Category: Board Update

UPDATE: Naturist Activities Still Threatened in Wisconsin

Depending on where you read your news, you might be led to believe that the Wisconsin anti nudity fight is over, but the war is far from over with continuing attempts to criminalize public nudity throughout the state. 

Yes, of the four introduced anti nudity bills, the two Senate bills went through committees and public hearings before being passed by the Senate. Then sent to the Assembly, they were being reviewed by the Rules Committee when the Assembly adjourned at the closure of the legislative session. Running out of time, the bills were neither defeated nor enacted. (For an excellent recap of the Wisconsin situation, please see Planet Nude’s article: “Wisconsin’s legislative halt brings a tentative victory for naturist rights”.) 

But meanwhile, coinciding with these legislative bills, the much less understood proposed Section 37 additions to Chapter NR 45 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code are still in the FINAL STAGES of approval. These rules being promulgated by the Department of Natural Resources have similar anti nudity language and impact any naturist use on ALL lands managed or controlled by the DNR. The targeted public lands include well known clothing optional Mazo Beach, previously used by around 70,000 visitors a year until closed by the DNR in 2016. The DNR’s intention is to keep the beach closed until their proposed anti nudity changes are approved. This move not only impacts Mazo Beach but also sets a restrictive precedent for naturist activities throughout Wisconsin. 

To clarify: Chapter NR 45, Wis. Adm. Code, governs the conduct of visitors to the lands and facilities owned, eased, or leased by the department, and SECTION 37 establishes a specific prohibition of going nude in public on department managed lands and defines nudity. The following proposed rule change (from PR­03­20) explains the intended renumbering and amending of NR 45.04 – 

SECTION 37. NR 45.04 (3) (am) 1. and 2. are created to read: NR 45.04 (3) (am) Nudity. 

►1. In this section, “nude” or “nudity” means being clothed or unclothed in such a manner that the person’s genitals, pubic hair, buttocks, perineum, anus, anal region, or pubic hair region of any person, or any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola thereof of any female person, is exposed to public view or is not covered by an opaque covering. 

►2. No person may appear, bathe, sunbathe, walk, or otherwise be nude on any lands under the management, supervision, or control of the department. This does not apply to breastfeeding by nursing parents and does not apply in any of the following areas not open to public view: restrooms, bath houses, showers, changing facilities, or privately­owned camping units. 

After a virtual hearing and final comment period in December (a big THANK YOU to all who commented) where 26 out of 27 public comments opposed the proposed section 37 nudity ban, the DNR still proceeded with these changes. Then came committee approval, as well as approvals from the Natural Resources Board and the Governor. The proposed rules are now being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and the Assembly Committee on Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation. The committees have various options regarding how to proceed, and the future path of the rules depends on what the committees decide. 

As the landscape continues to quickly evolve, our commitment to vigilance, advocacy, and solidarity remains essential. Whether you reside in­state or out of state, NAC needs your assistance in trying to prevent these rules from being finalized and enacted. Please call NAC at 920-415-2900 now to find out the best specific ways you can be part of attempting to stop this assault on naturist rights. 

There is still much to do in a very short period of time. For instance, at present NAC is specifically requesting any Wisconsin residents living in the following districts to contact NAC immediately at 920-415-2900. (Senate districts 2, 16, 22, 29, & 30 and Assembly districts 3, 23, 25, 29, 34, 35, 36, 54, 57, 59, 74, 79, 80, 87, & 92). 

For over 30 years, NAC has played a critical role in monitoring legislative activities and coordinating responses to threats against naturist freedoms. This is far from the first time that the DNR or other opposition has attempted to change State Statutes or Administrative Rules, be it by introducing anti nudity bills, attempting to sneak last minute additions into the state budget, etc. We encourage all who are committed to the cause to engage with us at NAC, offer your support, and be ready to mobilize swiftly to participate in public hearings or dialogues or in other ways that could shape the future of naturism in Wisconsin. 

Please stay Informed and Involved: If you have not already done so, sign up for free NAC alerts and newsletters to stay updated on this issue and be able to receive further guidance on opposing these restrictive rules. 

Spread the Word: Inform other naturists and supportive communities about these developments and encourage them to take action. 

Your Participation is Crucial: Your voice and action are vital in opposing these rule changes. The collective effort of the naturist community can make a significant impact in preserving our rights and freedoms. Let’s continue to unite and express our opposition to these restrictive measures.

Thoughts From the NAC Chair: Passing

Most people who know me also know I’m a naturist. Sometimes, someone will suggest that I’m a member of a really small group…also sometimes with the implication there is something “wrong” with being part of a small, relatively invisible group. There’s a problem with that. 

When someone says “I don’t know any naturists” my first response is “You don’t know whether you do or not….you could be surrounded by them.” The resulting look of surprise becomes one of a searching appraisal of others in the room when I suggest that because naturists are so “closeted” we could be right next to one or more card-carrying naturists. 

For naturists “passing” as a textile (someone that likes wearing clothes) this isn’t a good thing. Acceptance comes slow to those who try to quietly assimilate or “pass” for something they aren’t. African-Americans suffered the trials of persecution, discrimination and bias long after the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13 ,14th and 15 Amendments. Just “trying to fit in” wasn’t working so well. It took Rosa Parks, the Little Rock Nine, Martin Luther King. But it also took Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X and his “by any means necessary” approach. It required the many heroes of the civil rights movement using both non-violent and confrontational practices to stop the discriminatory laws, culture and treatment by whites. African-American practices of sit-ins, voter organizing and “freedom rides” were augmented by the Harlem, Watts and Detroit riots. While we are far from the “prize” …there has been great progress. 

