Eschewing Labels

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There’s a strong tendency, these days, to quickly slap a label on every new group, and then judge those people by the label.

We don’t want to do that.

It’s easy to start slapping labels on our group. Are we hippies? Mainstream? Rebels? Naturists? Nudists? Weirdos? Crazy? Brilliant? None of those labels, though, accurately convey who we actually are, or what we actually do.

Defining a group of people by simplistic labels introduces many problems. We’re individuals, each with different ideas, and seemingly common labels don’t necessarily have the same common meaning to everyone.

A little social-media war this week between several members of the naturist community, some of which claimed a monopoly on the “one true definition” of naturism / nudism, made this abundantly clear. (I’ll refer you to Nude Is Not Rude for an excellent, sober take on this issue.) We recently heard from one woman who was very reluctant to use the terms “naturist” or “nudist” – not because they were inaccurate in describing her way of life, but because of the judgmental conclusions that some other naturists would draw when they made the connection between her day job (erotica) and her lifestyle. Simply using the label would spark an argument with people who disagreed on its meaning.

When we start defining ourselves by a label – and forcing our own definition of that label on people who already use it in a different sense – we have lost the dialogue, honesty and open communication that are so essential to the advancement of humanity.

Human subcultures are fractally nested. No matter how narrowly and precisely you define a group, you’ll inevitably get disagreement within that group about what it is, what it should do, and what it represents. If you define the group to be “40 to 45 year old steel industry workers who enjoy listening to Dark Side of the Moon while stoned on mushrooms in the back of a half-ton pickup”, you’ll spark at least three religious wars within that group: F-150, Ram or Silverado; clean high-end hi-fi sound or big amps with big subwoofers; and whether imported or local ‘shrooms are superior.

And so the Kingston-Frontenac Free Body Society eschews labels. Sure, we’ll throw a few search terms in there as bait for potential members. But we won’t define ourselves by them. We are what we are – a group of individuals, with different ideas and different lifestyles, of far greater complexity than can be summarized in a few loaded words.

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5 thoughts on “Eschewing Labels

  1. Eschewing labels is an easy way to avoid conflict. But without terminology, it makes it difficult to identify ourselves and what we stand for. Just ask the LGBTTIQQ2SA or Vegan communities whether they are ready to eschew their label.

    Of course, if all you’re about is being clothes-free then a label is probably not necessary. But naturism is not ABOUT being naked. Naturism is a philosophy about respecting yourself, others and living a more natural life.

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    • Thanks for adding your thoughts, Stéphane. (Also, thanks for building such an awesome park! Hopefully we’ll make it out to Bare Oaks next year.)

      Naturism – the way you define it – is pretty close to what our group is about. On those occasions when labels are required, “naturist” is one that we do use.

      The trouble comes when there’s no agreement on what the label means. “Nudist” and “naturist” are synonymous to some people, and completely different to other people. Within online communities that identify as one or both, I see frequent arguments over the exact boundaries of the definition. “Not about sex” versus “repression of sexuality” comes up a lot, and I’ve talked to people who are afraid to identify as “naturist” – even though the term accurately reflects their lifestyle – because of intolerance in some naturist communities towards people with differing beliefs about sexuality.

      The Free Body society does use labels – naturist, feminist, body-positive, nudist, etc. – to pique the interest of people who might be looking for a group like this. But, ultimately, we’re a mix of people with different perspectives and beliefs, and I don’t expect our members to conform to any one particular definition.

      Cheers,
      Matt (KFFBS co-organizer)

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      • Thank you for the kind comment about Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. If KFFBS is interested in arranging a visit as a group, let me know and I’ll make you a special group deal — although we already offer some of the lowest rates around for people 25 and under. That’s because we recognize that young people have limited financial means. It’s a challenging time of life where you are either in post-secondary eduction or your parents are no longer supporting you and you are at the low-income end of your career.

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      • Stéphane, we appreciate the offer, and we’ll certainly have to get back to you – we’d love to do a weekend at Bare Oaks when things thaw out and (hopefully) our membership is much larger!
        Cheers,
        Katy & Matt

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