International Women's Day and Naturism

 

I have a love hate relationship with all of these special days in the calendar. Is it not rather patronising to have special times of the year devoted to specific parts of society? Does it not just increase segregation? Do they not just become a time of newspapers and the internet producing dramatic and troublemaking articles, designed to invoke fear, anger and prejudice against everyone who isn't part of that group. A brief skim through articles this morning and it would seem like we are living in the middle ages with women being abused and misused by every man in existence. Things are getting better not worse, they like to remind us. The same thing happens with race or sexual orientation, as well as issues of sexual and physical abuse against aspects of society. If things are getting worse it may partly be because the media enjoys whipping people up to a frenzy. The media seems obsessed with encouraging bitter anger over rape, child abuse or driving people to opt for positive discrimination rather than look for real equality. I was a victim of child abuse. It is a barbaric crime and something that damages you for life, this is no exaggeration. The hurt becomes built into your core as you develop. You can never remove it, no matter how you chose to survive and no matter what strength you find, you can never obliterate the pain, that is carried with you for the rest of your life. Unlike a prison sentence it never ends. Yet I still feel that the paranoia, mistrust and hatred that is growing in our society and adored by media and the internet is ill founded, damaging and will find no cures, but will encourage more pain. Learning to hate large sections of society because of the behaviour of a minority is not the answer. Surely as naturists we understand how easy it is for society to misjudge a whole set of people because of the bad behaviour of the few and a confusion created by opting for a slightly different lifestyle choice.

 

However, there are certain issues that need to be faced around the globe, inequalities still exist, and many cultures do treat women as (at best) second class citizens. These issues do need combatting and highlighting and days like today remind us that we cannot be complacent, just because “I'm all right Jackie!”

 

To celebrate this day I would like to explore Women and Naturism

 

As part of my own personal journey and some thoughts of the bigger picture.

 

How did I get into naturism?

 

I think most people get into naturism by one of three ways. Through connections with people who are naturists (this can include parents), through pure luck (stumbling across some naturists on a beach and thinking – why not?) and through research into things you wish to experience or learn from. Steve was very much the latter; looking for ways to confront his fears he realised naturism was part of that answer. Due to the nature of Women's Day I wish that had been me. However, for me it was via my connection with Steve. No matter how positive and empowering naturism has been it all started because my boyfriend suggested the idea.

 

Steve did give me some really valid reasons to try it, I certainly considered that it may help me with putting some of my own fears and pain to rest; and it was really up to me whether it actually did happen on the planned beach trip and whether we continued with naturism. However, basically someone I trusted suggested an experience and I sensibly listened and tried it. Maybe there is a valuable lesson to learn here. Trust and new experiences. Previously I had never been topless and the idea of being naked in front of anyone, no matter how well I knew them was not something I was happy with. By being willing to be open to new ideas and not just writing something off because you don't know about it, maybe don't understand it or maybe fearing or have suspicions about it can be very limiting. How many people write of naturism just through blind ignorance?

 

Why do I use the word Naturism over Nudism?

 

To me our lifestyle is very much naturism. That is the term I am happiest with, have been most aware of in my life, and it has less negative connections within the media. It is also the term recognised by most national organisations. To me it also clearly makes a link to nature. I am not so much nude when I am undressed but natural. As nature intended.

 

Labels of any sort can have good and bad connotations. We don't like to limit ourselves with labels but they do help to create short cuts to understand ourselves. I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a vegetarian, middle aged, English, naturist. Does that tell you everything about me? I could be a cook, a photographer, a writer. I could be happy or sad. A good mother or an unfaithful wife. There is so much more about us but the labels help and we choose different ones depending on the situation. If I am invited to dinner I will tell someone that I am a vegetarian, but won't share my naturism or religious beliefs unless the conversation at dinner leads to it.

 

I am happier with the term naturist but is there a difference? It really depends on individual definitions. As far as I am concerned there shouldn't be, naturism is to nudism as chips are to fries, as trousers are to pants. I would be much happier if “nudism” completely fall out of vogue so instead of confusing the world by having two terms we could work on the world properly appreciating the meaning of one.

