By all means, raise money for charity - just keep your clothes on
Published 02/12/2015 | 02:30
Yes, 'tis the season for naked calendars and, more specifically, for naked charity calendars. When the members of Rylstone and District Women's Institute first stripped off for their nude calendar back in 1999, they unknowingly spawned a brand new fundraising genre and collected £2m for cancer research. Sixteen years later, we have abandoned the things that made the original so great and opted for a million pale imitations. The Women's Institute has spawned a very ugly monster.
Here in Ireland, the 2016 UCDSU Skydive Naked Calendar is part of an effort to raise €100,000 for Youth Suicide Prevention Ireland. It features UCD students in the nip, apart from some strategically placed helmets. Now UCD Students' Union has acknowledged that the calendar is a little bit risqué, but said that it wanted to do something that grabbed people's attention in order to raise funds for Youth Suicide Prevention Ireland. "We've been accused of being off-message but all our ideas are run by YSPI and they agree with our methods," it said. "We want to draw attention to what we're doing. We need attention to get this much money together. Charities like YSPI have a real need for resources, which aren't being provided by Government."
So is it all just a joke that I don't get? For four decades, Page 3 was treated a bit like a benign comedy show, too. Critics were attacked for being envious, petty party poopers who just wanted to spoil the fun because they'd never look as good naked as Jessica (21) from Liverpool. But we've all clearly had enough of seeing women naked everywhere we look. At the beginning of the year, the UK's No More Page 3 campaign had collected a petition with 215,000 signatures. 'The Sun' pulled Page 3 and Rupert Murdoch even tweeted that the feature was "old-fashioned."
As part of the No More Page 3 campaign, Kate Hardie did an experiment.
She looked at every copy of the paper over six months and cut out all the photos of men and women. She then stuck them all on a wall, with the women on the left side and the men on the right. The result is a blunt look at how differently women and men are portrayed by newspapers. Hardie said: "The men are nearly all active, doing things. Not posed. The women are all passive. It's all about how they look."
We don't need yet another reminder that sex sells. A naked calendar is one way to raise money for charity, but are there not other, equally effective ways of raising money, that don't involve taking your clothes off?
And while naked charity calendars don't quite compare with 'The Sun's' Page 3, looking at 12 pages of naked women is still objectifying them. You might argue that men are getting in on the act too - look at the UCD boys. Yes, men are at it too, but the images are always more playful, less blatantly sexual.
It's just a bit of fun, it's all for charity, say the people taking part - and their motives for doing so are clearly admirable. Still, nakedness is crude and rude. Full stop. Many of the nude charity calendars popping up right now increasingly come across as insulting, patronising and reductive for both sexes. We're saying: "No one in their right mind would want to see you naked - would you be our Mr September?" It's the fact that these calendar girls and boys are not porn stars that underpins the idea.
Naked charity calendars are based on the fact that two mutually exclusive categories - respectable and risqué - are merged together in a grotesque collision. But what uncharitable message is that sending out?
If you are really interested in raising money for suicide awareness, you could do a triathlon, bake a cake or spend a Saturday morning packing shopping bags. If you really wanted to be revolutionary, you could make an anonymous donation. The charity calendar needs to put its clothes back on.