Looking back on advancements for social nudism in 2014, I think it was not a year of cheesecake, but rather a year of cheese and cake: a year of reclaiming the parts from the whole. Very specifically I have in mind a pair of female celebrities, K.K. 1 and K.K. 2, who used the media power of their images to support certain attitudes toward the body that are ultimately favorable to social nudism. The images in question were not without controversy, which I will address below.
The first Ms. K.K., the actor Keira Knightley, posed topfree for a spread in Interview magazine back in August. Ho hum, right? But she later revealed, in November, that she had insisted that no retouching or Photoshopping be applied to her breasts after the shoot, saying, “Because it does feel important to say, It really doesn’t matter what shape you are.'”
The second Ms. K.K., Kim Kardashian, also posed topfree and bottomfree for a photo shoot, for Paper magazine in November, in an attempt to “break the Internet.” While she offered no comment that I’m aware of about retouching or using Photoshop on the images, Ms. Kardashian did nonetheless proffer such an outstandingly goofy, mischievous smile that many people found the image to be at least supportive of the idea that going clothesfree is fun, and not to be associated with shame.
When I ask naturists and nudists I know, along with folks who don’t necessarily label themselves either way, about the importance of these splashy photos, they show a range of opinions from “it doesn’t matter one way or the other” to “this is a huge deal” to “if anything, it has a negative impact on social nudism.” I’d like to point out that technically neither of the K.K.s is nude in the photos; therefore, the photos are not “nudist.” Furthermore, the photos are of course very elaborately produced and have nothing to do with the natural world; therefore, the photos are not “naturist.” Neither K.K. has publicly supported the Free the Nipple movement, for example, in the way that Scout Willis has… nor supported for that matter any similar kind of recognized body-positive movement, to say nothing of naturist or nudist organizations.
It will have been much more important, in the larger scheme of things in 2014 or in any year, that organizations such as TNS and AANR in the United States, and similar associations worldwide, continue to do their hard work of supporting our rights and our designated places for going sans clothes. And if we limit the assessment to only media contributions to the support of social nudism in 2014, arguably it will have been more important that the Free The Nipple film was released or that Act Super Naturally, sequel to Act Naturally, was filmed by J. P. Riley and his crew to be released in 2015. It was certainly a year that saw a continued increase of nudity on TV (although more often pixelated than not), along with the general growth of advocacy for body acceptance and breastfeeding.
Were K.K. 1 and K.K. 2 paid for the photos? Probably quite handsomely. Are they already well-known, with little to fear in the way of negative repercussions? Yes. Could it even be said that the images actually help them in their particular career goals? You betcha. Haven’t many other famous people, of all genders, already done similar things in photos and film? Undeniably true.
And yet…I do support the K.K.s, for having their cheesecake and eating it too. In their own ways, Knightley and Kardashian, among others (comedian Chelsea Handler, for instance, has chastised Instagram for banning her staged-but-more-natural topfree photos), have tried to call attention to what happens with the production, distribution, and censorship of these kinds of images, and how they contribute to what Knightley called a “battleground“:
“I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame. It’s much easier to take a picture of somebody without a shape; it simply is. Whereas you need tremendous skill to be able to get a woman’s shape and make it look like it does in life, which is always beautiful.”
Even though in some ways it’s inappropriate to even compare Knightley and Kardashian, who have very different abilities and personas, it’s still true that both celebrities, in this way, have supported the cause of the Free the Nipple movement by bravely baring their breasts. They have won a public focus on the “ingredients,” so to speak, that go into the manufacture, display, and consumption of cheesecake images, and, in the controversy and social media outpourings surrounding the photos and their frequent, ridiculous “barred” censorship, they have provoked more much-needed contemplation of our bodies and how we present them.