Thoughts from the NAC Chair: Time to Grow Up, Michigan, and Open a Nude Beach
In 2014, I was invited by Richard and Shirley Mason, founders of South Florida Free Beaches, to visit Haulover Beach, the nude beach they created and persuaded the Miami-Dade County parks department to legalize in 1991.
Just a third of a mile long, Haulover is bounded by “textile” beach (the word nudists use for those wearing clothes) on both sides and is separated by a waist high snow fence at each end. Located in North Miami and rarely controversial now, the beach was a leap of faith for all concerned back in 1991. Today, Haulover Beach is known the world over as the most successful, safest and enjoyable nude beach in the US. To give you an idea, go to my Facebook page (Bill Schroer) and you will see a photo of the two sides of the beach (nude and “textile”). The difference is astonishing. Looking at the entire span of beach from a three story lifeguard tower (where I was given permission to photograph as one of Richard and Shirley’s Beach ambassadors) there is almost no one on the textile side of the beach. Those few textiles looked quite alone. The nude side was solid people.
As a first time visitor to Haulover Beach, I was struck by the astounding normalcy of it all. There was nothing special… nothing out of the ordinary. People were doing exactly what people do on a beach… play frisbee, lay in the sun, read under a beach umbrella, play with the kids, etc. They just didn’t have clothes on. No one was gawking or acting stupidly. People were on the beach enjoying the day. And the stark contrast with the emptiness of the textile beach told me that is an option many people prefer.
The statistics are even more dramatic. Looking at visitor counts and parking revenues the third of a mile nude beach at Haulover generates over 1.4 million visitors per year. Over $30 million in tax revenue and $1.2 million in parking revenue alone is generated. The nude beach at Haulover is like a Division 1 college football team whose revenues support other city parks and beaches. When Richard and Shirley have a beach ambassador training, the Miami-Dade Parks are present, the police send a senior sergeant, the rescue/lifeguard service sends a representative as all are working to make this, the nude beach, safe and enjoyable.
The Beach Ambassadors patrol the beach to ensure there is no inappropriate behavior and, because a plurality of visitors to the beach are first time visitors, the ambassadors share nude beach etiquette. No gawking, being stupid or inappropriate behavior is tolerated. One reason Haulover is so popular is because with the 8,000 visitors on a normal weekend day, the beach is safer and the visitors better behaved than occurs on most textile beaches anytime. Richard and Shirley have emphasized with the privilege to be nude comes the responsibility to behave.
Given the clear preference of visitors to Haulover Beach to pick the nude side, the tremendous economic impact of the nude beach and the thoughtful decision of Miami-Dade county to offer beach users a choice, what is the lesson for Michigan? With over 3,126 miles of shoreline (not as much as Florida… but not bad!) is there not room for a one-third or half mile section of nude beach somewhere in this state? Florida has five nude beaches totaling multiple miles of waterfront, and two more are being proposed (Jacksonville and Ft. Pierce). For those who don’t want to see “ugly, naked people” or have other similarly narrow views… you don’t have to go. Because some people don’t want to use a nude beach doesn’t mean it isn’t a legitimate option for others.
Non-sexual, family-friendly nude use of public lands is an option that is as legitimate as the government set aside land for snowmobile, cross-country skiing or horseback riding trails or public boat launches. While most of us don’t care about using those amenities, we don’t protest against them. A nude beach in the beach friendly state of Michigan is long overdue.
Thoughts from the NAC Chair: Kraft Foods Learns What Nudists Already Know: Nude (or Nood) is a Third Rail Word
The ad agency for Kraft Foods, makers of the iconic “Mac and Cheese” recently decided to promote the brand in honor of National Noodle Day (Oct. 6) (Did you know National Noodle Day even existed?) The campaign promoted primarily virtually was entitled #SendNoods, urging customers to bestow boxes of their Kraft powdered mac and cheese to loved ones who might benefit from comfort food during the pandemic.
Video and print ads featured Vanessa Bayer (of Saturday Night Live fame) who offered: “In these strange times, people are in need of extra comfort. That’s why it’s always a nice gesture to send noods, so they know you’re thinking of them,” Bayer also repeatedly emphasized she was talking about “noods”, not “nudes”. Unfortunately for Bayer, Kraft and “Mischief” (the ad agency), viewers were not amused:
“I do not want my boys growing up and seeing a commercial where they joke about the exploitation of children!” commented one. Others talked about the sexploitation of children. One parent blamed Kraft for a marketing tactic that “grooms children into believing it’s OK and even FUNNY to ‘send noods,’ ” they claimed.
