Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Learning Opportunity

So, there's a story in the news about a Playboy model who is being accused of body shaming, after posting a critical photo on her Snapchat of a woman she encountered in a gym locker room shower. I'm not interested in defending this woman's actions, but I do think it bears mentioning that people are quick to jump to conclusions, and I can see how this whole situation could be the result of a massive misunderstanding, if the woman in question did truly intend the image to be an in-joke with her friend, and not posted publicly. (The fact that people are so quick to jump down another person's throat only supports the dim view of humanity that these people are ironically criticizing this woman for exhibiting - does nobody else notice the irony of this situation?). Also, the gym in question has publicly labelled this woman's actions as "appalling" - which, frankly, I think is a bit of an exaggeration (though I'm prone to hyperbole myself, so maybe I should be more forgiving). Was it insensitive and ill-advised? Yes. But "appalling"? I don't know that I'd even go so far as to say that this behavior warrants banishment, much less criminal charges. But, of course, companies these days have to kowtow to every little criticism, lest they sacrifice their public image and risk losing business.

Anyway, I have a couple of comments about this news story - involving both this woman's actions, and the response it has received from the public. Now, if this woman truly did intend to body shame this other woman she encountered in the locker room shower - and especially publicly, on the internet - as people are assuming (because you have to be honest, that's what it looks like), then that is behavior that deserves criticism. At the same time, I would caution people not to react so strongly as to warrant the justification of censorship. This woman experienced a genuine feeling - and while it was not the most positive feeling, and she chose to express it in an insensitive way, I don't want people to become scared of expressing their genuine feelings. If PC culture gets to the point where people believe they are not allowed to even think that other people's bodies are unappealing, then it has gone too far, because we no longer have freedom or control over our own thoughts. What we need to do is place the emphasis on how we express our thoughts and feelings - and how that affects others. So that instead of submitting to the knee-jerk impulse to express one's self at the expense of others, we will see the value in stopping to think about why we feel the way we do, what that means to us, and how we can express it in a way that ultimately contributes to making the world a better place (which is what I do - or at least try to do - when I sit down and analyze my thoughts in preparation for posting them to this blog).

Now, about the legality of taking photos in locker rooms. Firstly, let me say that what this woman did is exactly the sort of thing that gives voyeurism a bad name - using it as a weapon to criticize and embarrass other people, instead of the harmless (and pleasure-inducing!) goal of sexual gratification. In truth, there is a subset of the population that also believes there is something intrinsically harmful (or "degrading", if you want to use a word that stands for illusionary harm) about being the unknowing subject of "naughty" behaviors conducted in secret behind closed doors - but this fear is nothing more than bogus superstition. There's no harm in somebody being attracted to you, and if they take a surreptitious picture of you (that maybe you didn't even notice!) to remember that by, and to maybe use as a masturbatory aid later on, or even to share with other people who will use it in the same way, who cares? It hurts no one - the only thing it serves is to make other people feel good. Keep in mind that none of this justifies true violations of privacy, or stalking, or any antisocial behaviors. But unobtrusive (and especially public) voyeurism that does not involve harassment or abuse of any kind (including verbal) is an unqualified benefit to society.

Still, people are afraid of having their privacy violated (even in public). They get nasty when strangers take their pictures, because they assume they're going to post them to their Facebook with critical captions, and be made a public laughing stock. In short, people expect other people to be insensitive jerks. Which is realistic. But wouldn't it be nice if we lived, instead, in a world where people had the expectation that other people wouldn't be insensitive jerks? Which is pretty much the way people are reacting to this story. They're calling this woman out on her insensitive behavior. Why, then, do we focus on the inherent wrongness of taking the picture? Of all people, even nudists (which is where I first heard about this story) use this story as an example to justify the expectation of privacy. Which is ironic, because nudists freely and regularly shower in front of each other without fanfare. Isn't it entirely against nudist principles to emphasize the importance of privacy regarding something they don't consider private (that is, people's bodies) over the importance of just not judging people on their looks? Why do nudists still think this kind of privacy is important, then?

Unless they, too, are only shielding themselves from the jerks out there who want nothing more than to criticize their bodies. But isn't this the perfect opportunity to put our money where our mouths are, and invite the entire world to peer into our secret nudist communes, to see once and for all what nudism is really like? Instead of suspiciously insisting that it's not about sex, and then hiding behind tall fences? Wouldn't this be the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world the importance of treating people with dignity and respect, regardless of what they're wearing, or what their body looks like? To me, this seems like an ideal teaching opportunity for nudists, and the best way to expand knowledge and awareness of our lifestyle to the masses. And we're wasting it, because we're all too lazy and scared of being judged. We keep to ourselves in our little secret societies, hiding behind our fences sipping beers in front of our trailers, shunning cameras because god forbid somebody from the outside world should see us naked. And we call ourselves nudists? Well, let me tell you, that's not the nudism I want to be a part of. The only question I have is, who's going to join me?

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