Note: images at the end of this post may be inappropriate for some work environments.
My senior year in high school, I was given two weeks of detention after playing a song I wrote on the morning radio show. I cued up “Get Naked,” and then I bolted. I spent the rest of the morning getting screamed into a corner by my advisor:
“For the rest of your life, you will be nothing. You are nothing. No matter what you do from here, this is the best you will ever be.”
I didn’t even GET naked, I just used the word because I knew its power in my hometown of Churchville, New York. It was like my own Footloose moment – I was going out with a bang.
Public disrobing is an effective method of nonviolent protest because it gets people’s attention – but it’s only effective if the wobbly bits draw attention to the intended cause. A recent example of this was on Tuesday night, when Stormy Daniels folded her laundry and listened to Taylor Swift in her underwear live on Instagram for 8 minutes. Exactly 8 minutes – the time it took Trump to “formally” advocate for building a 5.7 billion dollar border wall.
The Russian punk art collective Pussy Riot and activists from the Ukranian group Femen (video above) have been leading the charge against Putin’s repressive state since 2008. Femen regularly stages topless protests against sex tourism, homophobia, religious institutions, and underage marriages. In 2012, they protested against voter fraud in the 2012 Russian elections. (ARE YOU READING THIS?) In 2013, members of Femen disrupted the visit of Russian President Putin and Chancellor Merkel at a tech show shouting obscenities, with anti-Putin slogans written on their bodies.
In 2012, two members of Pussy Riot were arrested for singing the punk protest song Putin’s Prayer in Moscow’s main cathedral. They spent two years in a Russian prison for “hooliganism,” something member Nadya Tolokonnikova described was a time of “endless humiliations.”
After their release, the activists pledged to devote their energies to changing the political system in Russia and improving conditions inside its prisons – but they haven’t stopped protesting. In 2018, members of Pussy Riot crashed the World Cup and were arrested for 15 days.
Public disrobing is not new: in the 1800’s, pacifist Ukranian immigrants called the Doukhobors (“spirit wrestlers) staged naked protests when the Canadian government wouldn’t give them the land they were promised, and this continued into the 1970’s.
The annual Running of the Nudes in Pamplona, Spain, protests the cruelty of the centuries-old tradition of the running of the bulls. PETA’s “Lettuce Ladies” dress in lettuce bikinis and hand out flyers about veganism. Breasts Not Bombs, Naked for Peace, Bare Warning – all protests against war.
Women in Uganda have protested naked because their farming land is under threat of being acquired by the government as a game reserve. For the Acholi people of northern Uganda, a woman stripping in public is more powerful than fighting because it’s believed that these actions bring worst of curses on the woman’s enemy.
Today’s Action Item: #ballstothewall
Today is Day 22 of the government shutdown. Drop’em, guys. See what you can do about this shutdown. If it goes viral, please send cash.
“We believe that if women are left with little more than satisfying sexual desires as a life purpose, then our sexuality must become politicised. We are not denying our potential to be treated as sex objects. On the contrary, we are taking our sexuality into our own hands, turning it against our enemy. We are transforming female sexual subordination into aggression, and thereby starting the real war.” – Inna Shevchenko, Femen, for The Guardian