 

I know some people see nudism as a little more “seedy” and others see it as being less philosophical. However, in my experience with the many people I have chatted with over the years there seems little difference in most peoples attitudes and they just use the word they are most familiar with. It is a pity that with everything else naturism has to deal with, it also has to deal with a confusion over labelling. Particularly ironic when really due to the very instinctive natural nature of naturism it should have no label at all, but instead be just a part of everyday life for all.

 

How does naturism impact my life on a day to day basis?

 

In the early years the frustration of not spending enough time without clothes led to naturism being something we yearned for. Working and living dressed for most of the time, but at least having a home to be naked in and day dreaming about escapes to the beach for much of the year. Eventually frustrated by that we bought a small house with a seven acre olive grove near Malaga, and due to the climate and our home we were able to be naked pretty much all year long, dressing for the school run or food shopping. During that time we also started writing blog posts and created ANW which took a couple of years to build. Since its launch in May 2020 our naturist life has not been just about trips to the beach and being naked at home but needing to balance this with naturist writing, naturist communication and running ANW.

 

Between the two of us we spend conservatively 100 hours (in reality often much more) every week on naturism, over and above attempting to have some naturist adventures. That is 365 days a year, on and off from dusk till dawn. It isn't a hobby, or even a passion, it is very much part of our lives. Naturism dictates to us. Since our return to England just over a year ago, we haven't really even managed to think, at least it is an excuse for a good holiday. Weather, Covid lockdown and financial constraints limited us to about 10 days of beach trips for the whole of 2021.

 

How can we encourage more women to try naturism?

 

I think the problem once again returns to labelling. Should we simply be encouraging women or should we be encouraging everyone? If Steve hadn't tried naturism then I would not have tried naturism. If we can create a stronger understanding of what naturism is, get the definition truly understood and get people appreciating it then the numbers will increase. Ironically, like clothing we need a label people understand. Your tag in your trousers may tell you the age, size, and gender the clothing is aimed at. Handling instructions - washing, drying and ironing. Details - what the item is made from, where and by whom. Naturism needs to be clearly labelled. Aimed at all ages, all genders, all sizes. Instructions – non-sexual, respectful, healthy and fun. Details – for everyone regardless of race or location. Naturism is a universal product. Once the label is better understood then we will find more of everyone gets involved. By overly specifying women we may actually be feeding some of the concerns that put women off in the first place. Questions like: Why is the lifestyle short of women? and Why are they so desperate to encourage women? May encourage answers to be found that cause more harm.

 

However, if we are looking at encouraging more women maybe even more segregating and labelling is needed. It seems that our culture relishes such things. Women as part of a couple, as part of a family, women as mothers, women in relationships with other women, single women, young women, old women, women who don't believe their bodies should be naked, women looking for body confidence, women dealing with abuse. It is very easy to concentrate our efforts in one area or two. But unless we recognise that, for example, many women have children and we don't commit to the importance of families then we are failing to encourage those women. Many women will not be able to take part in naturism unless they do so as a family.

 

Therefore, by actively encouraging women we may be going too far or not far enough. In December we wrote a reason to be a naturist for each day of the month counting down to 2022. 31 reasons that should encourage everyone to be a naturist. If we can get everyone to understand the positives of naturism then the men, the couples, the families and the women will all be part of that. The main obstacle, particularly for women is to understand that the lifestyle is not sexual and that they and everyone else should be treated with respect. Not an easy thing to accomplish when we look at social media. We have to desexualise the misunderstanding of naturism.

 

Women can help in this.

 

One thing Steve and I realised when entering into promoting naturism was that women will be the ones that get the brunt of the negative treatment, and that puts them off promoting themselves as naturists and possibly even being naturists. We decided that I should be the main face of our naturism on social media. So we could see just how bad it gets, but also say to other women, that it isn't enough reason to hide. This is the same on other media like TV and newspapers. It can be tougher for women, but by ignoring the negatives it helps promote naturism as something women are involved in. For good or bad it gets the publicity a little more noticed. We have noticed that a post on social media with Steve sitting on a rock will get less “likes” than a post with me sitting on a rock, even if neither image shows any parts of the body that are normally censored by some social media.

