Naked Bike Ride has nothing to do with female empowerment

Posted On 10 Jun 2018 at 5:01 am

It’s deeply irritating that every year we are treated to the fiction that the self-indulgent attention-fest that is the Naked Bike Ride is in some way related to environmental politics and road safety.

However, the notion that this year – the centenary year of the first women getting the vote – it’s being described as a tribute to the suffrage movement is a step too far.

Cycling does empower women but, in a male dominated society, few would argue that public nakedness ever could.

The brave campaigners who fought for women’s right to vote were highly disciplined and took no action unless it had a clear political purpose.

In return, they were subject to various physical outrages, including deliberate sexual assault and harassment by their political opponents, including police.

Apart from forcible feeding, it was the form of abuse they most feared.

They would never have done anything which could in any way have been interpreted as sexually aggressive or likely to scandalise, frighten or sexually embarrass anyone, especially children.

The largely male Naked Bike Ride routes itself past areas where there are many children, though it could avoid them.

The use of “clowns” for security purposes seems calculated less to defuse tensions than to attract children.

I continue to wonder what is really behind this event and why on earth we allow it.

Any cyclist who really wants to celebrate the suffragettes should join homelessness charity BHT’s bike ride ‪on Sunday 1 July‬ and fundraise for the suffragette blue plaques at the Clock Tower and elsewhere (contact www.bht.org.uk).

Jean Calder is a campaigner and journalist. For more of her work, click here.

  1. Daniel Reply

    Far too many errors here to be taken seriously. Why tskenpwrt in s homelessness ride to mark respect for suffragettes? There were plenty of more militia style, unorganised, violent women fighting for equal rights. Why do we ‘allow’ a small number of people to rise their bikes through town without any clothes on, smiling and waving at people? … Because it’s becoming a bit of a tradition? Because it’s a bit of fun if nothing else? What harm does it cause?

    Is it really a largely male bike ride? Could you share the gender ratio ? And that’s if people are wanting to be labelled by their gender?

    It seems that between the male hating vitriol and innacurate comments regarding the history of women fighting for equal rights, that it is the nakedness in the name of female empowerment that you have an issue with. Perhaps asking a female participant would have been better off for everyone ?

  2. Jason Reply

    “why on earth we allow it”
    I could give you a list, given the time, or at least 50 things we as a society “allow” that are so much worse than nudity.
    I could give you a list of at least 10 feminist issues (as you decided to somehow bring feminism into this) that are much more pressing than public nudity.
    But I think my main issue with this “opinion piece” is the lack of effort put into it. I could read something more insightful on Twitter, and that really is saying something.
    If Brighton and Hove News paid for this then I would love to show them an opinion actually worth some money…
    This piece isn’t about feminism, this is about the writers issues with nudity – and when people have issues with nudity it’s almost always an issue with the mirror.
    We are born naked.
    For almost a million years we wore no clothes.
    There are still parts of the world where people wear little to no clothes.
    Having an issue with nudity shows your life is pretty good – if you’d like to have some real things to moan about let’s swap lives and you’d see how insignificant a naked body is.

    • Henry Page Reply

      Well said

  3. Benny Reply

    I’d say it’s about freedom – freedom to have a bit of fun in our free country and thumb your nose at the small minded miseries who think they have the right to demand everyone else complies with their prejudices.

  4. John Reply

    I ran into this event today and thought it pretty disgusting. It purposely went along the seafront slowly and a lot of them were walking and pushing their bikes. There were loads of children around and a lot of pissed-off looking parents, and rightly so, in my opinion. Where do we draw the line with this? Can I get my nob out naked whenever I want? Can I stand naked outside a primary school, staring at the children? Why ever not? After all, we were ‘born naked’? If it’s about freedom and thumbs up to small minded miseries, can I stand outside your house, masturbating? Of course not. I consider myself VERY liberal, but this nonsense oversteps the lines of decency and respect. It should be ended.

    • Mr Naked Rider Reply

      I took part in it and didn’t see ANY grumpy or annoyed people, all the kids that were visible were all laughing and smiling at the riders….. there was nothing sexual about the Naked Bike Ride, and so what if there WERE a few walking and pushing their bikes?!!!!
      Maybe the hills were a little too much for some riders that were less fit than others

      • james Reply

        But why are you allowed to expose yourselves? IF i wanted to do this i would get arrested, Also if you are going to display your ugly bodies and bits can we have some sort of warning.

