Is the label "Textiles" disrespectful?
In my first article, I used the term “Textiles” to describe non-naturist folk and it prompted one reader to comment that they found the term divisive and that they disliked its use. Interestingly, they had no objection to the term naturist and acknowledged the contradiction.
Coincidentally, just after posting that article, I watched a VIMEO interview with Simon and Helen Berriman, by John Coleman from Apocatastasis in which Simon commented on the use of labels. Although labels are convenient, those shortcuts pigeonhole people into boxes that have social perceptions attached to the labels that may not be accurate.
Ending words with suffixes such as “ist” and “ism” often attach rigid preconceptions to the meaning. Racist, sexist and ageism are just some examples. While it is true that there are some positive examples such as environmentalism and finalist, the overwhelming tendency is for people to ascribe a preconceived set of assumptions to the label.
Ask the average person in the street to describe what they understand by the term nudist, and you may hear a raft of ideas that are based on assumptions rather than facts. Many of these ideas may have some accurate concept of naturism but some may have no bearing on the philosophy at all.
Just as there are many ideas of what naturism is, there are many types of naturists. While most will follow a similar philosophy, there are different ideas amongst naturists about what constitutes naturism. So not only does the label try to define a group, but it also can’t define the group.
Some people will wear a label with pride, and yet that same label will carry baggage for others. A feminist or a socialist or a capitalist are all used to describe certain philosophies, and we all might agree with aspects of each, but may not wish to be labelled as such.
If we don’t use labels to describe ourselves and give a sense of belonging, then how do we identify?
To quote Brené Brown, an American research professor, known for her research on shame, vulnerability, and leadership.
“If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky”.
As human beings, we are hard-wired to belong and to seek out connections with others who share a similar outlook on life. Using labels to describe ourselves assists us to make these connections and fosters a sense of belonging within us.
Labels are attributed to places as well as people. Nudist clubs, naturist beaches, and sun clubs, all have preconceived ideas about them, which may or may not be accurate. But what is an acceptable alternative?
In the aforementioned interview, Helen suggested “Clothing-optional” as a descriptor for places like this, recognising it as a more inclusive approach. Clothing-optional is less absolute, but even this term raises the ire of some. There are nudist venues that insist “clothing-optional” weakens the brand. They believe that nudity is a requirement in a nudist setting. This approach often frightens people new to naturism and makes them less likely to explore the philosophy.
But if labels cause division, then how do those of us who like to be naked describe ourselves? When I first embraced not wearing clothes as a choice, I called myself a nudist. After some time, I considered the term too blunt and preferred the term naturist, which I felt was more fitting. After recent discussions and consideration, I now am shying away from identifying as a naturist, and rather as someone who subscribes to a naturist philosophy, which seems to incorporate a more holistic approach to life, that includes nudity as a part of it rather than the whole defining characteristic.
As a group that prides itself on being inclusive, using the term Textiles might not be derogatory, but could well be regarded as dismissive. There will always be a tendency to use labels to identify different groups, but perhaps we should be more aware of the perceptions attached to those labels before we embrace them. Not everyone likes being labelled.
The word textile may well be disrespectful and divisive, and I will make every effort to avoid using it in the future, preferring the term non-naturist.
One label down, many more to go.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
Simon Berriman on Twitter.
Helen Berriman on Twitter.
Helen’s Women in Naturism page on British Naturism.
Helen & Simon’s Naked Retro Gamers page.
You’ve covered some good points of view here Steve.
I find myself reflecting on labels often because I’m not a great fan of them. For many of the reasons you outline.
I think first and foremost it’s because labels are typically so misrepresentative and misleading.
There’s a great deal of nonsense claims associated with naturism that have nothing to do with being naked and everything to do with just being a decent, if not humble, human being. Nudity is certainly a catalyst towards humility because it creates physical vulnerability.
People tend to use the term textiles the same way jihadists use the term infidels. You could exchange the word and the sentence would retain its meaning.
Here’s a random quote from Twitter as an example: “naturists are mostly friendly, welcoming, encouraging, accepting, body positive, free of societal norms! Can most infidels say the same?” (https://twitter.com/j068downsouth/status/1488337031973453828?s=21&t=BxddgyB_krrCFnKusl7zhA)
The answer is yes. Many people could say the same.
Naturists envision themselves as a marginalised fringe minority that don’t fit within social norms. So long as they see themselves that way, nudity will never be a common everyday occurrence people accept.
As things stand, naturists are actively alienating themselves from wider society. What they should be striving towards is integration within society.
Get naked, be friendly.
As this is a blog that uses the English language the terms I use here will be those I think are used most often applied where English is the primary spoken language, allowing for well-known differences, for example between English English and American English. Labels used in these often vary, as does the spelling.
What do clothed people call those who prefer to be unclothed?
'People'? With no other words added or in place of that description?
I think that most people who come across naked people will use certain terminology to distinguish the naked ones. I think they will be more likely to refer to them as 'nudists' than anything else. Beyond the clothes-free communities 'naturist' seems to be used less than 'nudist' to describe us, 'naturist' is often confused with 'naturalist'. I can't recall seeing or hearing references made to a beach where people are naked as a naked beach, people who choose to wear swimming costumes seem to refer to the beaches I go to as 'nudist beaches'.
Personally I'm happy being in 'clothing-optional' environments, but I've come across newbie naturists who felt less at ease there than they were in all nude settings, along with others who felt more at ease being able to decide for themselves whether to wear something or nothing. I've been to 'naturist' spas where the majority wore something, I don't mean towels or wraps I mean swimwear, at 'naturist' venues?! The dedicated naked people were naked, but those less confident being nude in a clothing optional setting like that who we spoke to said they were more reluctant to join the nudes. I like all nude environments, it is how I want to be and it is nice to be among similar people, but I'm in favour of there being less rules when it comes to freedom of personal choice, to respect individuality.
Labels have their uses and fans. I understand why people prefer not to use them or have them applied to themselves. I'm fairly open about preferring to be clothes-free, friends who know this and prefer to socialise in clothing mostly call me and like-minded people 'nudists'. This is fine by me, they are OK with me referring to them as textiles. 'Textile' is a term they don't use to refer to their clothed peers as, but when they and the nudists they know want to distinguish between say beaches or events, nudist' and 'textile' work for us all. My real life nudist and naturist friends use both these terms frequently when talking about themselves, naked friends and locations. In conversation with 'textile' friends I might refer to myself and naked friends as 'nudist(s)' and the same goes for the locations where I socialise naked. We use 'nudist' so as its clear that I plan to be at a nude venue on a certain day with naked friends and 'textile' so I know that I won't be expected to be naked at other events and places.
If 'textile' is seen as derogatory, insulting, disparaging etc what do you think should be used when wanting to explain for example that we can't be naked somewhere?