Somehow, even though children were never featured in the commercial and Bayer emphasized it was “…noods, not nudes”, the Kraft Food Company just got a lesson in the paranoia around the concept of nudity that infects this country. It gets worse.
The post was quickly overtaken by conspiracists who stoked fears of widespread, high-profile child trafficking — one of the prevailing theories of QAnon supporters — and implicated Kraft as a complicit player in the alleged criminal scheme, adding the telltale hashtag #SaveTheChildren to their comments.
Hashtags such as #BoycottKraft and #CancelKraft began to appear. In response Kraft removed all traces of the latest campaign throughout social media after their attempt at a tongue-in-cheek viral moment prompted the above backlash. Had a nudist been on the Kraft ad team, he/she might have warned “There are lots of things you can joke about…but Americans do not find nudity funny or “tongue-in-cheek”. It is a regrettable fact of life Americans, by and large, are so uptight about the concept of nudity that they cannot envision it to be fun, liberating or a positive and healthy philosophy of living, let alone an acceptable topic for humor. It is the reason why the Naturist Action Committee and especially, the Naturist Education Foundation exist… to imbue Americans with a sense of perspective and appreciation for the positive aspects of non-sexual nudity and nudism as a positive life force… or at least something people can have a tongue-in-cheek moment about without going ballistic.
Thoughts from the NAC Chair: Social Nudism in Michigan – The Defining Case
Social Nudism in Michigan-The Defining Case
Hildabridle vs. State of Michigan
Many states in the US have laws against “indecent exposure” which in Michigan is defined as “…any open, indecent exposure of his or her person or the person of another.” Hardly definitive…and, in fact, this vague and non-specific prohibition provided an open door opportunity for any zealous or self-righteous police officer or other authority to harass, arrest or threaten citizens who were sunbathing nude or recreating at a nudist resort. Yes, in the 1950s nudist resorts were not immune from raids by police of the sort made on illegal gambling dens, drug distributors or human traffickers.
In 1956 just this sort of zealous Battle Creek City police detective, aware of the existence of Sunshine Gardens Nudist Resort in nearby Bedford Township (about 3 miles from where the author lives) decided to pay a visit to the resort.
This detective who asked a State police officer to accompany him on the pretext of some “business” visited the resort, observed nudists on the premises, then returned the next day with warrants and arrested three men (Earl Hildabridle and two others) and one woman on a charge of “indecent exposure”. The four nudists were convicted and appealed their conviction. The case wound up in the Michigan Supreme Court.
The court found two issues…the first was the legality of the search and the second, nudity as indecent exposure.
The Legality of the Search
On this issue the Court was less than amused:
“The fact is the record…is barren of any testimony these two officers went to the camp on June 15 for any other purpose than as an initial step in a plan to conduct a mass raid on the place.” And, further….the Chief Justice was outraged…
“Yet to say this search was illegal is an understatement. What was indecent…indeed the one big indecency we find in this whole case : descending on these unsuspecting souls like storm troopers; herding them before clicking cameras like plucked chickens, hauling them away in police cars and questioning them for upwards of 5 ½ hours and taking still more pictures; and then, final irony swearing out warrants that one of their own number was the aggrieved victim of an indecent exposure. If this search was legal than any deputized window-peeper with a ladder can spy on any married couple and forthwith photograph and arrest them for exposing themselves to him.”
The court went on to categorize further the violations to the 4 Amendment and other violations of civil rights in this case….which are entertaining and wonderful in their own right. However, the issue of nudity as “indecent exposure” is the primary purpose of this article and we’ll leave this part of the case with a clear understanding the search was tainted and inadmissable.
