Naked People on TV -- A Breast is a Breast
Are all humans created equal? Most modern Westerners would say yes, we
are all equal and have certain rights as humans. We have the right to
our own bodies and to survive without impinging upon others. We have
the right to belief and to safety.
In the United States, we have careful censorship to prevent unwitting people (especially children) from seeing/hearing certain things to which we believe they should not be subjected. Nudity on television is not acceptable... or is it?
The amazing series Living with the Mek takes journalist Oliver Steeds and survival expert Mark Anstice to West Papua to live with the remote Mek tribe. The Mek wear almost no clothing (see the photo on the right) on a daily basis. After all, it is hot in West Papua, and without societal norms requiring them to cover themselves, why do so?
For years, the National Geographic magazine has depicted "indigenous nudity" somewhat controversially. After all, this is how these people live. Why should we subject them to our own cultural standards? This, we believe, takes away from the validity of the photos, and for many, it makes the breasts of indigenous women valid subjects for educational photographs. Look, children! This is how people on the other side of the world live.
At the beginning of the Adventures with Mark and Olly shows (later they live with the Machigenga in the Amazon), a disclaimer points out that "the following program depicts indigenous nudity" and should be viewed with discretion. Breasts, testicles, and other body parts of the Mek considered by the Western world to be "private" are not blurred.
And yet the Discovery Channel had a documentary on nudism in North America that censored the "sensitive" areas of all the people in the show. For the white nudists, being naked was as integral to their society as it is to the Mek. Why only censor one of them?
Presumably the Travel Channel and the Discovery Channel (both distributed by Discovery Networks) are not choosing to censor or not censor their shows; this is dictated by the FCC's laws regarding "decency" on television.
What makes a naked white female
less appropriate for television than a naked Mek female? They have the
same anatomy, and in the case of nudists, the same types of reasons for
being naked (in that they are not being naked for the sake of obscenity
but are also not doing it for artistic reasons).
The implications of this are disgusting. It seems to imply that the Mek are somehow less human, their privacy less necessary, that they are something to be studied and observed. Their bodies are not seen as equal to those of white Westerners in the eyes of the law.
directly conflicts with the "all men created equal" ideal that so many
of us hold dear, and yet to many of us it makes sense: foreign people
in "tribal" cultures who we will never meet are free to be naked on
television, but nudity of nudists who may as well be our next-door
neighbors frightens and disturbs us when displayed on television or in
other public venues.
It seems the only way to reconcile this is to make a unanimous decision. Nudity on television for all (excluding obscene or sexual nudity, which has drastically different connotations) or for none, but certainly not for just some.