Monday, July 26, 2004

Ghetto or Free City? A Manifesto for a Naturist Century (2)

The International Naturist Federation’s World Congress in Rovinj on Croatia’s Mediterranean coast is only a month away now, and my excitement is mounting. Not just because it’s been a long while since I last enjoyed naturism in a comfortable and completely free environment, but also because I’m looking forward to take part in the meeting of what is naturism’s prime organization. It’s the difference between reading a newspaper report about say, a movie premiere or a peace conference, and actually being there and hearing everything firsthand.
In a previous posting, long before naturism suddenly received a spate of attention in Taiwan’s media, and before work and domestic affairs took away the time I had allotted to post more news on my blog, I had already posted a piece about what I thought was the need to draw up a Naturist Manifesto for the 21st Century. Such a document would have a double purpose: raise the profile of international organized naturism in the world, and clearly state the short-term and long-term aims of the movement.
Like any organization, once its aims are realized, its existence will be threatened. If say, a political party bases its sole reason of existence on the fight for independence of the region where it is based, then the party will disappear once independence has been achieved. In the same vein, if being naked while swimming, sunbathing, playing sports, walking, shopping, is normal and acceptable to everyone, then naturism will be the normal rather than the unusual, the mainstream rather than a minority. A naturist organization would be superfluous, unnecessary. But such a completely natural and naturist society is the long-term aim, the question is what to do about the short term.
One of the questions at hand is how do you expand support for naturism? Do you win more supporters by gentle persuasion, by spreading the word through showing non-naturists what the naturist lifestyle is about, through magazines and publications, through open door days at naturist resorts, through highlighting the existence of free, clothes-optional beaches where nudity is acceptable? Or do you force recognition by staging potentially illegal nude protests, nude bicycle rides, nude walks and rollerskating events? The first kind of “gentle” action might not result in immediate mass attention, the second, more radical kind, will receive massive press coverage, but there is also the danger of a backlash, of the media and non-naturists seeing naturists as extremists, as bizarre and intolerant people.
Then there’s also the question, close to my own concerns, of how to push naturism in a country where social nudity is completely strange and illegal. Asia, which its rapidly rising wealth and acceptance of Western living standards and lifestyles, already has masses of naturists. The problem is, Asian naturists have no way of living the naturist life. They are locked up in illegality, locked up at home, or practicing their naturism in remote areas, always uncertain of discovery. My duty, as the Taiwan correspondent for the International Naturist Federation, is to change all that. But how do I go about it?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Taiwan Evening Newspaper Shines Spotlight on Growing Naturist Community

When I started this blog about naturism in Asia, I never thought I would be able to add a new posting nearly every other day. But right now, I’m on a roll: reports in the Taiwan media about naturist cruises, Taiwanese entertainers expressing enthusiasm about nude swimming and sunbathing, Time magazine talking about naturism around the world, and now, today, Taiwan’s China Times Express – one of the island’s two evening newspapers – publishing a special report about domestic naturism.
As I’ve written here many times before, naturism is not legal in Taiwan, and the island doesn’t have any official naturist clubs, resorts or beaches. But where there are no official naturist areas, naturists have to create them themselves. And that is what the newspaper reports about.
Taiwan’s naturists are taking to mountainous areas or remote beaches, and undressing there, hiking naked or holding barbecues out in the middle of nature. The article notes that it is Taiwan’s highly-educated middle classes who are responsible for the growing popularity of naturism. Even better, the reporter also writes that women form a rising proportion of Taiwanese naturists. The report, divided into three pieces, mentions places on the island where naturists often gather, and interviews participants, letting them say how natural hiking naked feels.
Coming on the heels of all the recent news reports I mentioned above, I can’t help but feel that naturism is taking a decisive step forward in Taiwan.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Time for Naturism!

Yesterday I took my regular trip into a book store in Taipei to browse through the latest editions of the international news magazines. And what did I find, to my greatest surprise, but a fullpage article about naturism in the new Time Magazine! I was immediately euphoric, because when one of the world’s largest mainstream publications turns its attention to a phenomenon, you know it’s big.
The article, titled “Clothing Optional,” comes under the “Global Traveler” headline. So you know it concentrates not on the philosophy or the lifestyle, but on naturism as a type of vacationing. The report mentions all the things we’ve already heard about – and I’ve sometimes written about in this blog – the naturist flights to Mexico, the nude cruises from Barcelona, the new naturist beach in Rio de Janeiro, the large amounts of people willing to experience naturism across the world. And it also mentions the web site you find in the top righthand corner of this blog, the web site of the organization I represent in Taiwan and which is holding its world congress in Croatia at the end of next month, the International Naturist Federation.
One of the reasons I was also excited to see this article in Time, is the fact that in a Chinese-language country like Taiwan, Time articles often get – legally – reprinted as teaching materials. There is a bilingual Chinese-English edition of Time available on newsstands here, and it reprints articles from the main Time of a couple of weeks earlier. Also, local newspapers will sometimes translate articles from international magazines. So my hope is that this simple one-page report about naturist holidays in Time will have influence far beyond its original location, and create understanding for naturism across a wide swath of Asia. It almost seems like naturism is on a roll right now, if you consider the recent spate of Taiwanese entertainers speaking about nude sunbathing and swimming, and the reports in the media about naturist events. And you have to admit, the latest Time article gives a positive spin on naturism.
For those of you living in Asia, and I believe Time includes Australia and New Zealand in that area, the article is in the July 12 edition, the one with Saturn on the cover. The report is also on the Time Asia web site, though not on its United States main web site, though you can access it through there. Go to “Time Asia” right at the bottom of the main Time web page, then double click and then search for “Clothing Optional.” Share my enthusiasm!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A Taiwan Entertainer's Naturist Dream (2)

I bought GQ Taiwan and I read the interview with Lin Xilei, the prominent Taiwanese actress who said she would like to go naturist. She says she doesn’t like shopping or spending lots of money, all she likes is swimming. And if she doesn’t feel good, if she’s upset at something, then she feels what makes it right is a spot of nude swimming.
What she likes the most, is floating around in the water naked, “it’s like returning to my mother’s womb, it gives me a feeling of security,” Lin tells GQ Taiwan. And then comes the phrase: “I would like to regularly participate in naturist resorts, with people who don’t know me at all, spend days lying on the beach like a seal.” The way things are in Taiwan now, she will have to leave the country for two reasons: first, there is hardly anybody who doesn’t know her, and secondly, there are no naturist resorts in the first place. So Lin Xilei will have to travel to Europe, Australia or the United States first, but if she can become an unofficial spokeswoman for the naturist movement and convince readers in Taiwan that naturism is an innocent and healthy pursuit, wouldn’t that be a wonderful step in the right direction!