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On February 1, the City of San Francisco officially banned public nudity except during special events like Folsom Street Fair and Bay to Breakers. Nude activists who have protested the ban have been cited and arrested since its passage. House of Representatives Minority Leader and San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi, who was a strong proponent of the ban, justified her stance by stating publicly, “we have our standards.”
Well, Ms. Pelosi, your standards admonish nudity but allow for war profiteering, and no, we don’t have our standards. There shouldn’t be standards for personal behavior in a city. Standards apply to minimum wage, housing, waste disposal and things like that. What people choose to do with themselves is not for anyone to fit to a standard and certainly not for something as mundane as simple nudity. We still live in such a puritanic society that the idea of people being comfortable enough with their own bodies to be naked in public is viewed as classless and pornographic rather than as an expression of personal freedom. While Ms. Pelosi claims we have standards, we see rent increases that are forcing people out of their own neighborhoods and a public transportation system that is laughable to people from the east coast. Standards apparently only come into play when a small group of squeaky wheels makes their squeamishness known.
We still live in such a puritanic society that the idea of people being comfortable enough with their own bodies to be naked in public is viewed as classless and pornographic rather than as an expression of personal freedom.
One argument that I hear repeated from those in favor of the ban is that in any other part of the country this discussion wouldn’t even be happening. There would be no nudity, period. Right, that’s why we live in San Francisco. If we wanted to be told what to do or go to court to debate evolution or climate change, I’m sure we could find a cheaper place to live than this fabulous city. The people of San Francisco need to be careful. This is one of many laws that are being put in place that are really here to control us. “Sit and Lie,” an ordinance passed in 2010, was the first in a growing queue of laws prohibiting the very behavior that defines San Francisco. Sit and Lie banned people from sitting or lying on the sidewalks, effectively criminalizing the City’s massive homeless population. Soon to come is a ban on smoking in public places because why should anyone be allowed to do what they want? Apparently if something is of a minor inconvenience to you, you can complain about it until the city bans it. It’s called freedom, baby. Drink it up!
Sit and Lie and the public nudity ban center around areas that are seen as more upscale and highly trafficked by tourists. The corner of Castro and Market streets is the epicenter for the public nudity and also a major tourist destination. Haight-Ashbury, the historic bohemian epicenter of youth culture, is where Sit and Lie is being used to remove street kids from in front of all the new boutiques that line it. These measures are crafted and targeted at specific groups under the guise of caring about the reputation of our city to tourists. But hold on, isn’t San Francisco known for being wild and independent? Didn’t Paul Katner of Jefferson Airplane refer to the city as “49 square miles surrounded by reality?” Why the sudden pandering to tourists? They came to see the circus, this is where the freaks live. Why should we be changing our habits for people who are going to be gone in a week? Unfortunately, it’s clearly not just the tourists. This is an internal problem.
Didn’t Paul Katner of Jefferson Airplane refer to the city as “49 square miles surrounded by reality?” Why the sudden pandering to tourists? They came to see the circus, this is where the freaks live. Why should we be changing our habits for people who are going to be gone in a week? Unfortunately, it’s clearly not just the tourists. This is an internal problem.
San Francisco has seen an influx in new residents in the past few years and there are no signs this trend will be slowing. This is great. In a city with less than a million people, the interest it generates is disproportionately large. Although our reputation precedes us, we are seeing more and more people who want to have a squeaky clean environment for themselves and, most likely, their children. Why are we pandering to them? Because they make the most noise.
San Francisco is beautiful and while it may feel like a place where you could raise your children while still enjoying the benefits of an urban lifestyle, what people have trouble accepting is that once you decide to live on this planet, you might have to deal with things you find unsavory. If there was any semblance of danger from public nudity then maybe I’d entertain the argument against it, but this isn’t about danger. This is about people trying to shave down the parts of San Francisco that drew outside the lines and make it the pretty, tidy city they want. Those of us who are weird, freaky and here because this is the only place we can be that way need to start making as much noise as the control hounds. It’s time to be squeaky wheels to fight for truth, justice and the American way. Oh and to be naked in public which, if I can be honest, is all of the above.