The Fifth “Freedom”

10 Oct

Thanks to the wonder of Facebook I have learned that, once again, the Board of Director’s of Farm and Wilderness are considering eliminating nudity from among the acceptable practices there. They are meeting this weekend (October 13th) to begin discussions.
Also thanks to the wonder of Facebook I have learned some of the rationale behind this. The first is that Farm and Wilderness loses potential financial backing from organizations that learn about the policy.

This is a circuitous reason for eliminating nudity at Farm and Wilderness. I’m sure it is true, but I imagine it’s also true that F&W loses potential financial backing from organizations when they learn that there are no toilets, no privacy in the cabins and showers, no electricity, that the campers are allowed to carry knives, etc. The main point here is that F&W cannot decide to change things inherent to its identity based on whether or not they will get paid for it. You don’t get paid to be who you are, and you cannot decide who to be based on whether or not you will get paid. Otherwise you will just be what the people with the money want you to be, and then what are you?

Another of the rationale listed on the Facebook discussion (these are listed by the son of Tamarack Farm‘s longtime directors. He is planning to attend this weekends board meeting) is that FandW loses enrollment due to allowing nudity.

First of all, I question how this is known. Has FandW done a study, have they been asking people? Have they done some sort of market research? How much enrollment are they actually losing?
In any case, while I’m skeptical of the validity of this claim regarding lost enrollment, it may be true. However, the opposite would also be just as true. If nudity is not allowed at F&W they will lose enrollment due to it no longer being allowed. (One person in this very small Facebook discussion implied as much saying that this matter “affects her children.”) And again, this seems a somewhat circuitous reason for eliminating a practice. The Christian church in my town loses some enrollment because they are a Christian church, and some people in the town aren’t Christian. Should they change their policy?

Another of the rationale listed was “cultural and social differences” which I will talk about in a moment, but first I want to address the next given rationale: the question of use. Is nude swimming at FandW declining?

As someone who started attending TL in 1990 and was there most recently in 2004 I can say that yes, there is certainly less nudity at TL (swimming and otherwise) now than there was in the early 90’s. However, this is a complex thing and should not simply be taken to mean that nudity is less important or needed at TL than it used to be.
    There are many reasons, I suspect, for the decline in nude swimming, not the least of which is that lifeguards are now required to wear swimsuits. This wasn’t formerly true, and it’s my experience that when most of the staff at the waterfront is naked most of the campers follow suit (so to speak). Now that lifeguards have to wear suits, this means that some, if not most of the staff at the waterfront are not naked. Whatever else it accomplishes, the fact that lifeguards have to wear suits teaches campers that there is something wrong with being naked at the waterfront. If there weren’t something wrong with being naked at the waterfront, why do the guards have to wear suits? So while TL staff and policy state that being naked at the waterfront is ok, the actions of the lifeguards says that there is something wrong with being naked at the waterfront. What’s a camper to do?
(A quick aside: when I was nine, I was swimming (naked) out to a raft and got scared. I panicked at how far out I was and started to sink. I was splashing and yelling until a lifeguard dove in and brought me back to the dock, rescuing me. The lifeguard was naked, as were most of the people there. I can assure you that whether or not the guard had a suit on made no difference at all in my experience of that situation. I thought I was going to die and he saved me, that’s all that mattered.)
    In addition to the popularity of nude swimming, the popularity of taking a shower while naked has also declined at TL. I imagine that these two things are related. If a camper is comfortable being naked at the waterfront then they are also comfortable being naked in the shower and vice versa. (For those unfamiliar, the showers at TL are not private, they are outdoor showers grouped together on wooden decks.) If a camper is not comfortable showering naked, they are also not making themselves as clean as they could or should be. This resulted in some nasty skin disease outbreaks a few years back at TL and is also the reason that TL staff are now instructed to remind campers to clean “their bathing suit area” when showering (since most campers now shower with their bathing suits on).
The discussion should not be about whether or not to eliminate nudity at F&W, it should be about how F&W can make as many people as possible comfortable with nudity when they are at F&W. Due to the cabins, showers, and some kybos (outhouses) not having any privacy it seems that the safest way to live at TL is to be comfortable with nudity. The physical nature of the place supports, and perhaps demands, nudity. The discussion should be about why nudity is declining, and how can that trend be reversed?

And now onto the most complex reason of them all, the vast “cultural and social differences.” There are many different cultures on this planet, and Farm and Wilderness is a lot like a culture of its own. Some of the different cultures on this planet disagree, and some have such passion for what they believe in (or against what another believes in) that violence ensues. There are more than six billion people on this planet, and all of them are different and unique. There is no one right way for six billion unique individuals to live, and there is no one right place on this planet for all of them to be.
Farm and Wilderness therefore cannot be for everybody. If F&W shapes its entire identity around what some individuals are offended by, what others will pay them money for, what they are afraid some people might abuse, and what others are afraid that other’s might not like, they won’t have any identity left.

I am a proud product of a Farm and Wilderness that had a unique identity, and stood up for its’ beliefs (nudity among them). The discussion should be (especially since a new Executive Director was just hired) about the identity of Farm and Wilderness. What is the identity of Farm and Wilderness and why? Why does it believe that a lack of electricity is an essential element? Why does it have campers do chores and build cabins? Why does it teach them how to use knives, shovels, and axes? etc. Why does FandW believe nudity at a summer camp is a beneficial thing?

Farm and Wilderness changed my life for the better, and it will change many other people’s lives for the better, but it will not please everybody, and it will not help everybody. This is the price you pay for being an individual culture with a unique identity. Be Farm and Wilderness and pay that price.

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One Response to “The Fifth “Freedom””

  1. tinycaredance October 11, 2006 at 2:06 pm #

    interesting.
    can you imagine if evergreen had a nudity option.
    just something to think about there….

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