Democrats & Liberals Archives

Thank You For Not Getting Nude for Peace

When you are promoting a left-wing cause, one of the default tactics these days seems to be public nudity.

Take the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. As we all know, they would Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur. This may be one of the few nudity-related campaigns that is truly effective. It is a clever concept and the symbolism is compelling, because fur is like skin and the vulnerability of nude people reminds us of the helplessness of animals.

In other cases, nudity simply works (or fails to!) as a way to get attention. In November, 2002, forty-five women in Marin County caused a mini-trend by spelling the word "PEACE" with their nude bodies. Their many imitators (as shown on this website) did nothing to stave off the drive to war. If anything, they may have helped a bit by making the anti-war side seem nutty instead of pragmatic.

It may seem unfair to pick on them when I just defended PETA, but one needs to look at these things in context. The rap against groups like PETA is that they are too militant, or even dangerous. Using nudity shows that they have a sense of humor. In addition, there is something about the cause of protecting animals that makes a childlike, lighthearted approach appropriate.

War, on the other hand, is serious business. The pro-war side was arguing that Saddam Hussein had the ability and motive to harm us. The only potentially effective argument to make was that the US was in more danger from neoconservative zealots than from Hussein. (One wouldn’t want to put it in exactly those words, but that would be the idea.) Trying to remind baby boomers of their lost hippie ideals, on the other hand, is not a fruitful approach.

Aside from failing to advance their cause, I suspect that lot of these nude activists are actually demeaning their own ideals. Take the World Naked Bike Ride. I’ll let WNBR speak for itself:

On Saturday 10 March and 9 June 2007, in cities around the world, people will be riding bikes naked to celebrate cycling and the human body. The ride demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and is a protest against oil dependency.

I’m all for celebrating the human body, but how is this connected to oil dependency again? If they really want to save oil, they should encourage everyone to put on a sweater in the winter and turn down their thermostat. Or put on their skivvies in their summer turn up thermostat. At home.

Things get really weird when you look at their official photography policy. Apparently they have a problem with horndogs "gawking" and taking pictures. Who would thunk it? (To their credit, they do acknowledge that "There may not be an expectation of privacy in a public nude event.")

Call me crazy, but it seems to me that they would encourage people to take pictures. Isn’t the whole point of getting naked to attract peoples' attention to your cause? Apparently the organizers have a different view:

Be prepared to directly confront predatory photographers if they have been warned or are actingly in blatantly disrespectful ways. Turn the tables on problem people by photographing them and posting their image on your website for the public to see. Often this will discourage them from shooting irresponsibly. There are also those who are at the event to use the images for other reasons, and you won't know without asking. [italics in original]

This is really a weird mobius strip of morality. Being naked in public is apparently nothing to be ashamed of. Taking pictures of people who are naked in public (at least in a "predatory" way), however, is something to be ashamed of. And the appropriate punishment is being outed on the Internet as the kind of person who gawks at naked people. Apparently shame can be useful.

This may seem to be a small point, but it gets at a larger one: Public nudity may not be a good way to promote liberal, humanistic goals. If you sincerely believe that publicly appreciating a woman’s smokin’ hot bod is "predatory", then you shouldn’t be displaying the prey to advertise your cause.

Posted by Woody Mena at March 3, 2007 10:19 AM
Comment #210324

Ah, come on Woody.

At least the naked girls will take some of our minds off of the issues. I would suggest you get good looking nude females though.

Posted by: tomd at March 3, 2007 12:03 PM
Comment #210331


You are right.

Most people do not look good nude. I lived in Norway for awhile. Women often lay topless in the sun. After the novelty wears off, you come to appreciate clothing.

And riding bikes naked is just plain gross. I wonder if some of the fat guys will have trouble getting off the seats.

Posted by: Jack at March 3, 2007 12:55 PM
Comment #210335

This is a fun post.

The old PETA ads that showed animals’ living conditions were much more effective, in my opinion, than the “naked” compaign. When people are asked now why PETA is against fur, they’re more likely to say because it’s unfashionable than to talk about cruelty to animals.

Somewhere along the road, protests that included people getting naked, stoned, or costumed stopped being taken seriously by most Americans. This is a problem, because there’s no easy way today to get media attention, get your point across, and be taken seriously all at the same time. Protesters need to get creative and come up with new forms that will not be read as tired sixties cliches.

Furthermore, the use of silliness can be very polarizing and offensive. Who here doesn’t get a little enraged when thinking about the protest held in behalf of Palestinian bombers that included naked women wearing belts made of bullet casings? Too often today when you see someone protesting naked, our collective gut level response is to immediately be a proponent of the opposite side, no matter what the issue.

Posted by: Max at March 3, 2007 2:24 PM
Comment #210358
Most people do not look good nude.

Another thing the PETA campaign has going for it. Models and actresses are just wild about protecting cute widdow wabbits from being tortured.