    • Ted Reply

      Yes I’m a naturist. I like the freedom of wearing no clothes with little opportunity we get here in the UK due to our unpredictable climate. But I go to the right places where other naturists go, I.E Spielplatz or Five Acres near St Albans. We naturists do take a quick peak at the opposite sex we’re human. But I don’t think hanging around nude outside googling little kids at primary school is hardly appropriate do you? Ever heard of paedophilia? I’m sure the ancients who walked around in the buff didn’t interfere with kids.

      • Henry Page Reply

        You do realise that part of Brighton beach is designated as a nudist area? It’s not too far from the Jungle Rumble Crazy Golf as it happens.

  5. Jo Reply

    Totally agree with you John. I was on the volks railway today with my two children . The bike ride had finished and they were standing watching the train go by full frontal …..not what you would want your 7 and 9 year old girls to see. And to make it worse when we got to the marina and off the train we had to walk through a huge crowd of naked men. If this is what people like to do fine but NOT when there are children about. The bike ride had finished …….put your clothes back on Or sit behind the mound on the nudist beach
    Brighton and hove council what are you thinking of??????
    There should be strong rules in this event after it has finished as I know I am not the only parent who did not like my children seeing this.

  6. JOHN Reply

    Agree with John. An event designed purely for white middle class entitled exhibitionists. Why do they suddenly have more rights to inflicit this. It carries with it a certain level of arrogance which is not the councils job to support

  7. Fishwife, 49 Reply

    And there you have it folks: Lovejoy’s Law in action.

  8. Jeremy Reply

    I took my four year old son to The Level as at the South end is a very good children’s play area. Popping to the cafe for a coffee, there was a man wearing nothing but some combat trucks (pants) and flip flops buying a sandwich. I thought it inappropriate with so many children about. I then saw that it was part of the naked bike ride and that there were many more completely naked people milling about. While far from a prude having a child has changed my thoughts and there really is a time and a place for things. The place isnt by a large popular kids park.

  9. Pete Reply

    The only way to try and end this unsavoury event appears to be to demonstrate our disapproval by protesting on the day. I have complained a number of times about it and the Police were very sympathetic but did not appear to have the grounds to stop it. If public decency is genuinely outraged and there’s a safety risk this would be a reason to consider halting the ride. In the meantime I’d encourage those who don’t like it to complain to the Police and the Council.

    • John Reply

      Well said, Pete. Where do I sign up for the protest? And you’re right about complaining to the Police and the Council. I will be doing just that.

  10. Francis Cagney Reply

    All of these “think of the children” care to explain exactly what damage seeing a naked body does to a child. You could visit a nudist beach or park on the continent where you will find lots of young children blissfully unaware that they are being damaged and somehow inform them of the dreadful crimes being committed against them.

    Of course breathing in polluted air and having their house submerged when the ice melts is nothing compared to the horror of nudity.

  11. Philippa Reply

    I’m pretty confident about being naked. I’ve done a few art events showing a lot of skin, among other things, where I literally couldn’t run away.. So made myself vulnerable. I did the Southampton one, as everything it represents I care passionately about, but even I was anxious about doing this in my home town.
    I’m glad I did, it felt fine, and I hope we can grow up as a country and become more like the more civilized northern European nations, where the body is less sexualized, and public nudity less of a big deal.

    This article and many attitudes expressed above show how far we have yet to go to become a safe country. People conflate nudity with sex, and objectify or be disgusted by the human body, depending upon their taste…

    The desexualization of nudity in particularly the British press is long overdue, its censorious yet prurient attitudes are truly disgusting.

    • John Reply

      Where in Europe exactly is it legal to walk about stark naked, Philippa? Are you saying it’s okay for a grown man to stand naked outside a primary school? Because that’s exactly where this leads. You risk opening the floodgates to all sort of dodgy behaviour. It’s gross anyway. These people are a shower of idiots.

  12. Name supplied Reply

    My wife suffered a sexual assault many years ago. This has effected her profoundly. She has body dismorphia and trust me, she is NOT interested in exhibitionism for kicks. She hates her body.

    She is taking part because her eating disorder has effected her body. She uses the slogan “this is what an eating disorder looks like” on herself through sheer courage.