Gays, lesbians bisexual and transgender people “passed” as straight for years utilizing a strategy of non-confrontation and education. It didn’t work for them either. American treatment of LBGT people prior to 1969 was more discriminatory and legally prejudicial than that of Warsaw Pact countries. In 1969 the New York City cops, in a not unusual tactic of “rousting the gays”, raided the Stonewall Inn…a known gay/lesbian bar in Greenwich Village. They were just out to have a little fun…bust some heads and throw some “fags” in jail. Only this time the gays fought back…fed up with the bashing, hate speech and homophobic behavior characteristic of the times. The resulting “Stonewall Riots” galvanized the gay community, leading to the creation of activist groups and the first “Gay Pride” parade in 1970. We’re not to a position of full acceptance here either…but the progress from 1969 has been remarkable. 

Other groups have not gone through this “trial by fire” to win acceptance and some are still suffering as a result. Who is still on the outside looking in? 

Interestingly, women, who lead organized marches and enlisted influential leaders of the day to support the suffragette movement never engaged in the same level of violence as was evident in the Civil Rights movement or the Stonewall Riots. And, many argue, women didn’t achieve (and many would argue still haven’t achieved) full acceptance or true parity in American society to this day. Were women too nice about it? 

Does that mean it takes civil disobedience, violence and confrontation to change the racist or bigoted parts of our society? I’d like to think it doesn’t. But our history isn’t encouraging. While we like to think of ourselves as open, fair and treat people equally there is plenty of evidence to suggest that view is a self-congratulatory conclusion based on members of white systemic privilege talking to each other. 

If we really want our society to treat all of its members as equal, we will have to engage in that “tolerance” I spoke of in my first column. You know…the “interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own…” Putting ourselves in the shoes of a person of color, a disabled person, or a naturist (shoes would be all that you would wear) can change perspectives pretty radically, pretty fast. 

And, naturists, disabled, people of color, etc. will have to stop “passing”, stand up and demand they be recognized.

Thoughts from the NAC Chair: Nudist Television Adds Sensationalism to Reality TV

The development of reality TV is a function of money, not market demand.  The cost of quality TV drama is high — $1 million to $2 million per episode. The cost of an average reality show ranges from $100,000 to $500,000 per episode.  Therefore, lots of these shows are flooding the many cable channels that have an almost inexhaustible demand for product.  Of course, two things tend to be sacrificed: quality of the idea and quality of the execution.  The result is even less quality TV than we were getting, which is difficult to imagine.  Oh, where have you gone Newton Minnow?  He was the 1960s FCC Commissioner who will live on as one of the first to decry the “vast wasteland” of television.)

Because reality shows are cheap, there is little risk in trying something daring or on the fringe.  If it doesn’t work it goes away and if it does, syndication follows and there tend to be spinoffs.  Take the “Real Housewives of …” which has naturally led to the “Real Husbands of …”  Seriously.  Or “The Bachelor” and of course, “The Bachelorette.”  Where is “The Dumped Boyfriend?”  Want drama without ceremony?  “Bad Girls Club” or  “Sister Wives.”  There are the “dumpster diving” reality shows, the junkyard dog offspring of the nicely done PBS series “Antiques Roadshow.”  So, “Hardcore Pawn,” “Auction Hunters” and “American Pickers” allow us to vicariously live downscale via 21st century foraging through pawn shops, unclaimed storage units or auctions.  

This is all fine and I don’t watch any of it, but now that they have started filming nude TV reality shows my antennae go up.  Nudists have a tough enough time being seen as normal without “Naked and Afraid” and “Naked Castaways.”  Lots of sensationalism is attached to dumping two strangers nude (always an attractive man and woman) in an alien environment with a challenge to “survive.”  These obvious nude spinoffs of “Survivor” seem more ridiculous than the original (also ridiculous).  And “Buying Naked” is the spinoff of one of the many versions of “House- hunting” shows.  Now, there is, naturally enough (no pun intended) going to be a nude dating show “Dating Naked.”

The Hollywood Reporter interview with the producer describes it this way: “We created this show based on marrying a provocative idea with a back to basics philosophy.  “With all the dating options in the world, what happens if you take one man and woman and strip them of all their pretenses?”  Bad ideas often spring from some good concepts.

Real nudists wouldn’t be scandalized by meeting someone for the first time nude.  And since naturism de-sexualizes the environment, it actually is a great way (if you are a nudist) to find out if you have shared interests, values and enjoy the personality of the potential partner you are meeting.  This TV show will do the opposite, taking non-nudists (“textiles”) and put them in the uncomfortable position of being nude (traumatic enough by itself for many non-nudists) and adding the stress of meeting a potential partner.

The problem with all of this is producers are using nudity as a sensationalist element to titillate an audience satiated with dating shows, survivor shows, etc.  Why not do “Nude Real Housewives” or “Nude Dirty Jobs”?  There really isn’t any idea a cynical TV producer couldn’t lift from the schedule, take everyone’s clothes away and start filming.

I was interviewed by a reporter from the Washington Post who wanted an official nudist organization response to the trend of nude reality TV.  My response suggested sometimes “daring” ideas such as nudism actually do have an intrinsic interest for viewers.  If the subject is treated reasonably seriously and viewers become more familiar with an idea it no longer seems so far-fetched or unrealistic.  That is the good news.  

Some reality shows treat topics like nudism seriously.  Others play it for laughs.  No matter which reality show you watch, if the  subject stirs your interest (treasure hunting, flipping houses, decorating a la Salvation Army), don’t be put off by the unreality of the way it’s treated.  Look beyond the reality to see if underneath the veneer of exploitation there isn’t something of substance you might want to know more about.

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.