Observing the ‘desnudas’ (naked women) one Saturday in Times Square, I couldn’t find anything vulgar or sluttish about them while they walked up and down the pedestrian plaza hoping someone will take a photo with them for a tip. The paint covered the right places and made the upper torso less naked to the eyes. I was unmoved by their nudity and didn’t think about these nudies in the way some might: marred, sexual, blemished, revealing, or stimulating. Looking around, I thought most of the onlookers looked unmoved as well. Others said “it’s just entertainment and it wouldn’t be New York City otherwise.” Everyone appeared relaxed in the painted women’s presence and so were they too, some of whom were on break while others were having their bodies painted.
Before the 1960’s body painting was primarily used by actors and clowns in the United States. But after then it was revived and taken to a new level due to the liberalization of what society view as rights and wrongs. Then in 1998 an Austrian Alex Barendregt, a travel agent organized a world competition of body painting on a whim when he received an assignment to find ways to bring tourists to his town. Apart from western body painting this art form has been practiced in many parts of the world where indigenous and tribal people live. In Papua, New Guinea, men slathered clay on their bodies to prevent sunburn while grazing cattle. When colors were used to paint the body it would designate the person’s family’s position, tribe, ceremonial rites, or to ward off illnesses, attract the opposite sex, or spiritual significance, political protests or to impress tourists. Although the body painting in Times Square is not on the level of being artistic it should be considered a creative endeavor by these women.
Since when topless women are viewed with such disdain? Breasts and vaginas have always been a fascination with the opposite sex and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Only the laws of the country can prevent people from exposing their body parts in lewdness. But then again laws should not be abused for trivial things such as to put an end the nude women show on 42nd Street because there is no lewdness to it in my opinion. Use the laws when citizens abuse their privilege and cause harm to society. We all have a choice not to watch these women or sit somewhere else. Times Square is big enough for us to find suitable seating.
These gutsy women show immense courage in displaying their bodies in front of thousands of clothed strangers each day. Research by Psychology Today reports that women who don’t like the look of their breasts are also dissatisfied with other aspects of their lives, which can lead to depression. The exhibition by the desnudas might have a positive impact on other females who look at their bodies with self-disgust because the showgirls are not Barbie dolls nor Playboy Bunnies yet they exude confidence with their shapes, sizes and age.
In my mind the controversy that has been built over these women showing off their bodies in Times Square and the irritation by New York City, Mayor de Blasio is out of proportion. I can’t see how these harmless females can cause tourists to stay away from Times Square. I myself made a special trip to see them just in case they are removed even though my wish is for them to remain a feature in the area. After all, they are promoting something. Themselves. Living in New York City a place where individuality is embraced is the perfect place for such a demonstration. “If you can make it here you can anywhere else,” so they are just proving a point.
Children should not be one of the excuses to remove these entertainers. The children of the 21st century are more knowledgeable about sex and sexuality than their parents want to admit. It has been reported doll sales have dropped because girls age six years are not interested in dolls anymore. And with the advent of cell phones, computers, televisions and all kinds of literature children are able to see, listen and discuss all kinds of matters. What about billboards or the bus stop where naked bodies are used for advertisement? Children see this too.
Recently 100 naked people celebrated New York City body painting day and walked three blocks from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to a New York City Police (NYPD) holding pen across from the United Nations Plaza. There wasn’t any commotion about this even though the men looked so disgusting in their naked bodies unlike the performers or ‘panhandlers’ as some refer to them who have their vagina well covered and only show their globes.
Instead of verbally lashing out at these women we should credit them for their creativity, courage, and boldness for their entrepreneurial spirit, to take to the street of one of the most famous cities in the world to market their personal possession, something they don’t pay taxes or rent for, moves with it, and yet can earn a living from it. Maybe they dreamed of being a Hollywood or Broadway star but didn’t so they launched their own show ‘Topless on Pedestrian Plaza,’ without knowing they were going to get worldwide publicity. Could it be they outsmarted people with the idea first so some of the complainers are feeling a twinge of envy?
For those who I noticed gawking I felt they were thinking good thoughts about the ‘desnudas.’ Such as their fearlessness and spiritedness. Onlookers left when they were tired. Some, like myself, took pictures. It is always better to encourage people to develop their innovation than to find faults. Our city has much more urgent social ills which need immediate attention like innocent people being killed by indiscriminate shooting or homelessness.
The women do earn money from flaunting their booties which makes it illegal according to the law but at the same time they are covered by the First Amendment for creative expression. Amber Jamieson, a reporter who went undercover as a desnuda reported 30% of the earnings go to the painters who also are the body guards protecting them from people who might want to touch their bodies. There is no set work hours and each one is an independent performer even though some people disagree.
The Mayor has many issues to deal with in this city some of which are difficult to resolve so maybe if he can get these ladies off the streets then he will have a feather in his cap. They are easy target because they are women. He realizes it’s a tough pitch to get them out of Times Square. So imagine he’s thinking about digging out the pedestrian plaza to stop dozens of harmless women from showing their nipples to the public. It is their choice, Mr. Mayor. It’s their bodies and only they should have full control over it. Mayor de Blasio, if you undo the plaza you will have lost the fight. Why cut your nose off to spite your face? It’s easier to legalize, and protect them, have some policies in place and let them continue working in Times Square.