about more than 20 plus naked guests sharing their alpine coffee break with them. They seemed pretty comfortable about it all, the lady even removing her jumper to show some solidarity, (or perhaps she was just getting a bit hot).

We chatted for some time, greeting new arrivals with cheerful smiles as usual, and slowly drank our thirst-quenching schorles at this extraordinary well situated alpine Gasthof. The views were stupendous.

Extract from the Naked Hiking book, chapter by Richard Foley

Naked or nude?

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 std-125611521.vziayiup-bcbe 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.

People take photographs

A new set of issues are of course raised by being naked in a public space and having people take photos of you.

First of all, it’s not always possible to know the precise reasons behind every camera, the intentions of the photographer; secondly, you have to ignore the possibility of someone finding the images exciting, because running your life on the basis of what other people think or find titillating is a very sad state of affairs to be in; and thirdly, horror of horrors, what if someone from work finds out? std-101_5131a-bcReally, most of us don’t live in the repressive and hypocritical Victorian or Biblical eras any more, thank goodness, and people are generally much more mature in their knowledge of nudity these days. I recall a recent employer of mine discussing a project, where there was need of some confrontational joviality to lighten the mood, and knowing my penchant for naked activities, suggesting we do a naked Maori Haka for the other half of the team. Clearly the idea of being naked at work is not as outrageous as some would have us believe. A little unusual perhaps, but after all, when the boss suggests it, who are the workers to argue?

Regardless of the many possible answers to the question of what use a photo will be put to, or who will see you, it is important to keep in mind that the WNBR was created with the express intention of attracting media attention to the event explicitly through the use of nudity. Indeed, the images of naked protesters at the WNBR are a heart-warming testament to the conviction of masses of people to put their bodies ‘on the line’, and almost certainly ‘online’ also, for a common cause, to take a risk and be naked in public for a public cause, on behalf of our environment, for all of us. One’s very own five minutes of fame.

Extract from the World Naked Bike Ride book.

The World Naked Bike Ride book Thunderclap campaign

You can support the World Naked Bike Ride book Thunderclap campaign, (and tell your friends!)

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Many thanks for all your support, let’s make this happen!

Appearances may be deceiving

It’s not the appearance of someone which dictates their character, or their motivations, it’s what they actually do that is the issue. The relevance of this discussion for the WNBR is that it’s not the clothing, or the differently clothed or coloured state of another that is the problem: it’s the demonstrative but entirely peaceful behavior that is at stake here. std-101_5004a-bcIt’s important to separate the outward appearance of someone, how they look at any given time, from ones opinion of their inner motivation.

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. 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.

As Terri Sue Webb wrote, and as Vincent Bethell and many others also state: “To be offended by the visual appearance of another person is prejudice, akin to racism.”

Extract from the World Naked Bike Ride book, available on Amazon and all good book retailers.