Intolerance of nude bodies in gym changing rooms swells among millennials, as this Canadian swimmer has learned.
It never occurred to the 67-year-old healing facilitator and former engineer that it was inappropriate to take all his clothes off in the locker room to shower and change.
But the South Shore municipality informed swimmers in its November newsletter that nudity is forbidden in changing rooms.
“The city would like to remind users of the public pools that in the changing rooms, they must be clothed, covered up or use the cubicles or toilets,” aquatic supervisor Dominique Lavigne wrote in an email to Bérard after he sent a query about the new rules.
Locker-room etiquette will get even more complicated two years from now, when Brossard opens a new aquatic centre with a universal changing room, rather than separate ones for men and women.
Lavigne noted that part of the reason the city has banned nudity is to get pool users accustomed to the idea that they have to cover up in the locker room.
Universal changing rooms are a growing trend as communities seek to make recreational facilities more gender-inclusive and responsive to the needs of people with disabilities, who might need to be accompanied by a member of the opposite sex.
From the YMCA in Calgary’s Quarry Park neighbourhood to the University of Guelph, universal, gender-neutral changing rooms, with cubicles where users can change in privacy, are becoming increasingly common.
The trend follows bitter legal battles in the United States over access to locker rooms for transgender students.
But users in the habit of peeling off their clothes without a second thought complain the increase in inclusivity is coming at the cost of less individual freedom.
Bérard, who swims laps at the Antoine-Brossard pool two mornings a week, says there’s nothing shameful about the human body, and that you can’t take a proper shower unless you’re naked.
“I’m all for respect, but when I’m taking my shower, I don’t want to wear my bathing suit,” he added.
“It seems to be fear-based,” he said of the new rules.
But signs popping up at Montreal-area pools warning users to cover up suggest there’s a generational shift in what’s considered acceptable.
CBC’s Baroness von Sketch Show skewered that difference in its sketch Locker Room, portraying women over 40 as totally comfortable with their nudity while under-40s were horrified by seeing older women parade their less-than-perfect bodies.
While tolerance for nudity seems to be decreasing in North America — in changing rooms, anyway — that’s not the case in northern Europe, where naked swimmers rinse off in coed showers before entering the pool and nude family saunas are a perfectly acceptable activity.
Danes, who have family nudist nights and many beaches where clothing is optional, are “the most shameless people in the world,” writes British journalist Helen Russell, author of The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country.
“The result of all this embarrassment-free living? Danes have the highest level of contentment on the planet (so says the UN World Happiness Report) and don’t worry too much about what they look like,” she claimed in Britain’s Telegraph.
In Germany, nude sunbathing was considered a way to protest the authoritarian governments of, first, the Nazis (who condemned it as a Jewish plot to destroy the morals of pure Aryans) and later, the communist dictators. Today, as in Denmark, it's just a normal way to enjoy life. Not so in our country.
Americans have always had a weird attitude towards nudity, loving it in films and publications while shrinking from the real thing. Now that absurd reaction seems to have spread to Canada's young adults. I blame global warming.