The great nude yoga advertising conversation continues, and it’s evolved in some interesting directions…

The Feminist Analysis Direction

The Ms. Magazine blog provided an interesting and informed synopsis of last month’s conversation. I really appreciated seeing an “outsider” (meaning non-yoga blogger/writer) perspective on things, as well as the detail of analysis. Somebody was paying attention! Since I spend so much time in the trenches of the online yoga community and repeatedly hear many of the same voices over and over (even though I love these voices), I can forget how things appear to people who are not yoga bloggers, writers or practitioners.

Not only did the Ms. blogger analyze the yoga blogger posts and responses, but she read the comments: “The resulting cycle will be a predictable one for most feminists: Women raise concerns about exploitation, defenders accuse those women of being prudish or jealous and conclude that the whole topic is a non-issue. Only this time, there’s a nasty twist: Some blog posts and comments asserted that criticizing advertising is in itself unyogic. Now practitioners with a bone to pick aren’t just bitter and sexphobic—they’re also bad yogis.”

The title of the blog post, Yoga’s Feminist Awakening, has provoked some interesting discussion on Facebook. Does this conversation reflect a “feminist awakening” in the yoga community? As Carol Horton pointed out, “So what does feminism have to do with it anymore? The divide [in the online yoga community] seems more like between those who have a socially critical perspective, and connect their practice to that, and those who don’t.” Interesting… my feeling is that there is an awakening and refreshing dialogue happening within the community. Whether or not it’s feminist is hard to say, but it’s political, it’s cultural, it’s critical. And it’s exciting to watch and be a part of.

The Vague New Age Defensive Direction

One of the most challenging things about last month’s conversation was watching the focus shift from the use of nudity in yoga advertising to the Toesox ad and Kathryn Budig. It was frustrating to watch, and I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Kathryn (even though, from what I saw, many of the comments were supportive of her and the “beauty” of the ad). She had refrained from commenting during the heat of the debate, but has started to make little peeps.

Last week, in a post on Yoga Journal’s new Nectar blog, she alluded to her decision to do the ad: “Eka Hasta Bhujasana… was the very first pose I shot in my campaign for ToeSox wearing only the designer’s socks and my birthday suit. As you might imagine, my initial reaction to the idea of posing in the buff put a temporary lift into my eyebrow and a worry that I was going to feel a breeze in all the wrong places. Then the owner of ToeSox and the photographer explained their concept behind the ad, which is: the body is our temple.”

She goes on to say, “To me, the photo is a lovely example of what happens when you blend strength and surrender, because this particular shoot required extra doses of both. I summoned up my strength, shed my fear (along with my clothes), trusted in the vision of a talented photographer and company, and channeled the depths of my asana practice, my sacred feminine, and my soul. Then there was the surrender–I had to embrace my authentic self in it’s raw form, to allow my image to be seen in magazines, and to offer my heart and intention to each and every pose.”

In a piece on the Huffington Post, Why Are We So Freakin’ Angry?, she goes into more detail about how the conversation affected her. “The heated public debate and personal attack was a good, old-fashioned example of people using a scapegoat to release their undirected pain and frustration. I may have felt like the beast at the top of the castle battlement surrounded by angry, pitchfork-bearing villagers, but they weren’t directly angry at me. No, they had misdirected frustrations about a deep-seeded issue in themselves.”

This accusation was buried in a long ramble about anger and not taking things personally. However, it was the question in the title of the article that I found most problematic. What are people angry? Because they’re human. The questions that Kathryn should be addressing are: What kind of choices have I made? Am I willing to take responsibility for my actions? Calling herself a “scapegoat” and claiming that people’s perceived anger is the result of “misdirected frustrations about a deep-seeded issue in themselves” is irresponsible and dismissive.

It’s easier to feel like a victim, place blame on others and resort to fuzzy new age moralizing than to stand behind one’s actions. As Brenda from Grounding Thru the Sitbones commented on Facebook: “Just once, I would like to see one of these spokesmodels give us some insight into why they make these choices, instead of whining about people being mean.” Yes, that’s what I’d like to see also.

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