How is a naked torso related to privileges and solidarity?
++Concrete proposal for dealing with this further below ++
We hope for the camp to be a place where we confront our privileges and governing mechanisms and try out and experiment with alternatives. But also here we must recognize our limits, and in particular the boundaries of others, especially since we are living together for a limited time in a relatively limited space. This means that the climate camp is not a living utopia, but a way to get there. When it’s really warm, many people take off their T-shirts. However, this is a privilege and can be very uncomfortable for other people. The issue about privileges is that they are largely invisible to those who have them. Many are not aware that the image of male* naked torsos is socially normalized whereas a female* naked upper body takes on a sexualized form in a public space. The point is not only about the t-shirt itself, but it’s about the fact that we live in a society that is shaped by patriarchy. Part of the patriarchy is that bodies of women*, trans* and inter* are often socially objectified and sexualized, which is why they cannot just take off their shirt. Especially if the body does not meet conventional beauty and gender norms, nudity is a social taboo. People who are affected by sexism and still choose to walk around topless, are evaluated and rebuked through people gazing at them, comments, and other transgressions. This sexualization and tabooing is also legally established: According to the law at least the nipples of women* have to be covered, otherwise it is “indecent” and represents a misdemeanor.We live in a society in which sexual violence is not an isolated phenomenon, but a social reality. Every 3rd to 4th woman* and every 7th to 8th man* has experienced sexual violence in childhood. 98% of this violence is caused by men. That is why a male* naked upper body can trigger memories of experiences of violence and be very unpleasant and stressful. In direct confrontation with this, for many people it’s not easy at all to speak and/or act as they’d wish.
Of course, it can be an act of emancipation when people that are suppressed by patriarchy or current beauty or gender norms show themselves with a naked torso. It can be liberating to oppose the social norms and images and to win a new approach to nudity. To reach this stage that everyone feels free is a utopia and we are part of a process to get there. But many people can not just simply take of their shirt and would not be free just by this act, because that involves a lot more. It is therefore important to us that people themselves can decide when and if they are to meet naked people.
Even if we fight for a different, “better” world, we are socialized in this society with its heteronormative ideals of beauty and its sexualized culture of violence. That‘s why we have the wish that people keep their tops on during the camp and we sweat together. We understand the act of wearing a top as an act of solidarity, to support those people who are not able or not willing to walk around topless. We would appreciate if all people would join in as allies to collective liberation. Children are not meant by this proposal – every child (or their refe-
rence person) shall decide for themselves how it wants to run around. We would like to see learning processes being stimulated by the “T-shirt-debate” in all of us – and especially in
cis*-men. Feel free to talk to other people, or to ask if you don‘t understand the subject matter or you are irritated by it. (But please also understand that the person you are talking to at that point may not have the energy or mind to explain things, as talking about sexism can be very exhausting for the affected person.) Feel encouraged to approach people who do not wear a T-shirt. When talking to each other we hope for interactions to be shaped by mutual respect and understanding. The “T-shirt-debate” may initiate the process of dealing with one’s own privileges with more awareness. We are hoping for lively exchange about privileges (and how one could deal with them) to be happening on the climate camp (and afterwards) in many conversations and small groups. It can be very enriching to get to know other perspectives and to learn from each other. We explicitly invite people to be part of exchange groups to reflect on their own privileges (and to help in forming such spaces for exchange, e.g. on critical masculinity in the open space format).