Shoosh, prudes - nude’s not rude!
Public nudity is a funny old thing.
On one hand, letting it all hang out is the most natural thing in the world. Yet – like a small child who leaps suddenly from behind a door shouting “boo radley” – the sight of fully fledged human nudity can be arresting if unexpected.
New South Wales upper house candidate and gay activist Stuart Baanstra certainly disturbed the political equilibrium when he disrobed publically during his campaign for today’s state election.
Described variously as “a political nudist”, “a passionate nudist” and “a softly spoken former employee of Australia Post”, Baanstra used to be a member of the Greens and once went to court for refusing to fill out the Census.
His current platform is as simple as it is uncomplicated: he believes in nudity anywhere, any time (though presumably he’d opt to exercise this right beneath several layers of thermals if cruising the Arctic).
Baanstra exposed his policy plank to the world earlier this month when candidates gathered at the Sydney Election Commission offices for a draw to determine who’d get pole position on the NSW ballot paper.
Shortly after the announcement, the short manifesto-d man awkwardly and earnestly shed a green dressing gown to reveal a black bow tie and budgie-smuggling G-string.
Asked by a radio station why he’d engaged in such a blatant publicity stunt, the 48-year-old said he’d been giving the matter some serious thought (always a good idea when it comes to de-clothing in public).
“The main reason is because nudists are ignored,” he said.
I’m a member of a few nudist groups and I felt a bit frustrated that we don’t get an opportunity. I did go to two other political meetings in the last couple of weeks to put a question about nudity to candidates [in] the lower house and I wasn’t able to take the floor.
The bespectacled striptivist and sole member of the Nudist Party then took to the hustings in his buttocks-baring uniform.
He’s revealed that, if elected, he will attempt to realise his bare naked political desires via an (ahem) private member’s bill, presumably after (ahem again) some sort of stump speech.
The possibilities for crass single-ish entendres are endless but, before continuing to indulge, I should confess that I am not an impartial observer when it comes to free-range frolicking.
I am, in fact, a recovering nude volleyball player who has lived sunburned nipple-free for some years now. But despite no longer ditching my kit in public (at least not on purpose), I do have plenty of sympathy for punters such as Baanstra who maintain that nude is not rude.
In my experience, the average bar is far seedier than the average nudist beach. One of my favourite clothes-optional coastal strips did succumb to a nasty plague of in-bush onanists a couple of volleyball seasons ago, but, for the most part, such locales are surprisingly sleaze-free.
I also think the display of aged and imperfect flesh on nude beaches is a refreshing riposte to the relentless physical perfectionism in popular culture.
Such anti-exhibitionism represents a punk, raised middle finger – or, more accurately, a gloriously recalcitrant stomach roll – to the body beautiful imperative.
My discombobulation at seeing Baanstra’s thonged-bum on the ABC news during dinner was not, therefore, because I’ve truckled to the über prudes, but because I wonder about his commitment to the cause.
Why, for instance, is he going for a Chippendales stripper-gram look rather than denuding completing? If he’s really serious about birthday suit-ism, shouldn’t he be putting his money where his full Monty is?
Baanstra also sounded a little flustered as he asked over his shoulder for someone, anyone, to collect his personal effects as he was bustled out of the EC by burly security guards.
Once again, I would have thought this was an issue a perma-nudist would have resolved well in advance.
Finding somewhere to stash one’s wallet is, after all, a perennial problem of the clothing-optional lifestyle. Many ancient nudists are in possession of natural folds that would provide ideal receptacles for small change, but, in this respect, Baanstra is impractically buff.
On a more serious note, it’s always puzzling to hear activists insist via the media that their issues are ignored by the media. The claim has far more to do with strategy than facticity, particularly when it comes to protest streaking.
When Baanstra unshucked at the EC, he wasn’t ignored but mass mediated to within an inch of his life.
Television. Radio interviews. YouTubing. Probably some form of inter-tweet-poke-webbing. The blanket coverage of his lack of coverage was sensational.
Over the past decade, the “nude = news” effect has been equally evident as protestors have undressed for media success in regions such as the US, the UK and – surprise! – the secessionist nudie nation of Byron Bay.
The medium, in these cases, is not always the message. Radical flashing has been used as a fleshy protest placard against the internationalists of the WTO, the furriers of Beijing and the bull runners of Pamplona.
Lobbyists such as Baanstra, in contrast, are protesting nude in public solely for the right to be nude in public.
Their “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it not naked any more” message raises some interesting questions about the triaging of political priorities.
During a time of fierce debate over nuclear energy and international bombathons, it seems odd for a social change agent to survey the landscape and think:
“Hmmm. I wonder what my local candidate thinks about whether a Libyan ‘no-fly’ zone risks becoming ‘another Iraq’ zone? Actually, forget that. Let’s keep things in perspective by finding out, first and foremost, their position on presenting one’s pubes in public.”
Again: it’s easy to mock. But while fighting for nudist rights might seem trivial compared to saving the planet and its most vulnerable citizens, activist diversity and specialisation does offer an excellent report card on the state of a nation.
The presence of an openly gay, nudearian politician at a civic function illustrates:
1) That, here in Australia, minority protests are largely accepted (or at least not greeted with public stoning, private torture or African mercenaries); and
2) that Australian citizens have the luxury of being able to agitate about boutique issues rather than solely those concerning life and death (note the notable lack of Recreational No Clothes political parties in the Middle East and North Africa).
Like them and/or lump them, Baanstra’s not-so-private parts really do provide stark evidence that our democracy is in rude good health.
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