Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Pin-Up Protest

Magazine article Alternatives Journal

Pin-Up Protest

Article excerpt

Saltspring women bared all in a fundraising calendar. Was it empowerment or exploitation?

They tried lobbying governments, informing the media, holding rallies and even locking themselves to logging trucks. But it took the women of a small island off the coast of British Columbia to try a new spin on attracting the world's eyes to their cause. They took off their clothes.

In November 1999, the community of Saltspring Island watched as 5000 hectares of privately owned land was sold to Texada Land Corporation, whose main intention was to log and develop the area as quickly as possible. This land makes up one-tenth of the island, and it is home to the largest remaining Garry Oak woodland in Canada as well as rare animals, insects and plants. Orca whales and porpoises frequent the island's bay and salmon spawn in its streams.

The community of Saltspring Island quickly knew that the only sure-fire way to protect their island and to preserve its unique wildlife was to buy back the land. This wasn't going to be easy. Texada had set the price high and the forests were disappearing quickly. The islanders needed a quick way to attract attention and money.

So in their 2001 calendar, Saltspring Women: Preserve and Protect, the women of Saltspring Island stripped down and allowed themselves to be photographed. They are shown hanging from trees, frolicking throughout the endangered forests and conducting various activities associated with saving the land -- all in the nude.

Nude calendars for a cause represent a new fundraising trend. The idea for the Saltspring calendar was inspired by the Women's Institute of Rysdale in Yorkshire, England, which created a 1999 calendar depicting female members in the nude fundraising for leukaemia and lymphoma research. It was a huge success and brought in thousands of dollars for leukaemia research. The American women's Olympic team did it to pay for their trip to the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia and survivors of breast cancer in Calgary did it to raise money for research.

What separates these calendars from the ones you see in auto-body shops is the fact that the women are not models, but the ordinary-looking women involved in the various causes. There are thinner women, larger women, older women, younger women and even pregnant women.

Although it seems to be an idea that is spreading, the calendars are not without their critics. "How come every time when women want to raise money for something, this is the most successful way of doing it?" asks Romayne Smith-Fullerton, a professor of journalism and media at the University of Western Ontario. "It doesn't really say anything about the women; it says something about everyone else. I think it's problematic that that's what they have to do to raise money. …

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