The old PETA ads that showed animals’ living conditions were much more effective, in my opinion, than the “naked” compaign.

The nice thing about the “naked” campaign is that it doesn’t come across as being angry. I’m not sure I remember which ads you mean. They showed how small their living space was I think? That was another soft sell as I remember. Anything gory is just preaching to the converted.

Protesters need to get creative and come up with new forms that will not be read as tired sixties cliches.

I agree. Celebrities can be useful as long as they don’t come across as dilettantes. So when Michael J. Fox talks about stem cell research, for example, you know it is something he cares about personally and didn’t just get interested in because it seemed cool. Even non-celebrity who was affected by something personally gets more attention (Jersey Girls, Cindy Sheehan). Anonymous people waving signs just doesn’t cut it.

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 3, 2007 4:13 PM
Comment #210366

Hey Guys,
Anyone of you up for a little streaking tonight!! Nude females are nothing new (Playboy)- now a nude male - well that just might be something to look at.

On second thought, I doubt it!!!! :-)

Posted by: Linda H. at March 3, 2007 6:07 PM
Comment #210372

The nudity makes an event look more like some kind of wild party than an airing of grievances. Could you imagine Martin Luther King organizing a nude march? I sure can’t.

Personally, I think that for the most part, organized public protests, at least in America, have been pretty meaningless since King led the Civil Rights Movement anyway. I don’t think they really have the ability anymore to sway public opinion towards a cause—and are usually more likely to do the opposite.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at March 3, 2007 6:33 PM
Comment #210377

Protests like telemarketers have become so commonplace, for so many varied reasons nowdays that most people really don’t give them a second thought. It takes huge crowds to really get a lot of press. I live in a small college town and since the Iraq conflict began I think there has been protesters on the corners every weekend since its inception. The good guys on one corner and bad guys on the opposite corner. I don’t recall seeing any young nude college girls though I do have to admit that it would certainly get my attention and probably might even convince me to join their cause. At least until it gets too cold for them to retain their nakedness.

Posted by: ILdem at March 3, 2007 7:11 PM
Comment #210442

The problem with such protests is that once people get use to sensational tactics, the question always returns to your original argument and its merits.

If your argument has merits, the sensational content mostly just is redundant at best, distracting at worst. If your argument doesn’t, the sensational content changes little in the long run.

As for PETA? Their philosophies are a bit too self contained for their own good. They have an unrealistic notion of the relationship between man and animals, in my opinion.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at March 4, 2007 1:02 AM
Comment #210453

Linda H.,

If you want to see men displaying themselves, just Google “World Naked Bike Ride” and feast your eyes. As Garrison Keillor would say, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 4, 2007 9:25 AM
Comment #210455

Whenever you are on public display, there are those who will like you and those who wont. Rockers and Ballplayers, for example. You just have to do what you believe is right. And, hopefully, you will reach enough people to support your cause. Van Halen is either a wussy hair band or the latest inductee. Most protesters are very young and are preoccupied with having fun, so we will see more naked protesters.

Posted by: JoeRWC at March 4, 2007 9:44 AM
Comment #210457
And riding bikes naked is just plain gross. I wonder if some of the fat guys will have trouble getting off the seats.

Yo mama’s so fat, when she goes to the World Naked Bike Ride people say, “Where’s your bike?”

[It’s OK for me to mock the morbidly obese because I am participating in the African-American ritual of Playing the Dozens. You can look it up. ;) ]

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 4, 2007 10:07 AM
Comment #210488

PETA is special. It mostly consist of “the dewey eyed daughters of the captains of industry” and their male sycophants hoping to get some. Paradeing around naked is just one more way to piss off the old man. Most are young and cute and this should be encouraged for its entertainment value. However serious issues demand serious tactics and you are correct.One reason for this tactic is to get press attention. It works but a more reliable tactic is to provide the members of the fourth estate a good feed.

Posted by: BillS at March 4, 2007 3:48 PM
Comment #210530

Where are they riding , again? Wonder if it’ll make the nudes, err news?

Posted by: gergle at March 4, 2007 11:43 PM
Comment #210534

I didn’t know what to say Woody, but given Jack’s last post on the RED side I’m going to go sit naked in the front yard till all my stuff falls off. It can’t be any more painful than reading arrogant neocon bull shit.

Posted by: KansasDem at March 4, 2007 11:54 PM
Comment #210546

My fellow Floridians in Miami are supposed to be strutting their stuff on 3/10, which is the date set for the southern hemisphere. Go figure. Most norte americanos will do it in June.

Posted by: Woody Mena at March 5, 2007 9:08 AM
Comment #277037

Liberals going nude for peace whats that going to accomplish except to show to the world how utterly rediculous they are i suppose if some one held a REMOVE YOUR BRAINS FOR PEACE they would do it but their brains were already removed

Posted by: Bird of Paradise at March 7, 2009 2:44 PM
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