I realized something the other weekend. I've been trying to rationalize my beliefs on beauty with a pro-body acceptance stance lately. Because I believe that both have value. I want to believe the two are mutually compatible. But there's a nagging doubt at the back of my mind. And if I had to choose one over the other, I think I'd rather celebrate beauty over body acceptance. Because even though that might mean a lot of people feeling miserable about their bodies, the alternative would be the loss of beauty to the world.
Normally, I tend to eschew things that involve competition. I guess that's why I like the body acceptance approach - beautiful people can go on being beautiful, while the rest of us don't necessarily have to feel inferior standing in their shadow (provided this is more than a comforting delusion - am I trying to have my cake and eat it too?). If anything, it goes to show how much of an impact beauty has on me.
It's not because I'm purely superficial, and lack depth. On the contrary, I identify with the phrase "still waters run deep". But I cannot lie to you and say that beauty doesn't have a profound effect on me. Enough so, that I'm willing to dedicate my life to its pursuit. I can't help that it makes me feel this way, I just want to feel it more. (And if I sound like an addict, well, I believe that people should have the freedom to pursue their own happiness, even if it turns out to be to their own detriment - or, hell, even the ultimate ruination of their mortal soul).
What does this have to do with nudism? Well, I note a drastic difference between nudism as I experience it today, and nudism as I have seen it described in past eras. Let me ask you, when did nudism become sagging, pot-bellied grey hairs ferrying six packs on golf carts through trailer parks? What happened to the emphasis on "health and efficiency" - clean living, fitness, and beauty pageants? The ancient Greeks used to carve statues of naked bodies because they believed they were symbols of divinity!
Granted, I wasn't around in ancient Greece, nor even the days when the FKK lifestyle was gaining ground in Europe. If I'm constructing a rose-tinted fantasy of what nudism used to be (or "gymnosophy" - that's a nice, classical-sounding name), then feel free to do as the pagans have done and call it neo-classical, rather than just classical, nudism. The point isn't how things actually were, but how we want them to be.
And I'm worried that maybe all this emphasis on "body acceptance" is undermining the importance of beauty. It wouldn't be so bad if more beautiful people felt comfortable joining in the lifestyle - but the fact that they don't is crippling. It's great if "body acceptance" attracts normal people to the lifestyle. But if the "cure" for our society's unhealthy body image problem isn't making the conventionally attractive more comfortable baring all, then what's the point? And is this really a cure, if all it does is make unattractive people comfortable in their skin, while the attractive still feel like meat on parade? If beautiful people are still going to be ogled (and let's be honest, this is never going to change), shouldn't we at least give them the acknowledgement they deserve?
I don't know, maybe this is all just a crazy idea. But I'm brainstorming here. Even if it inspires a toxic atmosphere of envy and self-criticism, there has to be some draw in the desire to be seen as beautiful, otherwise, where is the fashion industry getting all of these models from? To be designated beautiful is a mark of pride and accomplishment (for those of us who work for it). But for there to be winners, there have to be losers. All these people who cry about losing - they don't generally complain that there are losers, they're just disappointed because they didn't want to be one of them. Without losers, there'd be no value in winning.
On the other hand, if everybody could have trim bodies and washboard abs, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. But whether by pure chance or some universal law of averages, that's just not the case. Still, is the fact that not everybody is equally beautiful reason enough to discard the concept of beauty, so that everyone can feel good about themselves? That seems to me like taking PC culture a step too far. Think about it. Should we be telling 'D' students that they are smart, too? Should we be handing out identical trophies to every sports team on the league, regardless of win-loss records?
I don't know about you, but I'm capable of playing competitive sports without being a sore loser, because I understand that the most important thing is having a good time, and just having an opportunity to play is fun for me. That doesn't mean that it's not extra exciting to win. It's just that - like my argument for beauty - there's more to the game than whether you win or lose. Sometimes winning or losing isn't even the most important thing (depending on your perspective). That not everybody can win doesn't mean that nobody should win - so long as everybody who wants to, has a chance to play.
Nudism as I know it is about being nude, not seeing nude. So basically, what I'm proposing here is a fundamental overhaul of the lifestyle. Which is to say that it's pretty much doomed from the start. I don't really want to destroy modern nudism, and turn it into a looking gallery. I just think I would enjoy it a whole lot more if we re-integrated some of that visual culture. That's the lifestyle I want to be a part of. And the single most radical thing that could be done to shake things up is re-introduce cameras into the nudist environment. People would certainly start thinking more about how they look then.
I know, I'm a maverick. Would that really be so terrible, though? America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Is there a point at which tolerance enables self-destructive behavior? I feel like we live under a very black-or-white mindset. You're either anorexic or overweight. Can there be no middle ground? Can we not acknowledge that looking after your body is generally a good thing? That fitness is healthy and beauty is desirable, without making people feel like killing themselves because they're not perfect? I call myself a radical, but this sure sounds like a moderate stance to me...