    Why? Because she wants to help others who feel ugly by putting her non perfect body on display. She’s showing others it’s ok to not meet up to society standards. She’s doing millions of women (and many men) a great service. By putting herself in the firing line in the bravest possible way.

    I have the utmost respect and admiration due to her actions.

    Now consider your judgemental, incorrect comments and how they are making my poor wife’d efforts even harder.

    You really have no clue what you’re talking about. Pathetic journalism.

    Think.

    Don’t chat rubbish about things you know nothing about and haven’t even bothered to consider there’s more than one type of person at these events.

  13. Sally Reply

    I was there with my kids on Sunday (6 & 9) & i wasn’t expecting to see it!
    However, what we did was stand, wave & cheer at the cyclists while my kids thought it was hillarious it won’t have done them any damage. There was a carnival atmosphere & everyone was in high spirits.
    I would much rather my kids to see real people, with real bodies & have real expectations. Than to only see photoshopped size 0, big breasted, unachievable bodies that are in films, adverts, posters etc.

    To the comment above saying “so it’s ok to stand naked outside a house masterbating then” no, no it isn’t. That is indecent. If someone does that call the police.
    But seeing normal nudity is not sexual & with so many kids (girls & boys) growing up with body image issues events like this should be encouraged to celebrate real people with real life bodies. Kids will only be upset. If you’re upset & if that’s the case, think about the message you’re installing into them.

  14. Richard Murphy Reply

    An empty piece of journalism based on little more than a gut reaction centred around a fear and misunderstanding of nudity.

    We are all well aware that a hefty chunk of the population has various negative issues with nudity and body image, and as a result has difficulty accepting it and relating to it, inevitably preferring to hide away from it. But this is destructive in so many ways, not something to be encouraged and perpetuated, and one of the issues that the ride sets out to challenge and disarm.

    As for all the ‘what about the children’ people, there is just so much naivety here. As someone who has spent time in large naturist resorts abroad where there are hundreds of adults and children, including teenagers, mingling and playing together naked at the beach or around a swimming pool I know first-hand that instinctively children are not in any way harmed or scared by non sexual nudity. In fact these children were the happiest, sweetest, most well behaved, most relaxed and most body confident I have ever seen in my life. Coming back to Britain after one of these holidays and having to witness and resubmit to all the repressed subdued behaviour that British people exhibit is just so damned depressing. Over time children will absorb whatever prevailing attitudes are bestowed upon them by their parents and society as a whole. If they are made to feel uncomfortable about nudity by the behaviour of adults then that is how they will end up reacting. We need to break these types of negative cycle, passed endlessly from generation to generation, and many people who take part in this ride have the guts to stand up and do this.

    Another bogus assumption in the original article that needs correcting is about the use of the clowns. As someone involved in the organisation of this ride I know that the clowns were used specifically to seek out and humiliate intrusive photographers who harass women, something they were very good at, although greatly outnumbered. They were certainly never intended to lure children. Being happy and comfortable naked does not make you a sex offender.

    There is no point in making sweeping stereotypical assumptions about a large group of people, inevitably these assumptions won’t be true and it just shows how empty and judgemental your viewpoint is.

  15. John Reply

    “My wife suffered a sexual assault many years ago. This has effected her profoundly.” So she deals with sexual assault by parading the seafront stark naked? Yeh. Sounds like she’s really coming to terms with it.

  16. Nihal Stic Reply

    Poor journalism, under- researched. Essentially a platform for this person’s opinion. Brighton and Hove could do so much better.

    • Jo Wadsworth Reply

      This is an opinion piece, so yes, it is a platform for the author’s opinion.

  17. Paul Reply

    “The brave campaigners who fought for women’s right to vote were highly disciplined and took no action unless it had a clear political purpose”
    Such as throwing bricks through windows, jumping in front of race horses and chaining themselves to railings? I think the naked bike ride is a far superior form of protest, it gets media coverage, it causes no harm or damage and there is minimal disruption.

  18. Henry Page Reply

    I’m worried about John. He has stalked his way through this thread, donating flashpoints akin to ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’.

    John, the Naked Bike Ride is well publicised in advance of the day. You can avoid it if you really want to, but no, you seem to want to glorify in your revulsion of the naked form.

    All of us are beautiful, John, not just outside but within ourselves too. Try hard John, search inside and see if you can be positive, instead of going out of your way to be negative.

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