Nakedness is always a contentious issue. Society doesn’t approve of too much skin, and censures those who show it, for the sake of principles of modesty and decency. While it may be inappropriate in most situations, nudity itself is not inherently bad, and there can be a place for it. With this being the case, why is the University of Warwick Rowing Club’s charity project, ‘Women’s Naked Calendar’, attracting so much criticism?
They have been accused of indecency, and Facebook actually banned them for a time under ‘pornography and nudity’, but their intention seems to be art. All the involved are students, who have consented to having their picture taken without clothes on. They clearly aim to produce ‘tasteful nudes’ and even make a point not to include anything close to full frontal nudity. They are carefully composed, and presumably checked in editing.
The other accusation levelled at them from so-called feminist sides is that they promote the concept of women as sex objects. Naturally, naked calendars advertise and draw buyers because of the appeal of nude women, and so to an extent their intention is irrelevant: they will be objectified by some consumers. However, these are all women capable of making their own decision. It’s unlikely to escape them that this may happen. Yet, as degrading as objectification is, it is the perpetrator’s fault, and they should not have to change their behaviour for fear of mistreatment by others. Overall the images are far less damaging than the shopped, unrealistic pictures of models (clothed or otherwise) that we see uncensored every day.
It is clear that the criticism levelled at the women’s team is disproportionate when one realises that their identical male counterpart, the ‘Men’s Naked Calendar’, has been going for years longer and attracted none of the attention. This is despite an acknowledged failing by the men’s team to successfully conceal all frontal nudity. There is no justification for this treatment, and so anybody criticising the women’s calendar – whether on grounds of decency, taste or tackiness – should equally lambast the men’s.
Indeed, the only criticism I might level at the calendars is the lack of diversity. Even accounting for a successful rower’s typical physique, the appearance of the models is largely homogenous and, unaccountably, all the featured rowers are white, despite this being untrue of either club’s actual members. While likely accidental on the part of the creators, this lack of representation should be addressed.
While naked calendars can be tasteful, artful and interesting, their appeal remains limited and critics will always persevere. However, their results are undeniable: the women’s calendar raised over £5,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support in two years, and the men’s not only contributes vital funding to the club, but has led to the establishment of an anti-homophobia charity, Sport Allies. Thus, while the nudity theme may feel gratuitous, the end result is for good, and so they can surely be forgiven.