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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.