 

A lot of “female accounts” on social media are actually not owned by women at all, but men with stolen photographs. Some others are owned by women who are behaving actively sexual and getting attention from lots of men but doing great harm to the understanding of naturism. The more that real women get out there and promote real naturism in non-sexually aggressive ways then the more we can adjust the present unbalance and allow the true nature of naturism to be seen. One of the reasons we called our blog “A Naturist Family” was because, although our children do not feature prominently, we wanted to make a clear statement: Naturism is safe for all, appropriate for all and respectful for all.

 

All of us, men, women, couples, families can play our part to promote naturism appropriately, make firm declarations, do not pester and do not accept pestering. Block anyone not promoting naturism that is suitable for all and block everyone who uses stolen images no matter how many pretty women are on that person's activity. These images don't sell naturism to women, they don't sell naturism at all. They encourage naturism to be seen as soft beach porn and encourage women to worry that if they head to a beach they will end up on someone's activity feed.

 

You don't need to share images of yourself naked, (on some social media you cannot anyway) but the more we women (and all men) respectfully share naturism on line the more others will do the same and the more other women may start to recognise naturism as something they shouldn't write off. Share a profile as a couple or a family, make clear statements about what naturism is. If anyone is disrespectful, don't get upset just bock them and forget them. We have a pester free and respectful policy on ANW and it can be a safe place to fall back on when you need to be reminded that genuine naturists are out there. The community is very appropriate and although we cannot guarantee everyone's behaviour, we do guarantee that if we receive a complaint we will deal with it, as safety is of prime importance, not just for individuals and the community but also for a better understanding of naturism. “Protect Yourself, Protect ANW and Protect Naturism.”

 

Of course there is also much more that women can do to help. Be open and talk about your naturism to family, friends and work colleagues. Be naked around your home and garden and encourage your children to be comfortable with their own bodies. Offer to accompany interested individuals on their first naturist experience. Why not organise a little group of female friends to go on a naturist trip to a beach, for example? A fun and amazing way to help introduce naturism to some of the people you know. Within the safety of the group you will have a positive experience and those that are a little bit nervous will take their strength from those that are more confident and the day can hardly fail to be a bonding and learning experience for all.

 

Get involved and get active on ANW and elsewhere. Join events, send articles and images to naturist magazines, write posts for your national body, get your voice out their and make your naturism count. If you visit a beach and you don't see any other naturist women, don't let it concern you, others may be waiting to follow your lead. If you are alone find a spot by the beach regulars, they have a great interest in keeping locations safe and respectful. Join a local swimming group or landed club. Use safe ways of connecting to find other local women who may be more than happy to have a friend to visit locations and events with. Never forget that naturism is suitable and appropriate for everyone. Let naturism be a symbol of freedom, independence, equality and courage.

 

If women in countries with laws that protect them lead the way then we can help encourage change in other parts of the world where women remain in the shadows. We can help create a world where every woman has the right to stand naked in the sun and feel safe and respected. Each woman that gets involved is not only showing her own commitment and support to naturism but also taking part in a lifestyle that helps empower women, breaks media lead rules about the type of bodies that should be seen naked, desexualises nudity by helping to make it commonplace and ordinary and encourages other women to find the various positives that suitable experience with social nudity offers.

 

With appropriate behaviour comes body positivity and acceptance.

 

In recent years this has become a very trendy reason for naturism, particularly for women. It is certainly an important and relevant part of naturism. Traditionally it is women more than men that carry such concerns. Choosing unnecessary cosmetic surgery, suffering from eating disorders, self harming and self loathing are not purely a female issue, but are still very much things that many women face. The natural and respectful qualities of naturism seem ideally suited to combat these issues. Don't hate your body and hide your body, but learn to love your body, come to terms with your body and uncover your body. The brilliant thing is that naturism doesn't come with negative side effects. Some women looking for body confidence and acceptance may feel that sexual promiscuity or sexualised imagery or behaviour may have the desired results. The knock on effect on how that may make you feel long term could actually be a worse form of negativity, and ultimately panders to the over sexualisation of women which is why most people lack body confidence in the first place. And why we have things like “International Women's Day.”

