The Power of Being “Nue”
It seems that my daughter, Erica Simone, isn’t the only one that appreciates the ‘power of naked.’ (You may have seen her recent campaign to raise funds to publish her book of images from “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen?”) She likely got her lack of inhibition from growing up in France. As we all know, the French love being naked!
In an article yesterday in The Local, comedian Sébastien Thiéry “stole the show at France’s most prestigious theatre award ceremony on Monday night when he came onto the stage naked to give the embarrassed Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin a dressing down of her own.” And unlike what American cameramen might have done to avoid the raw exposure, his frontal nudity was on full display leaving the attending Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin embarrassed and hiding her eyes during this 27th edition of the annual “Nuit des Molières.”
Thiéry used this moment to protest concerns about the lack of unemployment benefits for playwrights compared to those from which costume designers benefit. He said to her while in all his naked glory, “You can do theatre without a costume team or a costume, right?, but not without a playwright. It’s discrimination.” The audience howled with laughter and wolf calls…naturally! (I wish I had been there!)
He’s not the only one in France to use nakedness to make a point. Last summer Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti got an eyeful of angry nude performers at a cultural complex called Familistère de Guise in northern France in protest over reforms that would reduce their income.
Photo artist, Spencer Tunick is famous for his large-scale nude shoots, having photographed 75 human installations around the world. (He and Erica are friends, naturally. Or should I say “nuderally?”) In 2009, he staged a protest in the gorgeous landscape of a vineyard in Burgundy in favor of Greenpeace to make a point about the “fragility of mankind due to global warming.”
Members of Femen.org are regular topless protesters with the goal of supporting women’s rights over their own body in a world of “male economic, cultural and ideological occupation.” On International Women’s Day in March of last year, Amina Sboui, Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Solmaz Vakilpour, Safia Lebdi, Meriam Russel and Maryam Namazie protested nude in support of women’s rights in the Middle East and North Africa at the Louvre. They were arrested but released after a few hours.
Nudity in France doesn’t need to be part of a protest, either. The French think nothing of baring their bodies in public, evident by the blatant advertising in bigger-than-life posters of magazine covers. In Shari Leslie Segall’s “90+ Ways You Know You’re Becoming French,” #69 of You know you’re becoming French when you…”are so used to seeing bare breasts and/or buttocks (in advertisements, on magazine covers, at the beach) that you no longer see them.” In the summer of 2000, singer Johnny Hallyday gave an open-air free concert on the Champ de Mars. The grass was packed with spectators of all ages. His opening act was a line-up of 12 of the Crazy Horse dancers…topless of course. Did anyone think anything of it (other than me and the other shocked Americans)? Doubt it.
On the other hand, baring your boobs is a fashion no-no on the Riviera these days. The trend started by Brigitte Bardot in the 60s is over and out, with just 2% of young French women willing to go topless on the beach. Skin cancer is one reason for their modesty, but being confused as a protester is another. So, when you see bare-breasted women on the beach, you can be assured they are either Brigitte’s age or not French!
And just to be certain there is no embarrassment over nudity in France, Claire Franek and Marc Daniau have published a book for children titled “Tous à Poil” (“All in the Buff”) designed to help French children accept their bodies and those of all shapes and sizes! Rightwing advocates are outraged, but meanwhile sales are skyrocketing, as it quickly became the second best-selling French-language book on Amazon.
“‘Nothing Fits Like You’? is Erica Simone’s campaign about being comfortable with who you are as a person, with your body, your mind and your role in society. It’s about being free from the confinements of societal’s expectations and the media’s projections.”
We should all be so lucky to be so uninhibited, no? Guess we should thank the French for trying.
A la prochaine,
The Adrian Leeds Group
(on the Beach in Mikonos 1979)
P.S. AND A SPECIAL THANKS:…to all those who donated to the Nue York Pubslush book campaign. https://pubslush.com/project/4327 Erica Simone raised almost $16,000 to publish the book, with a portion of the proceeds going to Bottomless Closet http://www.bottomlessclosetnyc.org/ — a transformational charity organization that provides business attire to New York women in difficulty in order to rejoin the workforce. Thanks to the success of the campaign, Erica Simone acquired a literary agent who is shopping the book get published through an established publisher. She will be in touch personally with all of you who donated to get you the rewards.