Carola Long: Could we please keep our clothes on?

I'm baffled as to why anyone would think stripping off was empowering

Share
Related Topics

I know what I'm supposed to think about Spencer Tunick's latest installation; a gathering of 5,200 naked people on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. I'm meant to marvel that it's a moving demonstration of raw humanity, men and women stripped of artifice and illusion, vulnerable and equal. Unfortunately, what I really think – and my straw poll suggests I'm not entirely alone – is eugh, put your clothes back on.

The reason for the installation is undoubtedly a laudable one – it's to support the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and as Tunick said, "gay men and women lay naked next to their straight neighbours and this delivered a very strong message to the world that Australians embrace a free and equal society." Really, though, is the sight of thousands of naked bodies, which look from a distance like the little pink worms used as fishing bait, the best way to make a political and artistic statement? Surely mass nudity is just a cheap – and slightly revolting – way to attract attention.

Not everyone thinks so, clearly, as there are always volunteers for Tunick's nudie happenings and public nakedness seems to be having a resurgence. There are plenty of women prepared to collude with the stylist Gok Wan's bizarre penchant for encouraging them to strip down to their underwear on TV. It's utterly baffling why anyone would fall for his shtick that casting off your clothes in front of a shopping centre full of sheepish people who would probably cheer on a public execution for some free Next vouchers, is empowering. Then there are groups such as Breasts Not Bombs, who see nudity as a political tool, the men and women who rowed across the Atlantic naked for charity, and last year's calendar featuring Oxford University students in the buff. It might once have been a feminist statement; now it's just a gimmick.

Perhaps comments by one man who took part in Tunick's event shed some light on the motivation. He said that when everyone is naked, "you feel like you're dressed because everybody looks the same". Apart from the fact that a quick glance at the naked hordes shows that humans actually come in more shapes and sizes than the contents of an organic vegetable box, since when was looking the same a good thing?

One of the pleasures of clothes – apart from the obvious practicalities – is the opportunity they create to differentiate yourself. Public nudity is also billed as liberation, a chance to reveal the true self, but that really lies in a person's character, not the shape of their breasts. Actually, there is more freedom in wearing clothes because you can choose them, whereas you are more or less stuck in the body you are born with. Interesting clothes enable you to express who you really are or want to be, and rise above the genetic lottery.

It's not even body fascism that puts me off gratuitous nudity – the sight of a perfectly formed Kate Moss striking gynaecological poses in the current LOVE magazine was almost as off-putting. My objection is the fact that simply taking your clothes off is still construed as a political statement, when actually we've seen it all before. While it's sometimes big, so to speak, it's certainly not clever.

c.long@indpendent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

My Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent
African elephants in Botswana photographed by television presenter Chris Packham  

We've made incredible progress, but there's still more to do to make sure we save the elephant

Hugo Campbell
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'