“As if Brexit wasn’t enough to deal with.”
Cambridge University lecturer Victoria Bateman has carved a unique niche for herself: Fighting patriarchal institutions with nudity. Now she turned to give her latest target — Brexit and its allegedly negative impact on individual freedoms — a full-frontal treatment in a 30-minute lecture, before issuing an invitation to a prominent Brexiteer to debate her in the nude.
The show: Bateman performed a one-time lecture on campus last month titled “Brexit: The Naked Truth,” in which she combined her feminist performance art with anti-populism commentary. Attendees of the free talk were told to “expect impassioned argument and nudity in equal measure.”
Bateman traced the history of the referendum — through tales of widespread misinformation and conflicting political interests — and of what she foresees is yet to be a long, arduous path before a real resolution is reached.
Completely exposed (except for the line “Brexit Leaves Us Naked” written over her chest in black marker), she employed the narrative of The Wizard of Oz to illustrate how Britain was led astray along the “yellow brick road” by false promises and nationalistic fantasies.
“What we’ll find is Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg behind the curtain with a loudspeaker telling us that Brexit has the power to transform Britain,” said, a fellow in economics. “Like Dorothy, we will soon realize that we already have the power to make Britain better without having to leave the European Union, that by leaving the European Union we are only making the problems worse.”
Let me add this to @eucopresident‘s words: Brexiteers have placed Britain on the #YellowBrickRoad. It’s a long & arduous journey. And, when we get to the end, will all the time, energy & pain be worth it? Listen here https://t.co/2Z84HZo91P #BrexitLeavesBritainNaked #RemaininEU pic.twitter.com/rIiHBDYqOS
— Dr Victoria Bateman (@vnbateman) February 6, 2019
Human petition: At the end of the lecture, attendees were invited to go on stage and sign Bateman’s naked body, which served as a living anti-Brexit petition.
The challenge: Talking to BBC 4 Radio Friday after her lecture went viral, Bateman invited MP Rees-Mogg, who Politico ranked as one of the top-20 Brexit “troublemakers,” to debate the issue with her, as long as he’s willing to shed his clothes as well.
Reax: Unsurprisingly, many of the comments Bateman received didn’t quite address the substance of her lecture, but the stunt itself. Many did it lewdly (some with more wit than others).
— SERGIO 🇭🇲 (@SERG1O_D) February 7, 2019
But others contended that her arguments are actually undermined by the performance.
If you feel the need to be naked to grab attention for your argument then I would suggest your argument probably isn’t very good and if you got naked to make a particular point then judging by the comments on here you missed on that count too.
— Mike D. (@BarkHIll3) February 7, 2019
As a counter argument, singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer noted that, hey, Bateman’s getting the attention she was seeking.
ah, but it worked didn’t it. 913k views and counting, and people are listening to her talk. so call her crazy if you want, but she’s far from it.
— Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer) February 8, 2019
But even some users who sympathized with Bateman’s statement (both the argumentative and the performative), were discomfited by the show.
As if brexit wasn’t enough to deal with. I mean, fair play on the body confidence. But this isn’t the sort of thing I want to see whilst I’m eating my porridge at 9 in the morning pic.twitter.com/lVBMghCaBQ
— Annie Henley (@aka_Annabell) February 6, 2019
Nothing new: By now outrage and backlash are familiar to Bateman. After her original exhibitionist protest in June — attending a Cambridge function wearing a breast-revealing dress while touting the slogan “my body my choice” — she told Pluralist that the hateful responses didn’t surprise her so much as how much of the “objection and verbal abuse” had come from women.
Read more: Pluralist’s interview with Dr. Victoria Bateman.
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