By Steve Stajich
Sorry to race right to the finale, but … there will not be any nude or “topless” sun bathing on Venice Beach. Not because of any lack of support for rights or women having parity in the ability to cast off their tops… but because I am offering this sensible list of Top 10 Reasons There Will No Topless Bathing At Venice Beach.
One: Sometimes, unlike the song “Bobby McGee”, freedom is actually another word for “Your idea is terrible.” The word “freedom” has been bantered about after a vote by the Venice Neighborhood Council asserting that allowing topless sunbathing for all would support women getting the same right as men to take off their upper body clothing. But where will that Council stand on defending the privacy of those women, if they are topless in a public space? Their privacy, or what we might call their freedom to be free without harassment or… Okay, this gets us to…
Two: Sorry that I wasn’t older during the 1950’s when a lot of Freudian thinking manifested itself in the early Playboy magazines. Because I might have been one of the voices who said about Playboy, “Fellas, I think this is going to make entire generations of males obsessed with certain parts of the female anatomy in a certain juvenile way.” Let me put that in digital terms: Enter “affordable colleges” into Bing… and you get 65 million results. Enter “big boobs”… and you get 94 million results. That’s too close, people, in a country trying to get smarter.
Three: There’s no argument that it helps… anything. Proponents have called it “a serious equality issue.” Perhaps, but again… that’s only if you are completely unaware of every single other thing that is happening in society. Would Venice ban children under 18… or are we to view the thinking here that somehow the long-term impacts would be educational, so the sign would read “Nude Venice: Fun for the Whole Family!”
Four: The idea that it’s a cultural statement is hooey. In an April 23 piece in the LA Times, the neighborhood council noted that Venice Beach was “founded and designed around the European culture of Venice, Italy” and that “topless sun bathing is commonplace throughout Europe, much of the rest of the world, and many places within the U.S.” But why stop at Italy? Let’s have the council vote for the sophisticated elegance of having mistresses as in France and to adopt the economy of Greece.
Five: This is the worst kind of nostalgia. Forty years ago, some Venice residents basked on the beach in the altogether. The LA Times reports that it brought media, creepy men in leisure suits with their cameras, and life guards struggled to bring people in from the surf who wore nothing the rescuers could hold on to. People say that revivals of burlesque shows are charming and quaint. Take sun, add beer, stir in groups of young men in their 20’s and 30’s… and I think the charm goes away and is replaced by something more akin to “Two and Half Men” if it had been produced for Spike by nine-year-olds.
Six: I think there’s a little bit of a denial in play, wherein women who would bare their breasts at a beach would achieve some sort of liberated and fair treatment and be recognized for a kind of social courage, rather than finding themselves objectified by observers who have no concern whatsoever for any thinking behind the women taking off their tops. That’s not right, it’s not us at our best, and it’s certainly not fair. But we’re talking about some serious rewriting of the code of male socialization here. Enter the name of “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks into your search engine and see how far male-dominated media has evolved since the “Playboy” era often represented in that series.
Seven: Um, this is what the Venice Neighborhood Council has time to dwell on? I’m dying to hear the connection between assisting the homeless in Venice and nude sunbathing. On second thought, if there is any kind of connection I’d rather not hear it.
Eight, Nine, and Ten: I readily concede that Americans have some real hang-ups when it comes to their bodies and the sexualizing of something as simple as lying out in the sun and not wanting the silhouette of a swimming suit on your tan. But you don’t magically erase retro attitudes overnight, and we’re already suffering a huge crisis of civility in this country. Make a sandwich out of Rush Limbaugh, “fans” beating other fans into mental handicap at baseball games, the too often banal level of attack in partisan politics, the reduction of important and critical social agendas to memes with pictures on them, the expression of anger against injustice by means of burning buildings, the shouting on television “discussion” shows, the Neanderthal insistence on gun “rights” in the face of gun deaths… and you don’t have any argument for untethering the civility of clothing.
Thanks for the chuckle, Venice. Now, everybody, back to work.