Peacefully or Violently: The Many Faces of Social Change, Including This One

That’s me. Part of a peaceful social movement occurring around the world that’s been advocating for non-sexual body acceptance for over 130 years. There’s not much that’s ‘social’ when you are on your own isolated private property, with close friends who need no convincing. The ‘social’ part comes with public interaction, usually bolstered or ravaged by the media. A measure of acceptance of your ideas occurs when internet servers for example, willingly publish your blog, article, photos, events announcements, and newsletters on their websites. The judgment is made that your publication does not contravene their corporate ‘norms of decency’, usually depending on whether it depicts scenes of extreme violence, racism, harassment, sexual nudity, pornography, and hate literature. The global body acceptance movement within Naturism/Nudism environments has a philosophy that runs similar to this:

“The purpose of naturism is to promote wholesomeness and stability of the human body, mind, and spirit. These come most easily to those who shed the psychological and social encumbrance of clothing, to see and respect the human body as created” (Federation of Canadian Naturists brochure. http://www.FCN.ca).

As you know, there are social change efforts of all kinds, large and small, ongoing in most countries today. Some are strictly political, e.g., rights based, some health-based, some do fundraising for a new community cause, some for changes to animal welfare, some for innovative sports and recreation pursuits, and so forth. These can evolve into large ‘movements’ with bureaucratic organizations having broader objectives and long time lines for change to occur; others remain smaller and can effect the changes they need in shorter periods, and with fewer resources.

Social change usually encompasses hope for change in values, processes, structure, and resources. Persons who choose to advocate publicly on behalf of themselves, a group, community or organization, are often termed “change agents”. These individuals may take leadership roles in marketing, media communicating, resource acquisition, and publishing. They may be paid personnel or volunteers. Sometimes individuals as change agents may succeed on their own. A Canadian example is Gwen Jacobs who publicly advocated for topless rights for women, by walking down the streets of Guelph, Ontario. Through gathered public support and a successful court case, she was able to indirectly effect a change in the Provincial Laws to permit women in public places like parks and recreation areas, to go topless like men can. The proviso was that a woman must not expose her breasts in a “provocative manner.”

Change agents and social movements may be met with strong opposition by governments or local/regional/national groups holding contrary values, opinions, and different access to power and authority. Methods of peaceful change include power-coercive, rational-technical, and normative-re-educative (Etzioni). Most often discussion and consensus building or compromise are the strategies of choice. When these strategies repeatedly fail, demonstrations, protests, and media campaigns are typically the next level of involvement. Most of these are peaceful attempts to get the ‘other side’ to see their point of view and reasons for it. Sometimes these ways of effecting change devolve into violent confrontations when a) the opposition still refuses to listen, and b) anger and frustration swell up and change into physical confrontation, that may or may not be met with armed police or soldiers, causing in turn retaliatory actions by the protestors. Injury and even death could form part of this scenario.

Because the body acceptance movement has no imposed time limit nor has it advanced beyond the ‘normative-re-educative’ stage of change, into the ‘rational-technical’ stage of serious policy negotiations, it focuses on media persuasion, information dissemination, and leading by example. The psychosocial advantages of naturism are well-known and found online and in texts such as “Therapy, Nudity & Joy” by Dr. Aileen Goodson, “Growing Up Without Shame” by Dennis Craig Smith and Dr. William Sparks, “Beyond Nakedness” by Paul Ableman, and the many articles published by Dr. Marilyn Story, University of Northern Iowa. And of course in the many and varied trade magazines of, for example, the INF, FCN and AANR.

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