Unsafe Space

No Nudity? No Way!

Megan Heffey questions the motives behind the recently implemented ban on nudity in San Francisco and the effects this legislation may have

San Francisco, the gay capital of the world that has long been known as a cultural haven for the freedom of self expression, and the liberator of those oppressed by the constraints of a less tolerant society, has seen a reversal in the last 50 years of cultural progress with the introduction of a ban on nudity in public places. A recent vote taken by city officials established this law at a slim majority of 6-5.

In order to accept the decision which will so fundamentally impact the lives of those who live in the city, unanimity should have been a requirement, yet the narrow views of only 6 city officials has lead to the adoption of this law. This move has come in response to complaints about nudism in the city’s gay district, Castro, but the adoption of anti nudist legislation seems to be an extreme reaction to a simple complaint.

In the spirit of fairness the official prohibition of nudity is not a blanket ban, and is subject to exceptions such as at street fairs and events, following an application for a licence for nudity. However, the motivations behind these exceptions are as clear as day; it is obvious that they have been retained to ensure that this new law doesn’t act to the detriment of the tourism industry and revenue for the city.

It is obvious that via the licence requirement, the city officials are not only using these exceptions to retain income from tourism, but also to make additional money by charging for these licences. This also suggests that in actual fact there are no moral objections to nudity which has driven the implementation of this ban, as if there were, nudity would never be allowed in public, yet the city officials have claimed this is the reason behind the ban. This is an outlandish double standard and could be considered worse than if it were a blanket ban of nudity in public.

This new legislation has been fiercely criticised for many justified reasons. It is in direct contravention of the Constitution of the United States of America (which guarantees equal protection of rights through the financial discrimination) implied by the licence requirement against event planners. More importantly, this nonsensical law has also infringed on the First Amendment right which protects the freedom of speech and self expression. Expressing oneself with one’s body is the purest form of self expression, and yet this seems to be an irrelevant factor in the decision making.

Scott Wiener, ironically not the same of one of the nudists protesting against this law, but the district supervisor for Castro, commented that “Freedom, expression and acceptance does not mean anything goes under any circumstances”. This narrow-minded attitude that nudists are nude for the sake of it is digusting, and if the legislation is allowed to remain in force it could signal the start of a slippery slope where soon enough dying your hair, or showing a tattoo in public is banned. Is this the type of society that would be considered acceptable in the modern age? Absolutely not. This archaic thinking is what needs to be eradicated in the world, and it is what everyone has been fighting against for decades. To accept legislation of this nature is tantamount to taking the first step towards a dictatorship, and although San Francisco is just a city, in a state in the USA, this legislation will set a dangerous precedent that will be too easy to follow.

The preservation of the respect of fundamental human rights that are necessary for the full enjoyment of life is essential, and has definitely not been given due consideration in the adoption of this anti freedom of expression legislation. This nudity ban is totally unconstitutional and as such a federal law suit has been filed arguing against the invalidity of this new law. It is essentially charging people to be naked and in their natural state of being. Why not just introduce a fine for being human? It is the same principle.

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