Buff bikers will be baring their butts once again here in the ‘Athens of the Midwest’ for Madison‘s third World Naked Bike Ride. Having weathered taunts and arrests the first year, last year’s event went much more smoothly, as hopefully will this year’s.
The arrests were somewhat surprising considering Madison’s well-known liberal atmosphere. Planned by its founders from its inception in 1836 to be a Mecca for culture and learning, the city is often referred to as ’78 square miles surrounded by reality’ due to its politically liberal nature compared to the rest of the state of Wisconsin. You know, cows and cheese!
The University of Wisconsin-Madison was a hotbed of anti-war activity during the 60’s and early 70’s as students and police clashed violently during protests against U.S. involvement in Vietnam and the presence of war profiteers working and recruiting on campus. Protests died to a whimper following the bombing of a building housing the Army Math Research Center, resulting in the accidental death of a researcher and signalling, some say, both the death rattle of the anti-war movement and the beginning of the end of the war.
Since then the city, the capital of Wisconsin, has been growing steadily more conservative in the intervening years as the baby-boomers grow older and the 40,000+ student population focuses more on success and less on social justice. Sadly, we haven’t heard the epithet ‘Berkeley of the Midwest’ applied to our fair city for decades.
However, Madison is still very liberal politically and hosted mass demonstrations last year when our new governor initiated efforts to destroy the state’s labor unions and disenfranchise poor voters, while at the same time deconstructing social services statewide. A recall election has been called despite the efforts of the Republican majority in the Legislature to prevent it in any way possible.
Our city long ago decriminalized marijuana, legalized top-freedom for women (now they’re arrested for disturbing the peace), and remains a bastion of left-wing activists. That’s why it was surprising that there was any fuss at all at the first WNBR here. Topless lesbians have paraded without incident in the past, students sunbathe and skinny-dip on the lake shore behind the frat houses and yours truly has joined merrymakers in taking a dip, sans-suits, off the pier at the student union.
This year’s event promises to go off without a hitch (stitch?) unless the governor decides to impose his will and declare a state of emergency to deal with this ‘insurrection’, but considering his tenuous hold on his office, that probably won’t happen! Plus, as last year, we have good old Paul Soglin back in the mayor’s chair and though he isn’t the radical he was in the ’60’s when he was first elected (and still a UW student protester), he’s a decent man who loves his city and seems to know the difference between skin and sin.
As is apparent in the Cap Times article (affectionately known locally as the Crap Times, a defunct newspaper refusing to die by becoming a once-a week supplement to its rival paper), not everyone here is mature enough to handle the idea of nudity without snickers. Well-justified wariness of the press and concerns about the privacy and safety of the participants prevents the local group from promoting the event and its route as much as might be desirable. Unfortunately this leads to snide remarks such as “Sounds more like a flash mob to me” .
We’ll be hoping for good weather and a better reception this year, though a recent local newspaper article made a big splash over pervs at nearby Mazo Beach. WNBR has nothing to do with naturism and in fact has shown little interest, at least locally, to be associated with nudists in any way other than as participants in the Ride. But that doesn’t mean that the public separates them in their mind, any more than they distinguish between beach perverts and the nudists they bother.
So mark your calendar for 11 a.m. on June 16 and let’s hope that this year’s Ride goes well and helps educate the masses as to the dangers of fossil fuels and the naked venerability of bicycle riders everywhere!
Grin and Bare It on the World Naked Bike Ride – Capital Times
Naked Freaks! WNBR Madison (2010)