The Violation of the Statute (Prohibition against Indecent Exposure)
As the justices considered the case, the situation portrayed did not impress Justice Voelker…
“…when the police arrived the defendants were sitting or standing in various leisurely attitudes alone or in family and other groups at or near a depressed pool or pond; there was not the slightest evidence by word or gesture of any act or sign of obscenity, lewdness, indecency or immorality. Except for the fact they were entirely unclothed they might have been any group of people enjoying a rural weekend outing.” The court went on to consider the history of Sunshine Gardens:
“While this nudist camp had operated for 14 years none of the testifying officers had ever received or heard of a complaint against the place. The closest…was the testimony of a State trooper whom heard from a few disgruntled motorists he had ticketed and had “twitted” him about the place. So the presumably outraged community boils down to a knot of determined police officers who…after 14 years finally made up their minds to set a trap and tip over the place. And tip it they did.”
Justice Voelker went on to spend time on the heart of the matter….the issue of whether simple nudism is a violation of the statute prohibiting “indecent exposure”. It is worth the ink here in the author’s view…and your attention to note a good portion of Justice Voelker’s thoughts…his argument is clear and compelling. And the author wanted you to see for yourself why this judge ruefully admitted he might be considered the “patron saint” of social nudism:
“Lest I henceforth be heralded as the patron saint of nudism (which I probably will be anyway), I hasten to preface what follows by stating that I am not a disciple of the cult of nudism. Its presumed enchantments totally elude me. The prospect of displaying my unveiled person before others, or beholding others thus displayed, revolts and horrifies me. I think these people have carried an arguably valid basic idea ( the deliberate de emphasis of the prevailing Sestern body taboo, with the anticipated lessening and ultimate disappearance of the undoubted eroticism frequently attendant upon such taboo–that is the very opposite of indecency) to excessive lengths.
Having said all that I have at once veered to the heart of the case. It is this: Whatever I or my associates (or the circuit judgment of the police or prosecutor, for that matter) may personally think of the practice has nothing to do with the case. More controlling is the fact that there are a number of earnest people in the world (including these defendants) who do subscribe to organized nudism and who think it is morally, mentally and physically healthful. But we need not speculate on or defend or attack the philosophy of nudism. The question before us is much simpler. Were these defendants guilty of making an indecent exposure? I say no.”
“It is said there are hardy bands of sincere and earnest folk among us who likewise insist that all mental, moral and physical health depends on the regular consumption of vast quantities of bran. Others possess a similar passion for goat’s milk. Few molest them or even bother their heads about them unless they try too strenuously to impose or inflict their queer beliefs upon those who happen to loathe these items.”
“Thus, on the facts before us, do I equate the criminality of private social nudism – at least so far as this statute is concerned? Private fanaticism or even bad taste is not yet a ground for police interference. If eccentricity were a crime, then all of us were felons.”
Nudity and Indecent Exposure
Judge Voelker goes on to discuss the whole question of the statute and the logic used to reach a conclusion of guilt. He notes that in a prior “Ring Case” “…my Brother (referring to another Justice on the court)has “leapt to the erroneous conclusion that nudity is synonymous with indecency. Both cases proceed on the basic assumption that nudity in itself is obscene or indecent….If this assumption were valid few artists could work from live models….and that stalwart badge of middle-class respectability National Geographic magazine would be banished from the hearth to the censor’s shears.”
Where from here?
Judge Voelker goes on to describe his test for indecency (which the author will discuss in a follow on article). However in the meantime he is clear on whose responsibility it is to further address the issue of private nudism.
“If private nudism is to be banished in this state as contrary to the public morality we think this attempt must be made by the legislature and not by the police or this Court, and certainly not be stretching out of shape the law of search and seizure and the proper meaning of this statute.”
As a final note, prosecutors had leaned on the “Ring Case” (which was a somewhat similar case and for which the court decided in favor of the prosecution) to attempt to convict Hildabridle. Judge Voelker wasn’t having it and effectively said that not only should Hildabridle et al go free….the Ring decision was a mistake.
“An aroused Judge has instead used this Court as a platform to tell the world what he thinks about such queer newfangled shenanigans as nudism. Now moral indignation is all very well, and many of us might do with more of it, but to indulge in it at the expense of basic constitutional rights and individual liberties can be an expensive and dangerous luxury. Moral indignation is a poor substitute for due process.”
The 1956 Hildabridle decision has had a marked influence on the state of nudist resorts in Michigan with several (unfortunately Sunshine Gardens is not among them) now doing well and most respected as visible legitimate business ventures, including the largest nudist resort in the Midwest, Turtle Lake Resort.
