Dissident No.1 Xiu Mei

Ella: Do you consider yourself to be a naturist, Sue?

Xiu Mei: No. I’ve visited naturist beaches in SL, but it’s not something that is part of my every day SL existence.

Ella: But you don’t mind posing nude for SL Naturist?

Xiu Mei: No. I’m against censorship and, more importantly, the subjugation of women, so when I see these sorts of things going on in -in inverted commas- ‘my country’, then I’m open to the idea of making a little stand against those attitudes against women, primarily, and the attitudes that reflect freedom for all mankind.

Ella: ‘My country’ in inverted commas. Can you explain?

Xiu Mei: I’m Hong Kong Chinese, or more specifically, half-Chinese. My mother is HK Chinese, my father was part of the British presence in Hong Kong. He’s a retired Royal Hong Kong Police officer. I grew up there, but we came to Britain (Britain left HK in 1997) after it was handed back to the Chinese. So I grew up in a middle area. Most of my friends were Chinese, and I grew up with that culture, and feeling Chinese more than British. Of course, fifteen years later, just about half my life, I feel more British in a daily sense, but still feel Chinese. It’s kinda hard to explain.

Ella: I noticed you weren’t wearing an Asian avi.

Xiu Mei: They’re expensive, and don’t look overly Chinese, or Asian. So I use what is probably intended to be a ‘white’ skn, and tweaked the eyes for a more oriental look. It probably reflects my reality a little bit.

Ella: So you still have links to Hong Kong?

Xiu Mei: Lots! I have friends there, and aunts and cousins. I’ve returned several times and did actually consider taking a job there about three years ago. I keep in touch, both with real, breathing links to it, and also following news feeds or listening to the radio via the internet.

Ella: I explained about the Ai Weiwei situation. How do you feel about that?

Xiu Mei: That’s Communist China for you! At least, that’s what I’d assume to be a prevalent attitude.

Ella: What do you think of the photograph?

Xiu Mei: It’s hardly ‘pornographic’, as claimed. It’s hard to determine the women’s ages, but it’s really quite sweet. The lady standing looks like my Mom!  It looks like a celebration of life, of humanity, to me. And the attitude that this is dirty, or disgusting, made me want to pose for SL Naturist, just as a way of expressing my solidarity for the rights of all of the names you’ve told me about.

Ella: OK, let’s get down to business then! How did you feel about posing?

Xiu Mei: I’ve had my clothes off in SL before! I’m comfortable with it in the right circumstances, but I’ve not wandered too many nudist beaches. A little bit at the start of my Second Life, but not so much recently. It was quite liberating!

Ella: Would it encourage you to visit SL naturist sims?

Xiu Mei: It’s not something that has formed part of my SL much until now, but I wouldn’t be horrified by the prospect. I’m unlikely to explore the idea much, I think, unless I were to meet friends who used those sims, or I got an invite, or I met a guy who embraced the idea.

Ella: Do you think attitudes in China will change as a result of the Ai Weiwei and Zhao Zhao situation?

Xiu Mei: I doubt it. But I think we must be expressive in our demands to say ‘this is art’ and support the publication of photographs like this. Of course, it’s less to do with art and more to do with freedoms. The Chinese fear personal freedoms. OK, there’s a huge dichotomy within the country. The likes of Shanghai and HK would have thriving sex industries, porn, all manner of western sexual freedoms, but it isn’t the reality for the overwhelming majority of the nation, and particularly the nation’s women.

Ella: Sue, it has been a pleasure talking to you and I’d like to thank you, personally and on behalf of SL Naturist’s readership, for taking part in our photoshoot.

Xiu Mei: It was fun, thanks for inviting me, and it was great to make a little SL stand and a reflection of RL censorship and sort of interact with events in the real world.

(Xiu Mei Ohmai was talking to Ella via inworld chatlogs, and IMs and notecards. Please note you can click on the thumbnails to make the pictures larger)


Aliaa al-Mahdy, Veena Malik, Ai Weiwei and Lu Zhuangping

The naked human body is a beautiful thing. Quite possibly God’s greatest creation, and yet it’s those who hold the deepest of beliefs in a deity who recoil in horror the most from it. Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims seem to have the greatest fear or horror of the naked form.

