Nudity For Protests: Kicker Or Overkill?

Posted on December 19, 2013 in Society

By Ashwini Rajpoot:

Nudity is a very sensitive topic for a society that is still grappling with a desire to freedom of one’s own body and the taboo associated with it. Hence, I would like to begin by specifying that this article neither explicitly nor implicitly entails a wish to pass a judgement against nudity as a personal choice. One’s choice of clothes or an entire lack of it thereof is a matter of personal desire and consequently worthy of respect. But what it does wish to examine is the use of nudity as a weapon for social change and as a language to make a political statement. Public nudity when used in the above mentioned circumstance ceases to be a personal matter and becomes a subject of enlightened scrutiny in relation to the justification of its deployment.


One of the major organisations that use nudity as a means to hammer their cause home is People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). What seeks to be analysed is that whether this weapon draws attention to the cause or draws away from the real cause itself and leaves the act as something sordid or entertaining. On their website PETA explains their naked campaigns as being a source of ‘free advertising through media coverage’, they also make use of celebrities for the same as ‘celebrity participation helps us reach more people.’ In a society comfortable with public nudity the cause would have still dissociated itself from the approach, but the current ideological fashioning of the society does not allow it to go beyond the scandal of seeing a naked individual. The ‘hot celebrity strips down’ part of the news becomes more important than ‘for PETA’. This, in turn, makes nudity bigger than the cause it was supposed to promote. This argument stands true for nude campaigns against wars as well as campaigns involving environmental concerns like the World Naked Bike Ride.

The only nude campaigns that serve their purpose of satisfying the cause are the ones that aim to promote the cause of public nudity. For example, the very recent ‘free the nipple campaign’ that opposes the ‘American media’s glorification of violence and repression of nudity.’ Hence, nudity as a weapon of social change at least in the current ideological scenario can be a kicker only if it seeks to promote the cause of freedom of nudity in itself. In other forms of mass protests, it only ends up becoming bigger than the cause destroying the very aim with which it was deployed.