Thursday, February 15, 2007

Brisbane mothers get their knickers in a twist over nude ride

Yesterday, a local councillor lent her support to a group of Brisbane “concerned mothers” who have voiced their protest about a planned nude bike ride on 10 March. The event is the Brisbane leg of the World Naked Bike Ride. On that day, people in 56 cities in 16 different countries will ride to raise awareness about environmental issues. The Brisbane nude leg is due to take place between the suburbs of Toowong and Milton, however Toowong ward councillor Judy Magub is not happy: “I think it should be stopped – I can’t see any reason for it,” she said “it’s just for exhibitionists and I can’t see any purpose in riding nude to get a message across”.

Magub claims it’s a police issue of “wilful exposure”. Acting Senior Sergeant Chris Peters from Indooroopilly station said protesters taking part in the World Naked Bike Ride risked public indecency charges if they go totally naked. He said women would have to wear knickers but would be allowed to ride topless and men had to wear "a discretely placed sock". Presumably not on a foot.

Event organiser Dario Western will be meeting police prior to the event before the ride. He said riders would be encouraged to go "as bare as you dare" and decorate themselves with body paint for the 20-minute ride along Coronation Drive between Toowong and Milton. Western is a naturist and according to his myspace site, his heroes include two activists for nudity; Spencer Tunick and Stephen Gough.

Tunick is an American photographer famous for his group nudes. Starting out in the States Tunick began by single and small group nudes but soon moved on to mass temporary installation pieces. He has photographed nudes across the world. In 2004 he completed his largest shoot in Barcelona with 7,000 naked Catalans lying down in a square.

Meanwhile British-born Stephen Gough prefers a solo approach. Gough gained the nickname of the Naked Rambler and gained fame for walking the length of Britain from Land's End to John o'Groats in 2003–2004. He wore no clothes except boots, socks, rucksack and the occasional hat. He was arrested several times during the walk. He repeated the feat in 2005-2006 and took his total arrest tally to 20. He was then charged with contempt of court and sentenced to three months jail for appearing naked in court. He is now serving another seven month sentence after breaching his bail condition by walking out of prison in the nude.

In his essay “the offence of public nudity”, Mark Storey argues that public nudity is a victimless crime. He says legislators attempt to show it is immoral due to fallacious cultural norms. He says lawmakers who ban public nudity justify their actions by an appeal to offence. The argument goes that nudity offends people, and that because of the seriousness of the offence, such nudity may justifiably be prohibited by criminal law.

Here in Brisbane, the mysterious “concerned mothers” are certainly taking offence. But even their spokeswoman Councillor Magub can see the funny side, “I have had nothing but laughter” she said. “I went to my Rotary club this morning and a few people mentioned it and had a bit of a chuckle so I think there definitely is a light-hearted side for it.” There is also a serious side to it. According to the World Naked Bike Ride website, the event is a pedal protest against oil dependency and car culture. They claim the real indecent exposure is to car emissions.

The Brisbane event starts at Toowong at 4pm on Saturday, 10 March. If nothing else, wear sunscreen and a bike helmet.


Anonymous said...

Are you taking part?

Derek Barry said...

unlikely....don't have any spare socks!

Anonymous said...

I think the nude bike ride is a great idea. The more creative activists can get, the better their ideas percolate around the place.

The comments of the hypocritical prudish ones would be best directed at the exploitation currently occurring in strip clubs and brothels.

Derek Barry said...

That's true Megan.

Unfortunately the media has framed the story as a nudity public offence issue rather than a climate change issue. To some degree I'm guilty of that myself with my analysis.

But as you say, creative ideas will find an audience and however much of a gimmick this is, its heart is in the right place.