Editorial: On hiding hides

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Is your body decent? Ideally, a human body is a vessel for life, but mainstream ideals of attractiveness and cultural decency put many further judgments and restrictions on our bodies. Many of us let these things hold us back. We hide from each other, cover our skin and may even impose that same modesty on others. If we weren’t ashamed of our bodies, we could lounge on the beach, stop sweating through summer, forget our swimsuits and still enjoy an impromtu hottub party.

But would coming together in mutual nudity really solve our body issues? Being naked with others still spawns feelings of self-consciousness, regardless of how many others are doing it too. We would need a far more radical departure from ideas of beauty in order to achieve something so utopian. There are currently more than seven billion body types and with each one comes its own set of emotions and hang-ups. Society has made us all uneasy in different ways; regardless whether you feel proud without pants, some of us might feel a little more so if we keep ours on.

And our personal hangups can seed resentment. Some of us around the office have occasionally been guilty of passing someone on the street and muttering, “Put a shirt on,” out of earshot. This is typically directed at a muscular young man who brings out in us our distaste for perceived vanity or a twisted type of envy. It’s easy to imagine the same muttering sparked by public exposure of a socially unacceptable body type: some flab, wrinkles, a hairy back.

Or even breasts. The sexualization of bodies has contributed to laws forbidding women to go topless in public as recently as the year 2000 in B.C., and such laws still exist most other places. Bare breasts have been considered indecent so widely that social stigma interferes with the freedom of nursing mothers. Even though it is now legal for a woman to be topless in public in B.C., most don’t exercise this right, and neither do many men. Mainstream ideals of attractiveness may hold more sway over who’s nude, when and where than the law does.

But taking off our clothes is not always for obvious purposes (e.g., sitting on the beach, sex, exhibitionism, showing off an impressive six pack). Sometimes it goes a little deeper than that. Tasha Daimant has been taking her clothes off in front of audiences since 2006, but not because she feels good about doing it. In fact, Daimant says it makes her feel incredibly uncomfortable to present herself totally nude to a room full of people. She does it anyway, because she feels compelled to demonstrate and stand in solidarity with the vulnerability of the human race and the planet. Daimant believes that in order for us to choose love over power and ego, a priority that is essential to our survival, we have to acknowledge that we are a vulnerable species on a vulnerable planet. Daimant has chosen to do so by hosting The Human Body Project, in which she stands naked in front of an audience and a discussion ensues. The sessions are unscripted and different every time, but often audience members join Daimant in her vulnerability and stand with her, nude. The results are powerful: judgments fall away, tears are often shed and there is a sense of compassion and a camaraderie in the human experience.

Daimant also holds Vulnerability Vigils, wherein she stands naked in public holding a sign. In her sessions, Daimant demonstrates that being naked doesn’t have to be offensive or necessarily provocative; just a gentle reminder that we’re all in this together. So let your body be a vessel, not a prison. Ten years from now if you look back on photos of your beach bod and they’re awful, at least you didn’t let body shame keep you from making the most of your life.

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  • Guthrie Prentice

    Speaking as one who has had consistent trouble with relating to women and dating in this culture, I think a lot of the problems that come up in trying to relate to one another is the fact that we tell a whole bunch of “white lies” or culturally acceptable lies in order to fit in. This, in my opinion, goes right down to the basic of clothing. Two of the biggest factors in communication amongst the human culture are those of pheromones and body language. To hide what we truly are, even from ourselves, also creates a form of self-deception which can lead to deception in other areas. Personally, if it were doable, I would be walking naked except when it’s too cold, so that I can be honest with others around me, and I hope that others would be honest around me.