I got into a discussion about breastfeeding in public and it became quite obvious that the topic was quite controversial… To my surprise, I must admit. And it reminded me of the differences between cultures when it comes to nudity. Indeed, when I settled to live in France, I was quite shocked to see the women sunbathing with their breasts in the open air. So what is normal?
Once Upon A Time…
While in today’s society the naked body is often seen as something to be ashamed of, in the ancient world nudity was seen simply as a part of everyday life.
So what happened?
It would be too easy to blame it all on religion. In fact, the modern nudist movement was largely organized by ordained religious leaders, who used as their justification many parts of the Judaic-Christian Bible which speak of accepting the human body without shame.
Several factors will have an influence on the acceptance of nudity. Of all the periods over history, it’s the Victorian era, a restrictive, patriarchal period– would significantly dictate the pattern of conduct for Europe and North America, from which the feminist-oriented twentieth century has not yet completely emerged. The puritan ethic came to America with the Mayflower. The first settlers were hard-working Protestant pilgrim pioneers who had neither the time nor the inclination for frivolity. Guilt of the nude body and shame became the law of the land, and this law was even more extreme in the United States than overseas.
At the turn of the century, the rebellion against Victorian clothing started and took greater meaning in Germany. The nudist movement sprang in bold defiance of what had become a century-long mentality of body denial. Despite this, the naked body is still considered unnatural by certain people according to the culture.
Though Victorianism has had an effect on the treatment of native cultures by religious missionaries and European colonists who had little to no regard for native pride and dignity, for their religious customs, nor for the practicality of their dress and lifestyle, demanding conformity with European customs. Despite this all, naked societies still exist as primitive tribes whose members do not wear clothes. These societies are proof, among other things, of how drastically our attitude toward nudity has changed throughout history.
So I guess there is no normal or abnormal. After all, we are all born naked. There is just a simple question of doing that with which you feel comfortable I guess. What do you think?