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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Naked Protest

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: Some women sit in trees to protest clear-cuts, and then there are others who take their clothes off. In today's media maelstrom, it's harder than ever to get noticed. But commentator Julia King wonders how far someone should go to be heard above the din.

KING: Around the time my mother taught me how to tie my shoes, she also taught me how to protest. Her rules were simple: Look respectable, act respectable, and don't give the opposition any ammunition. Together we buttoned those top buttons and combed our hair for peace, civil rights, the ERA. You name it, we marched for it. In sensible shoes. Recently, a Canadian environmentalist, along with a handful of others, took a much different approach to gain media attention for her cause. She appeared topless and on horseback to stop Texada Land Corporation from old-growth logging on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Now a group of Salt Spring women have posed for a nudie calendar to raise money for the cause. It's activism without inhibition. Disrobe for deforestation, pants down for preservation. Then comes my mother's advice: Look respectable, act respectable, don't the opposition any ammunition. Yet, she said that decades ago before cable TV, before the Internet, before there was so much stuff to compete with. The topless Canadian protester told reporters she has PhD and no one was listening. I take my clothes off, she said, and here you all are. And maybe she thinks people tune in to the Playboy channel to hear what the bunnies have to say. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, but being looked at is not the same thing as being listened to. So, the reporters came. And they even took notes. And they even printed the story about the threatened ecosystem from the old-growth logging. But like it or not, the real story, the one that will get repeated, is that an environmentalist went topless. "I just don't get those crazy tree-huggers, " Joe Public will say over his newspaper. Because sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the breasts. Taking off your top, or your bottoms, might get you looked at, but will it get you listened to for the long haul? Ultimately, the battle is not for Joe and Jane Public's attention, but for their trust. And they don't trust people who go topless on Main Street. Take your umbrella, get a good night's sleep, keep your clothes on.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Commentator Julia King lives in Goshen, Indiana. She comes to use from the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

(Music up and under)



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