"Nudity as speech"
Researching Jérôme Jolibois presented a few challenges. First, I don't read French, Dutch, or German, the three official languages of Jérôme's home nation Belgium. This would not be a problem when it came to speaking with him as he speaks excellent English, but for doing the initial discovery it meant I had to rely heavily on the internet and Google Translate for my research.
Luckily, there was an array of material to pull from on the internet. Jérôme has been written about by multiple media outlets, and has been interviewed on television more than once. His activity as an activist and advocate for naturism and bicycle mobility has made him a public figure, and in this day and age that means that it can be very difficult to hide anything. Fortunately, Jérôme Jolibois has no intention of hiding.
It's our human nature. When we put socks and shoes on newborns, the first thing they do is take them off. We must teach a human to keep his clothes, even when he does not need them. We do not dress anymore because we are cold, we dress because it's cold. It's a different concept.
Thanks to a preliminary "fact finding" zoom meeting, I soon learned a little bit about Jérôme directly from himself. It was clear that he had a remarkable story and a unique point of view on nudity. As someone who has to speak as part of his job, he also was charismatic and well spoken. As far as the interview was concerned, the pieces were falling into place.
The real difficulty was my introduction. In the opening monologue of each episode of Naked Age, I strive to provide some historic context for the person I interview. While Jérôme was clearly making history, I still wasn't sure how to establish the historical background for him and his particular type of activism. I knew I did not want to do a straightforward history of naturism in Belgium or the World Naked Bike Ride, but I felt it had to relate to nudity and activism. I was getting close, but I couldn't quite find the framing for the story.
Then I stumbled on an excellent academic paper by Steve Hunt titled, "Naked Protest and Radical Cycling: A History of the Journey to the World Naked Bike Ride", which broadly detailed the history of both naked activism and bicycle protest. Eureka! Suddenly an image came into focus of two movements converging at a moment in time, the very same moment in time that Jérôme was trying to draw attention to his own cause, and looking for a way to do so. It felt like a bit of kismet, and I now had a path to follow.
I learned from Jérôme that nudity can be used for good. Certainly for the personal good of oneself, but more importantly for the greater good of society. Jérôme is a multi-activist: he campaigns for more than just nude rights. He campaigns for human rights and social progress. Nudity is his methodology, his modus operandi.
But it's more than just a political tool for Jérôme. It's also a way of life. He doesn't only use nudity for activism. He lives it, publicly and proudly. He goes out on the town and attends events nude. He wears nudity as his truth. That takes a lot of bravery.
To see such bold honesty in a politician is incredibly rare. Imagine if all of our politics were so open. Many politicians claim they have nothing to hide, but how many actually go beyond merely talking the talk? How many will actually stand in front of you in all their glorious vulnerability and say "This is me and I refuse to hide." In a world where confidence in our elected officials seems to be at an all time low and distrust at an all time high, wouldn't this level of openness be refreshing? Jérôme is exactly who he says he is, whether he's saying it to his constituents, a nighttime television host, or a podcast interviewer.
Certainly, politicians have used nudity as a PR ploy in the past, but very few truly live it. I know I can't cast my vote for Jérôme here in America, but if such a politician existed here, they would certainly earn my support.