Wisconsin anti-nudity bills set off alarm bells
But World Naked Bike Rides could be the main victims
“As badly as we need bipartisan dialogue, some conversations are not worth having.”
Credit Ruth Conniff in the Wisconsin Examiner for that comment, which pretty much sums up most of her column, Chaos, backstabbing and the butt-crack debate: The week in politics.
“The butt-crack debate” was part of the discussion in a Wisconsin state committee hearing Thursday on two Republican bills that would make it illegal to be naked in public “for any reason,” the Associated Press reports, “and for a child to attend any event, like a naked bike ride, where people don’t have clothes on.”
The bills are the results of both a citizen’s complaint about the annual World Naked Bike Ride in Madison — “What about my freedom to walk around, walk down the street and not be assaulted by nudity?” — and Republican outrage over a photo on social media of a 10-year-old girl who participated with her mom in the event.
So, how did Beyonce’s name get dragged into the debate in the context of butt cracks?
A Democrat wondered if the bill might make it illegal to bring children to stage events where performers are partially nude, and if some performers could avoid the state as a result. Wisconsin Senate president Chris Kapenga reportedly dismissed the concerns, saying of performers like Beyoncé and her dancers: “A strip of cloth from Joann Fabric costs about 37 cents. So, if they have to buy 100 strips to cover their butt crack, I’m OK with that.”
No word on naturism
So far in the mainstream news reports I’ve seen on the two Wisconsin anti-nudity bills, there has been no mention of naturism or nudism. WNBR seems to be in the Republican crosshairs right now — perhaps because that is the only display of public nudity that ever happens in Madison, pop. 273,000? I suspect — I’m guessing — that places already designated for naturists and nudists are not the targets of Bill 478?
More concerning for the naturism community, perhaps, is Bill 477, which has this at the top: “This bill prohibits a person from causing a person who is under the age of 18
to attend an event at which a group of adult participants intentionally expose their
genitals, buttocks, or other intimate parts in a public area.” Also prohibited would be taking photos of naked kids at such an event, i.e. the 10-year-old at the WNBR event.
What does “intentionally” mean in this context? And what is defined as “an event”?
Could it essentially erase children from the naturism community?
But, again, there has been no mention of naturism. Still, many in the American naturism community are worried. They see a potential for far-reaching implications for them. There is a lot of chatter and discussion, even a sense of urgency from some. But they do seem to be mobilizing, and they have lots of time to have their say on it. As AP points out:
“The bills, which have no Democratic sponsors, are a long way from becoming law. They would have to pass both the state Senate and Assembly, which are controlled by Republicans, and then be signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.”
Evers hasn’t reviewed the bills, a spokesperson said.
So, where is this all leading? Are the Wisconsin bills real threats to naturism in that state and beyond?
I’m not sure they are. I think clarification will be needed for young naturists, to be sure they don’t lose their rights to be naturists. But I think naturism is ingrained in American culture to some extent and shares support from many Democrats and Republicans alike.
As for WNBR, I think its days are numbered everywhere. I don’t think the public perceives it as a naturism event. It started as an annual protest event against man’s dependence on petroleum and to promote pedal power. Riding naked drew attention to the cause, while hopefully promoting body positivity.
I think the general public saw the naked part of the ride as a quirky and unique hook.
But given the conservative wave sweeping over parts of the world, I think Wisconsin (and many other cities) will throw WNBR under the proverbial bus in a misguided bid to prevent children from seeing public nudity — and to protect that one guy in Madison whose complaint sparked all this. “What about my children’s innocence that I work very hard to protect?,” he told the committee.
(Yes, he’s unclear on the concept.)
I’ll be following this story and focusing more on mainstream media reports here. But if you are really into this story and want to follow it in-depth, our friend Evan at Planet Nude is doing some outstanding reporting and analysis on it.