 

Naturism allows you to accept your body, and not hide your body, without seemingly feeling like you are selling your body, to gain acceptance. It is unique in that it allows us all to remove the barriers of clothing without any guilt attachment. By also seeing others do the same it allows a true understanding of how very normal we all are in our own way. I believe that by learning to love our bodies we are also much more likely to start respecting them. Therefore, some of the reasons we first hid them start to also get dealt with. For example, by accepting that we shouldn't be ashamed of being overweight, and hiding our overweight bodies, we may well find that the reason we eat too much in the first place can also be confronted. When we are naturists we don't just bare our bodies, but we often bare our souls and the learning curve can be immense.

 

My advice to any woman considering naturism:

 

Primarily don't over think it. Just get out and do it. The first time I went to a naturist beach I didn't want to move when people came by. By being still I was like a statue in a park. No one minds them and they have no wobbly bits! But after a few minutes I relaxed and by the next time I went I was no longer aware of being naked.

 

We imagine that it is very alien. We are taught to not expose certain parts of our body and the idea of doing so seems perverse. But remember: before you were told this you didn't have such worries, and then you may understand that the idea of needing to hide our bodies is nonsense.

 

Most people who describe their first time naturist experiences share a similar sentence “after a few minutes it seemed so normal.” The reason is, as I mentioned above, it is totally natural and instinctive. No matter how many years we have been attempting to hide ourselves, as soon as we are naked our natural thought processes kick in and we are suddenly aware of our naked instinct. This is how we were born to be, this is our natural state. Like birds migrating or salmon fighting their way upriver, we naturally take to naturism. No matter how shocking, thrilling or exciting it may appear at first, once you have got into it, it feels like home.

 

The only other advice I would give is that if you are unlucky enough to have someone pester you don't let it put you off. Chose your locations wisely, and consider safety and company as you would anywhere. I have been to many naturists locations and spent many hundreds of hours naked and the statistics of bad behaviour is negligible. However, there are disrespectful people out there. You wouldn't allow an unpleasant experience to put you off shopping, or walking in parks, or going to a restaurant, so don't allow it to damage your view of naturism.

 

My passion for naturism:

 

Is mainly driven by the fact that I believe that a fearful and taboo attitude towards the human body has helped do huge amount of social damage. It feeds a need for porn, it aggravates abuse, it encourages body shaming, it exaggerates sexual stereotyping, it hinders children from sensible and suitable learning, it breeds guilt from healthy sexual desires and it discourages an open and honest attitude to our fellow humans. Clothes offer barriers, they become our armour behind which we hide and become subconsciously disconnected. Naturism offers an innocence in nudity for adults that sadly some, myself included, were not allowed as children. Naturism cannot single handedly put the world to right, but it can be a part of our growth and part of a better world.

 

My passion for naturism and want to create ANW is partly aimed at the fact that naturism remains misunderstood by many and abused by some. Steve and I want to be part of putting that right. Encouraging a growth of support for the lifestyle and discouraging its misuse. To offer a place for real naturists to connect globally away from that damage and to guide them to national bodies, clubs and the wealth of genuine opportunities out there all over the world.

 

My passion is also based on the love I have for my family. The men in my life who do not deserve to be ignored no matter what day of the year it is. Women and men are both stronger when they work together with equal trust and respect. Wanting to offer my sons a better, more secure and supported upbringing than I had. We are a better, closer unit from being naturists. I know my sons are strong and confident and have always been safe. They are open to us about all their concerns and they know we are a team and that their parents are devoted to them as well as each other. Maybe we could be just as good a family if naturism wasn't part of our lives but I wonder what aspects of our personalities we would have hidden if we had also hidden our bodies? What would we have lost along the way. We have taught our children not to hide, and sometimes hiding can be the most dangerous thing of all.

 

Sometimes we can hide so much we almost don't exist. If naturism can offer women around the world one great thing it has to be that it can teach them not to hide.

 

Thanks for reading, Anna