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  • Women in Focus - Helen hears from Emma Farrell

    side.jpg.c6550f7f2f6d9882323da1ed4bd9eb03.jpgEmma Farrell is 41 years old and works in a secondary school as a Science Technician. She has twin daughters who are 11, and a 5-year son. She lives with her husband, Stephen, in Nottinghamshire, UK.

    Q. What got you into naturism/nudism?
    A. It was probably the experience of childbirth that quite suddenly and forcefully made me drop any hang-ups that I had about being seen unclothed. Amongst many other things about that particular morning in August 2012, I remember a midwife trying to preserve my modesty by placing an absorbent sheet over my chest. As well as being very hot, I thought it was absurd, so I kept removing it, seemingly to her annoyance, and I guess that's how this all of this started.

    After that, I became a naturist out of convenience! What was the point of getting dressed in the middle of the night for feeds for instance? And for the first few years of our daughters' lives, although I didn't apply this label to it at the time, I became an indoor-naturist within our home.

    In 2016, I heard about an art project being planned in Hull by Spencer Tunick to celebrate Hull's maritime history, and volunteers were being sought to be photographed in the streets of Hull wearing only body paint. Signing-up for it was very easy, but the nerves started to build from the moment that I got the email asking me to take part. It felt absolutely surreal when the instruction was given to undress, but after a couple of minutes the nerves dissipated and it felt fantastic. I didn't want it to end.

    Q. Is there a difference between the two labels?
    A. I don't believe there is. I would describe myself as being a naturist, but only because that seems to be the popular noun to describe somebody who appreciates the opportunity to be nude - exactly in the way that we entered life on this planet.

    Q. How does it impact your life on a day-to-day basis?
    A. I am open in telling people that I am a naturist. I've been labelled as an 'enthusiastic naturist' by others in the community for telling others about the benefits of naturism and offer to help them try it out if they are interested. I am passionate about getting more women involved in naturism to address the imbalance in the gender makeup of naturists.

    On a day-to-day level, the impact on my life is largely a psychological one, in the sense that having taken this step and achieved acceptance of my appearance, I feel free from the burden of society's expectations of what I should look like purely to meet others' expectations. That doesn't mean I don't care about my appearance and keeping fit, but I choose my appearance rather than letting society dictate how I must appear.

    Working in a secondary school, I often see the effect that the pressure to conform has on the students. My naturist philosophy sometimes helps when speaking to the students, but conversely, I despair about how concerned they can become in response to what they witness on social media.

    Q. What challenges do women face in naturism generally?
    A. My perception is that 'body image' is a bigger problem for women generally than for men. I've found that naturism is the antidote to body-image hangups, but it's insecurities about body-image that also seem to create barriers to preventing more women from getting involved.

    Secondly, there's an element of vulnerability about being a lone female in a public setting that I don't think males would experience in the same way. For that reason, like a lot of things in life, it's easier to be a naturist as a male than as a female.

    Q. How can we encourage more women to try it?
    A. I know more women than I can count on two hands that could find naturism a life-changing experience, if only they could overcome their lack of confidence to attend an event. I've had invites declined before because "I don't have the body for that" or "I need to lose some weight first", so there is obviously a misperception issue about what naturism is about - and I obviously do try and dispel those myths that naturism is the preserve of the most-attractive section of society.

    This year I arranged a women's only clothing-optional swim at our local pool, which was kindly supported by BN. I was eager to provide an opportunity for ladies to 'dip their toes' and see what naturism is all about. It was clothing-optional so that women could come along to see what it's all about and join in if they felt they wanted to. The event was a success in the sense that everybody who attended had a great time, but it didn't provide enlightenment to anybody who hadn't experienced naturism before, which I found at least slightly frustrating.

    Q. How can women help in desexualising nudity?
    A. I remember a time when I thought nudity was just part of a close relationship with somebody, so I understand why the public at large may misconceive that there is something sexual about naturism. I think women supporting publicly visible events, such as the Naked Heart Walks for instance, where it is quite apparent that there is nothing sexual about it, will hopefully work towards dispelling this myth.

    On a more individual level, talk about what naturism is, why we do it, what benefits we get from it and bluntly that there is absolutely no tolerance for anything inappropriate.

    Q. What can men do to help in desexualising nudity?
    A. My encounters with genuine naturist men have never caused me to feel uncomfortable at all. I've had at least one encounter with somebody who made me feel quite uncomfortable, but I don't think for a moment he was a genuine naturist - and sure enough, it seems like he realised he'd got the wrong place and hasn't been seen since.

    Men can help by challenging public misconceptions, whether that be correcting people who have misunderstood what naturism is about, or not letting inappropriate comments about naturism go unchallenged.

    Q. How can we encourage body positivity and acceptance?
    A. Show all the body types! I love that when I go to naturist events, I see people of all sizes and shapes. People with stomas, people with scars, people with tattoos and piercings - it's so refreshing to see what real people look like. I genuinely believe that my children benefit from being around people who share this philosophy and I hope they will grow up with a healthy attitude towards body image.

    Q. What advice would you offer to women curious about naturism?
    A. Obviously, I would advise them to give it a go! I can't imagine you will ever go back! If there's something that is holding you back, then talk to one of us as I'm sure most of us would be available to allay any fears or find a way of overcoming whatever it is that's preventing somebody from making the leap.

    I've not forgotten the steps I took towards being comfortable within my own skin, and I think it's too easy for us to get into a mindset where we think "why would anybody feel apprehensive about being naked?" To my fellow naturists and nudists, I would remind them that naturism isn't something that even the curious feel comfortable about; so gentle encouragement and helping people feel safe and comfortable may be more beneficial than broad coercion.

    Q. What drives your passion in promoting naturism?
    A. I'm passionate about promoting naturism because of the benefits it brings to those who participate. I genuinely think a lot of issues surrounding body positivity and self-acceptance can be solved by becoming a naturist. Secondly, the more widely accepted naturism is, the more opportunities for people to engage in naturism there would be.

    Q. Is your family supportive?
    A. My family is extremely supportive. In the early days, they would come along with me to facilitate me experiencing naturism, but without any pressure or even encouragement they're now quite involved, including my husband, who when we were drawing up a wedding gift list in 2010 asked for a vanity screen for getting changed. It's been quite the journey for him!

    Q. Has naturism changed since you first got involved?
    A. I think acceptance within the population is increasing. It seems quite popular now for naturism to feature on news segments or interviews and for it to receive a positive response, whereas in the past I don't think that would have always been the case.

    Increasingly, celebrities seem to be revealing that they are comfortable without clothes which seems indicative of a softening of views towards naturism, and that it's something they're proud about. That could be due to the cultural shift towards body-positivity, which I think is a relatively new concept, amongst the media at least.

    Q. How do you see the future of naturism?
    A. I see the future of naturism positively, as more people realise the benefits of it and get involved. It would be wonderful to achieve parity in the gender makeup of the naturist community, and while that may seem a long way off, I think we all have a responsibility to ensure that naturist clubs and events are welcoming and encouraging to women.

    Q. Any other thoughts?
    A. It's great that BN are supportive of Women in Naturism and obviously are as keen to encourage women as much as I am! Hopefully events targeted at women, and potential younger members, will continue to be a priority for BN and its membership.

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