Opinion: Inter-racial nudity

POSTED: 01/25/12 11:34 AM

Daso, the Democratic Alliance Student Organization in South Africa has stirred up some controversy with a poster depicting a white young man embracing a colored girl. It’s a tasteful poster accompanied by the text In OUR future you wouldn’t look twice. There’s really nothing shocking about the poster, but conservative south-Africans have taken offense because the young man and his colored girlfriend are naked. The girl’s breasts are neatly tucked away behind a blue Daso-logo, so one needs a lot of imagination to get one’s hormones running wild.
Benetton took interracial nudity already much further more than twenty years ago when the clothing company published a poster in 1989 depicting a black woman breastfeeding a white baby. So what’s the big deal this time?
The poster went global via Facebook and triggered hundreds of reactions. Black and white South-Africans are offended by the image that – by all standards – does nothing more than radiate interracial tenderness. Nah, the critics say, why can’t they be dressed and just holding hands?
Peter Vermaas, a correspondent for the Dutch broadsheet NRC Handelsblad, explained in his paper that mixed relationships, pornography and public nudity were strictly prohibited during the apartheid regime. The almighty Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerken were behind this policy.
These days South-Africa has one of the most modern constitutions in the world, Vermaas observed, but the citizens are predominantly conservative.
The critics did not only feel offended by the nudity, they also fell over the interracial thing. One Facebooker wrote: “This is fake. You will never see such a couple in Cape Town. First make sure that the black population has the same standard of living before coming with such posters.”
Apartheid died eighteen years ago but mixed relationships are still a sensitive issue, and they are also rare in South-Africa.
Vermaas notes that mixed couples feel the eyes of many people upon them when they enter a restaurant. And many black men or women prefer to wait in the car while their white partner books a hotel room. If they entered together, they could discover that the hotel was fully booked.
The student organization that printed the poster is not impressed by the criticism, and rightly so. Dosa-chairman Makashule Gana says that the party’s youth wing is pushing for an non-racial society wherein nobody turns a hair anymore upon seeing such pictures.
Gana added for good measure that the poster is not about sex or porn. Those who see sex in this poster have never had sex in their life, he said.
All the same, it makes one wonder why people are so obsessed with nudity. In more liberal societies media exploit this obsession. The Dutch Telegraaf just does not seem to get enough of brain-dead stories about this or that celebrity in a bikini or a fancy dress that shows what a girl is made off; British tabloids have had their page-3 girls like forever. As long as it sells (and it does) nobody is going to change this winning horse.
The good people of South-Africa probably need a couple of generations to get used to the idea that apartheid is really and truly something of the past and that nudity is, in fact, nothing else than our natural state.

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