While Judge Voelker may not be a patron saint of nudism he has done one of the finest jobs (in this author’s opinion) of stating the nudist case. He has articulated well (especially for a non-nudist) why nudism in and of itself is not indecent at all. And while he and others may not take to it, it is part of our constitutional guarantee to not be prosecuted simply because what we believe is not popular. Judge Voelker even attempted to help the legislation with a test for indecent exposure. That will be offered at another time…..
Thoughts from the NAC Chair: ArtPrize Entry Offers Snapshot of Our Culture
Part of NAC’s mission is to make naturism a mainstream part of society. To accomplish our mission, Bill Schroer, the NAC chair, is writing a monthly column on issues central to the acceptance (or not) of naturism in our society. In this piece, originally published in 2013, Bill reflects on one of the entries in ArtPrize, an international art competition held every two years in Grand Rapids. It has become a mainstay in the art world due to its $250,000 first prize. It is a fabulous event with artwork distributed throughout the downtown in stores, businesses, restaurants, in empty storefronts and on the street (usually sculptures).
Of the 1,524 pieces of art being placed on display for the upcoming ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, four are getting all the comments (and press) already.
One of the pieces had to be moved to avoid causing traffic accidents. Astute readers may either guess or have read about the four lifelike nude sculptures situated in front of DeVos Hall.
What is adding to the interest (for me) and the indignation of some more upright citizens is the nudes are life-like in two ways: first they are anatomically correct with penises and vaginas, and secondly, they reflect the body shapes of average people… with the flaws, pear shaped bodies, and a lack of model attractiveness.
Reading the comments made to the media, it’s difficult to tell which causes more outrage – the nudity or the fact the sculptures reflect average humans with the level of attractiveness most of us possess.
“You know this is really one ugly… entry,” and, “The nudity doesn’t bother me a bit, but that is one ugly sculpture.”
Then there was the anticipated outrage over the nudity
“Oh the insanity! Won’t somebody think of the children?”
Some viewers though, absolutely were thinking of the children. “My son… and my girl… (6 and 2) wouldn’t think twice about these sculptures, except maybe they would be jealous that they (the sculptures) get to hang out in public without clothes on.”
This mom went on to point out, “If you teach your kids that bodies are natural you won’t have to shield them from harmless things like this.” Is she from Europe or what?
Of course, Europe has nude sculptures everywhere and Americans just have to deal with it when they’re over there. But to bring nude sculpture to Grand Rapids? Is this art or cheap sensationalist exploitation? I’m not qualified to answer that… but I will say I believe this is art and the reaction to it is a snapshot of American culture… which is often what art is about.
As a naturist, when I talk about social nudism, I’m sometimes confronted by people who either believe non-sexual public nudity is immoral or, more often, “I would never let anyone see me nude (outside of my spouse).”
“My body is terrible.”
“No it isn’t…”
But, far too many of us haven’t been able to accept our own bodies… let alone others. So when we see a nude sculpture, we get uncomfortable, and when we see one that reminds us of us… it’s even worse.
It is the lack of acceptance of our own bodies, not the nudity that is affecting an entire generation (or the greater number thereof) of those children that one viewer was so distressed about.
I gave a talk to the Optimists Club in Battle Creek recently about naturism and mentioned in the 1950s, segregated classes of boys (and I presume girls?) swam nude at Battle Creek Central and other school swimming pools. It was no big deal. Several of the older members of the audience perked right up when I mentioned this… and confirmed my report. They recalled swimming nude back then and smiled at the memories.
Contrast that with today’s inability of schools to get students taking P.E. to take a shower afterward. The problem is so bad there are products on the market students use to camouflage the smell of body odor that comes from working out. They will buy and use those products rather than take their clothes off and take a shower. Want to talk about insanity?
The sculptures at ArtPrize may shock or make some nervous… but they may just encourage some people (teens and up) to confront their bodies with a little more tolerance and acceptance. But don’t worry about the 2 and 6 year olds… they’re just fine with their bodies and being nude. Seeing this exhibit, they may well be jealous that those sculptures get to hang out in front of DeVos Hall without clothes on.
May they hold that comfort level with their bodies as they grow. There may be hope for body acceptance in the future if we have enough exhibits like this. In the meantime, take your kids to ArtPrize and be open to the art.