"...I will see in my lifetime when we will be able to walk down the
streets of some cities and see a mix of people of both genders, of
all races and religions, some wearing clothing and some not."
VESTURISM NO MORE
By Daniel D. Ziegler
LET ME ADD a new word to your vocabulary and to the dictionary--vesturism,
based on the word vestures, which means clothing or apparel. I define
vesturism as: prejudice based on whether or not one is wearing clothes.
We already have the word racism, which is prejudice and discrimination based
on race, and we have sexism which is prejudice and discrimination based on
sex or gender and even on gender identification, but until now we have not had
a word for prejudice and discrimination based on the wearing or not wearing of
clothing. Up until now this has not been a public issue and so we have not
needed a word for this but there is a growing movement now for clothes-free
recreation and clothes-free living and a word is needed to describe those
fighting against this movement.
This movement I am talking about is not just about nudists and naturists, either.
The nudists and naturists have their movements based on their organizations
and beliefs and are pretty much content to stay in their private parks or
otherwise designated areas. They seem to be operating alright and not really
bothering anybody. We seldom hear about them. So the need for this word
hasn’t arisen from their activities, although many of them are involved.
The need for this word is based on a movement made up of people who feel
they should have the right to be nude anywhere, anytime they please, even in
public places. They call themselves Body Freedom and their numbers are
growing. The participants in this movement feel they are being discriminated
against by laws that mandate that clothing be worn outside private nudist parks
or other legally designated areas. They feel that they should not be forced to
segregate as such, hence the word vesturism—prejudice based on their not
wearing clothes. (The word nudism, based on the word nude might be a better
word here but it is already taken with a different meaning.)
One might think that on the surface the idea of this word may seem a bit trite. I
mean, come on, this doesn’t carry the same weight as the words racism or
sexism do, behind which we understand their significance, does it? Vesturism,
come on, isn’t that carrying it a little too far?
I posit that it is NOT carrying it too far, and that we need to take a serious look
at the issue of prejudice and discrimination based on the wearing or not
wearing of clothing, because many of the same issues and reasons that made
racism and sexism morally wrong are equally at work here.
Before we compare these issues, however, let me first say that the argument
for clothes is often based on the highly questionable idea that people can be
offended, shocked, and even psychologically damaged by seeing naked
people. The concern is particularly intense with regard to children. The idea is
that we must protect children from seeing nude bodies at least until age 18
(somehow designated as the age when it will no longer harm them). The truth is
there is no proof that any damage actually occurs to adults OR children by
being expose to the nude body. The idea that nudity is harmful is not based on
research but rather on preconceived ideas and learned behavior that have no
logical or scientific basis. On the contrary, there is evidence, as the
psychologist Abraham Maslow presented in his work in the 60's, that seeing
and being in the presence of nude bodies promotes body-acceptance which
promotes self-esteem and good health.
Now, as a comparison, let’s take a look at our past history regarding racism.
Prior to the civil rights movement in the early sixties (and prior to the word
racism), many white people living in segregated areas of the south (but not
exclusively in the south) felt that association with African American people (then
called Negroes) was wrong and degrading, even harmful. Many whites certainly
would not live in the black neighborhoods nor risk having their children suffer
trauma by attending the same schools as black children. These were very
strong beliefs, and political leaders such as George Wallace, as well as even
some religious leaders, fought hard and were willing to put their lives on the line
for their beliefs.
But we know that these beliefs were based on nothing but learned behavior.
They ideas were simply passed down from one generation to the next and there
was no inherent substance to them, however, to those who fostered them, there
seemed to be. We now know they were largely based on ignorance and fear--
fear of each other and fear of the unknown. It is a human trait to fear the
unknown, and since we had not ever known a totally integrated society, we were
afraid of it. Today, we see the fallacy of these beliefs and all you have to do is
look around in our schools to see how children of all races get along. While we
still have room for improvement, things have changed. We live in a different
world and are no longer afraid, and even many of the George Wallaces
acknowledged that they were wrong.
A similar comparison can be used with the women suffrage and feminists
movements. Today we know that many of the ideas and beliefs used to keep
women down in the past no longer hold water. They were simply learned from
those who came before us.
And, more recently, we are seeing an increase in acceptance regarding
genders and surveys taken recently (June 2013) show LGBT discrimination
among the general public decreasing at an amazing rate.
Many of our beliefs that are passed down to us from prior generations have
strong roots but that does not mean they are morally right or valid. To evolve as
a species and to create a peaceful world we must be willing to look at our
beliefs and continue to test them to find out which are false and holding us
back, and then let those go.
We acknowledge intellectually that the human body is a marvelous creation,
and yet we as a society still believe that if certain parts of it are exposed in
public, it would destroy society. This is one of these beliefs that seems inherent
in us but simply has been passed down to us and is now so firmly ingrained in
our thinking that people actually feel they have been violated and traumatized if
they see another human being nude. Well, there are probably many people still
around who believed that society would tumble if our schools and the rest of
society were integrated, too, and may still even believe that their children were
irreparably harmed by attending school with children of other colors, but we
know that did not happen. In fact, most would agree that we have a better
In the same vain, there are many of us who belief public nudity would not cause
our society to crumble, either. On the contrary, we believe, based on our
experience and understanding of the human spirit, that simply being able to be
ourselves and not hide behind clothing will lead to a higher levels of self-esteem
and self-acceptance and therefore to happier, healthier and more tolerant
human beings AND a better society.
So, let’s take a serious look at vesturism, and be honest with ourselves. Are we
being vesturists, that is, are we irrationally discriminating against those who feel
free enough to be themselves, and not wear clothing? Or are we simply
reacting irrationally out of fear of the unknown again?
Just like with the women suffrage, racial equality and feminist and movements,
it will require a lot of brave people doing a lot of work before changes are made
and we as a society overcome vesturism. But the work is already ongoing and
slowly things are changing again. I believe I will see in my lifetime when we will
be able to walk down the streets of some cities and see a mix of people of both
genders, of all races and religions, some wearing clothing and some not. We
will look at each other no longer afraid and realize that, as with racism and
sexism, our previous fears were unfounded. And we will look back and know
that we have really progressed in making a better world by freeing ourselves
from another irrational and harmful prejudice, from vesturism—a word that will
no have meaning in our society. * * *
Copyright 2013 Daniel D. Ziegler
LESS-ONS FOR TRUTH
Reclaiming Acceptance of our Original State