Elizabeth Raphaelson, Managing Editor
Last year, my cousin posted a link to an article about World Naked Gardening Day, an event celebrated by many horticulturists the first Saturday of every May. The idea behind the event is to tend to your crops and flowers in as raw a state as they are: completely unclothed. My first reaction was pure excitement, followed by extreme disappointment. Sure, I would love to step into my backyard, dig in the dirt and help something grow exactly as I am, but what would the consequences be? What would my family think? My neighbors? Would I be breaking the law?
Laws on nudity fit into Joel Feinberg’s offense theory. This theory states that in order for something to be outlawed, the action doesn’t need to be intrinsically harmful to another, it only has to produce an unpleasant feeling for others (e.g. shame, disgust, anxiety.) So what is it about nudity that makes people feel so shameful and anxious?
I believe one of the main reasons for these negative feelings is our tendency to equate nudity to sexuality. Because we have been conditioned to think of bathing and sex as the only acceptable times to be undressed, we are chronically clothed: it is even expected that while alone you have something on. Reasons such as hygiene and protection from the environment do not need to be answered by law, but rather by common sense. Only we have a say in whether or not we put on a coat while it’s snowing, so why should a shirt have it’s own law? As for people going fully nude in public places, nudist colonies have already established common etiquette to keep everyone healthy, happy and clean.
I believe that nudity has the potential to facilitate better attitudes on body image and sex. Outlawing your natural form in public causes people to be ashamed of their bodies, and in turn perpetuates the cycle of sexual confusion and shame. People ogling at the naked body does not spur from nudity, but from a puritanical school of thought that demonizes the very essence of what it means to be human.
As a fashion design major and apparel business owner, I am as big a clothing lover as they come. However, my interest in fashion is how it supplements a person physically and artistically, not in how it covers something that is supposedly short of perfect. The change would demand a huge psychological shift in seeing nudity as commonplace, and not a form of forbidden fruit. I am not talking about a full-fledge shift into a constant state of undress, (that would be impractical on many levels) but just the acceptability of me sitting in my garden, as exactly the person that I am.