So this post is our first slight detour (I expect there will be others) away from SL naturism as a chosen SL lifestyle, which will be the central plank of the ‘SL Naturist’, to illuminate attitudes in real life that are linked to nudity.

If you haven’t been following the stories, or are unaware of them, let me bring you up to date on four ongoing news stories that demonstrate some sort of atavistic attitudes towards the beauty of the naked form, two of them with deep-seated archaic religious attitudes to the naked form.

The first is of Aliaa al-Mahdy, a young Egyptian woman who has blogged naked photos of herself, thereby incurring the wrath of an increasingly Islamic fundamentalist military government in place since Mubarak was toppled in the ‘Arab Spring’.

This photo has caused all manner of repercussions inside and outside Egypt, inside and outside the Muslim world. I believe that we must respect different cultures from our own, so I respect that Islam sees these photos in a different context, but there has been an outrageous kneejerk reaction to the photos, and an infringement of her rights, as a human being and a woman, to express her ‘freedom’. Not just in the sense of being naked (as those of us in the west might regard naturism as an expression of us being ‘free’ -if only momentarily- of the usual conventions and restrictions of modern life, but in an extended debate on freedoms within Islam, within Egypt and within the world.

One of the heartwarming stories that spins off from this one is how her statement on freedoms (it’s evidently not just a bit of exhibitionism) has crossed religious and political borders, with a group of Israeli women then making a protest in support of Miss al-Mahdy. 

Stripped, of clothes and the small mindedness of politicians around the globe, it’s evident that people are all just the same, everywhere, and see a greater humanity towards one another than their politicians do. There’s a lesson there for all of us.

Elsewhere, China has charged Zhao Zhao, an assistant to the artist Ai Weiwei, of possession of pornography, because Zhao has a camera containing photos of Ai Weiwei and some naked women on his camera.

Pornography? I don’t think so. A celebration of the nude form, and it seems that many people agreed, with a group of men and women, supporters of Ai Weiwei, then posing nude, with strategically placed Ai Weiwei masks over their nipples and genitals, in support of Ai Weiwei and Zhao Zhao.

Of course, China differs slightly in that it hasn’t had a long historical relationship with the nude in art or culture, but Egypt, in the time of  Akhen-Aton and Nerfertiti in ancient Egypt, early ‘naturism’ (sun worship) to be spiritually and physically beneficial. Who can argue?

(Incidentally, another Chinese artist, Lu Zhuangping, has also got himself into hot water for using his daughter as a nude model. In his paintings, the daughter, Li Qin, is a painted representation of the nude, and therefore doesn’t appear to have courted quite so much controversy.)

Back to the Islamic world, though, and the cover of this month’s FHM magazine’s Pakistan edition, It features a well known actress, Veena Malik, posing nude. Nothing is shown, of course, but in Islamic Pakistan and its conservative Urdu cinema industry, it has courted extreme controversy (and also because she’s shown sporting the letters ISI on her upper arm, ISI being Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s Secret Service.

She looks beautiful, as do the other women photographed above, but she has been moved to deny ever posing for the photos, maybe because it’s photoshopped, maybe because she hasn’t, maybe because she has but now needs to distance herself from the controversy due to the furore the shoot has caused. 

She’s a beautiful (and outspoken) woman, and I shall be following this story avidly, as it seems Ms.Malik is an empowered, strong-willed woman at odds with her country’s social and cultural (and outdated) attitudes.

In Second Life, there are few Asian avatars around (either male or female), but I’ve managed to contact three (one Pakistani woman, another Chinese one, and a third north African, although the first two both now live in the West, so have absorbed, or been corrupted by, western cultural values, depending on your point of view. And all three have agreed, in a support of solidarity for their RL counterparts, to pose naked for SL Naturist. Two have asked not to be named, and all three discount themselves as being ‘nudists’ in any shape or form, but are excited by the prospect of showing solidarity, amongst women, across the globe, for ‘personal freedoms’. The first of three pen portraits and photoshoots will follow shortly, and the other two by the end of Sunday.