78-89. Naturism is especially consistent with feminism
78. The repression of healthy nudity, especially for females, has been one of the chief means of mind and
destiny control by the patriarchy. Breaking this pattern shatters the invisible bonds of an inherited sex role.109
and the struggle for women's freedom.
79. Limitations on women's nudity, an acceptance of pornography, and demanding fashion requirements
may, individually, seem like minor issues. Taken as a whole, however, they form a pattern of repressive male-oriented
Marilyn Frye explains: "Consider a birdcage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you
cannot see the other wires. If your conception of what is before you is determined by this myopic focus, you could
look at that one wire, up and down the length of it, and be unable to see why a bird would not just fly around the
wire any time it wanted to go somewhere. . . . There is no physical property of any one wire, nothing that the closest
scrutiny could rediscover, that will reveal how a bird could be inhibited or harmed by it except in the most
accidental way. It is only when you step back, stop looking at the wires one by one, microscopically, and take a
macroscopic view of the whole cage, that you can see why the bird does not go anywhere; and then you will see it in
a moment. It will require no great subtlety of mental powers. It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a
network of systematically related barriers, no one of which would be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by
their relations to each other, are as confining as the solid walls of a dungeon." 110
80. Topfree inequality (requiring women, but not men, to wear tops) is demeaning and discriminatory
toward women, and reinforces patterns of male domination over women.111
In our culture, breasts may be exposed to sell drinks to men in bars, but women may not be topfree on a
beach for their own comfort and pleasure. Reena Glazer writes: "The criminalization of women baring their breasts,
therefore, indicates that society views women's bodies as immoral and something to hide. There is something
potentially criminal about every woman just by virtue of being female." 112
Herald Price Fahringer writes, "men have the right to cover or expose their chests as they see fit--women do
not. Men have the right to enjoy the sun, water, and wind without a top; women do not. Few men would be willing
to give up this right. Then why shouldn't women enjoy the same advantage? . . . Requiring women to cover their
breasts in public is a highly visible expression of inequality between men and women that promotes an attitude that
demeans women and damages their sense of equality. . . . For centuries, men have held the power to generate these
misconceptions. The male view on the exposure of a woman's breasts is crucially influenced by the need of men to
define women. . . . This reaction stems from a masculine ideology that has . . . doomed generations of women to a
secondary status." 113
Raymond Grueneich writes: "So what is really at stake is whether women will be free to bare their own
breasts in appropriate public places for their own personal purposes on these occasions in which they feel free to do
so, or whether they will only be allowed to bare their breasts in public on an occasion that can be exploited
commercially and that reinforces the idea that the sole function of the female breast is for the satisfaction of male
fantasy. It is as though it is a crime for a woman to be undressed in public, unless she was undressed in the service
of a corporation or a commercial entrepreneur." 114
81. Laws banning exposure of female breasts do so in part because of the reaction such exposure would
supposedly cause in men. Such laws are written entirely from the male point of view, and ignore the point of view of
women, who may want to go topfree for their own comfort.
82. By refusing to accept the need to "protect" themselves from men by covering their bodies, women gain
power, and shift the burden of responsible behavior to men, where it rightfully belongs.
Reena Glazer notes that "male power is perpetuated by regarding women as objects that men act and react
to rather than as actors themselves. . . . their entire worth is derived from the reaction they can induce from men. In
order to maintain the patriarchal system, men must determine when and where this arousal is allowed to take place.
In this way, the (heterosexual) male myth of a woman's breasts has been codified into law. Because women are the
sexual objects and property of men, it follows that what might arouse men can only be displayed when men want to
be aroused." This emphasis on women as temptresses "shifts the burden of responsibility from men to women;
because women provoke uncontrollable urges in males, society excuses male behavior and blames the victim for
whatever happens. . . . To sanction the concept that men have uncontrollable urges implies that violence against
women is inevitable." 115
83. Patriarchal laws strip women of the right to control their own bodies, but there have always been
"exceptions" to obscenity laws which permit the use of women's bodies in consumer seduction. Thus female nudity
is considered inappropriate on the beach, but is ubiquitous in advertising and pornography.
