Ruan Ren-chu, center, and fellow nudists pose for photos. Ruan has made it her mission to unbutton and remove the nudity taboo from Taiwanese society. (Photo courtesy of Ruan Ren-chu)
A butcher in southern Taiwan is urging the public to join her in a quest to understand more about the human body by socializing in the nude at events as quotidian as afternoon tea.
Ruan Ren-chu, who owns a butcher stand in a traditional market in Kaohsiung, said the idea came to her during an artists' workshop that she attended in Taipei a few months ago. Her initial plan is for participants to strip naked, then sit around a table, sip tea and discussing topics such as nudity and gender discrimination.
The response to the idea has been ambivalent, with only three women showing up at the first tea meeting in Kaohsiung earlier this week.
"Nudity is still a taboo in our society," said Ruan, 53, in a recent interview with CNA. "People are afraid to talk about it, and almost anything that has to do with the body is considered dirty."
For example, she said, most women in Taiwan have never even seen their own genitals. "How can you even expect to clean yourself properly if you have never looked at your genitals?" she asked.
Ruan, a self-styled artist, is not an unfamiliar figure in Taiwan. Her protests and bold, controversial actions often draw media attention. In April, she staged a nude demonstration in Taitung, calling for the legalization of nude beaches. Two months later, she posed as a nude model at public event in Kaohsiung, at which children were present.
"I know I'm attracting a lot of negative attention but there has to be someone on the frontlines, pulling the society forward," she said.
The publicity around Ruan has not been all negative. She is now the subject of a documentary film called Curious Body, which is being commissioned in part by Taiwan's National Culture and Arts Foundation.
Ruan Ren-chu 阮仁珠