84. By enforcing arbitrary clothing requirements for women (requiring them to cover their tops), the
government acts in loco parentis, in the role of a parent. This is demeaning to women. Like children, they aren't
conceded the ability or right to decide how to dress, much as they formerly weren't allowed to vote, own property, or
exercise other rights.116
85. The repression of healthy female nudity fuels pornography.
Herbert Muschamp observes: "To object to the nude figure in a general interest magazine while allowing it
to remain in men's skin magazines is one way of keeping women in their place." 117
86. Pornography, in turn, limits women's ability to participate in healthy nude recreation, and to be casually
nude in other ways. Naturism breaks the power of pornography over women.
As mentioned earlier, in many places it is legal to display Penthouse on drug-store magazine racks, yet it is
illegal for a woman to publicly bare her breasts to feed an infant.
Pornography seeks "freedom," particularly "freedom of expression." But an acceptance of pornography
restricts women's capacity to go topfree or nude for their own enjoyment. It limits the freedom to control their own
bodies, and silences their own freedom of self-expression. Our pornographic culture has contributed to attitudes
which often discourage women from even trying clothing-optional recreation, even though Naturism is in many
ways the antithesis of pornography.
87. The fight for freedom should mean civil rights for women--not license for pornographers.
88. Clothing fashions and legal requirements have historically contributed to the repression of women.118
For example, in the mid-nineteenth century, a tiny waist was considered a sign of beauty, and, in order to
achieve this standard, women bound themselves into corsets designed to constrict the stomach (and other internal
organs) inward and upward, creating the appearance of a tiny middle. In addition, women wore up to fifteen layers
of petticoats and crinolines under their floor-length skirts. In the latter half of the century the wire hoop and springlike
bustle were also added for the appearance of fullness. The weight of this assemblage came close to 20 pounds.
We now know that many of the physical characteristics associated with the "frail sex" resulted from such restrictive
clothing, including "bird-like" appetites, a tendency to fainting spells, and reduced physical activity. Thorstein
Veblen has observed that "the corset is in economic theory substantially [an instrument of] mutilation for the
purpose of lowering the subject's vitality and rendering her personally and obviously unfit for work." A variety of
respiratory and reproductive ailments (including frequent miscarriages) from which women once suffered have been
directly linked to the unhealthy dictates of the "hourglass" fashion. Many of the associations of female frailty which
have their roots in the nineteenth century remain with us today, though they are now unsubstantiated.119
Corsets and, in modern times, cosmetic breast surgery also damage the internal physiology of the breasts,
often eliminating the capacity to breast-feed.120
89. Naturism defies relationships based on a balance of power, and is thus consistent with contemporary
feminism, which seeks to break down power hierarchies.
109. Baxandall, World Guide to Nude Beaches and Resorts 13. See also research by Ford.
110. Marilyn Frye, The Politics of Reality, quoted in Craft 70.
111. See Condra 129-34 for a detailed discussion of this phenomenon. For two excellent summaries of the
arguments for topfree equality, see Craft, and Grueneich.
112. Glazer 115.
113. Fahringer 140-41.
114. Grueneich 26.
115. Glazer 116, 135; see also pp. 117, 136, 139.
116. See Craft 71.
117. Muschamp 321.
118. For an especially thorough treatment of this subject, see Ribeiro.
119. United States, Women's Historic Park; quote from Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? 103. See also Ellis vol. 1,
part 3, p. 172; Taylor 82; Ableman 29. Robert Holliday notes that, ironically, the elimination of the corset from
fashion did not come about through the actions of the dress reformers: "What brought about the corset's
disappearance was the necessity of conserving steel for armaments. One Mrs. Nicholas Longworth is credited with
having decided that corsets were non-essential for her fellow women. Subsequently, a member of the War
Industries Board revealed that the American women's sacrifice released 28,000 tons of steel during World War I,
enough to build two battleships." (Holliday 265-66)
120. Palmer 124-25.