Ex-pageant protester quits Cape Cod nudity fight*
By Allison Blake
Ottaway News Service
Eleven women have dropped their appeal against the Cape Cod National Seashore's anti-nudity rules, with six of them saying that the legal strategy used did not reflect their feminist philosophy.
Last spring, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock ruled against the plaintiffs in the class-action suit seeking to overturn the Seashore rules.
Among the women is Nikki Craft, a former Santa Cruz activist. She has brought her campaign for "shirt-free rights" for women to Provincetown beaches for several summers. She and the other plaintiffs were among those arrested two years ago for removing shirts at a demonstration at Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown.
The women contend it is discriminatory to allow men to go shirt-free, but to fine women for nudity if they do the same.
Six women signed a statement removing themselves from the case, saying it failed to address their feminist concerns. Lee Baxandall, head of the Naturist Society that financed the suit, said the society asked the other five women to drop the case, following a split between the society and Craft.
[Craft adds: Lee Baxandall is lying here when he says he asked the other five women to drop the case, following the split. First of all, there were not five left on the case, but only two active participants in the case. Nikki Craft, Michelle Handler, Laurel Brooke, Gabriel Brooke, Maureen O'Connor, Diana Fabbri, Carol Agate and another woman (who was a union organizer and did not want her name associated in any way with nudism) removed ourselves from the case. That left Carolyn Manheim, Diane F. Kennedy and Melissa Farley. That is eight women who dropped off the case. The only two active participants were Diane Kennedy and Carolyn Manheim. Even then Baxandall attempted to pressure the lawyer to proceed with the case. The lawyer tried to inform us that he was going to continue with the case without us and we threatened legal recourse. Only then did he tell Baxandall that he would not, under any condition, continue the case without our consent.]
The Oshkosh, Wis.-based society hired lawyer John Kyff, who argued the case on the basis of First Amendment rights of free expression. But Craft last week said that legal strategy ignored the basic rights of women.
"What we found they were doing was more or less leaving feminism out of it," Craft said. "It was 'nudist this' and 'nudist that,' forgetting this class-action suit was brought by women......
"It's very complicated, but it's a progression that became an unbearable political embarrassment. It was more nudist and naturist, and they were selling feminism out," she said. "We were used, in a sense, for public relations."
But Baxandall called Craft's comments, and her end to the lawsuit that cost $36,000, "a personal, vindictive action."
"Their (feminist) concern is amply addressed," said Baxandall. "It was one of four parts. You do give a court all arguments possible.........A legal strategy will use all relevant constitutional responses to the seashore. Any intelligent, rational lawyer will use all legal strategies.
"The First Amendment blows the government's position out of the water."
Craft, leader of the "Preying Mantis Brigade" in Santa Cruz, instituted a number of protests here between 1978 and 1984, including a campaign to allow women to go without shirts on beaches and a protest against the sale of Hustler magazine. She was arrested several times, and in 1981 started the first "Myth California" protest of the Miss California pageant here-- a pageant that eventually sought refuge in San Diego. She moved to the Midwest in 1984.
Last summer, Craft was fired from her job with the Naturist Society for reasons that included her activity as a "radical feminist," a label she said she has always embraced.
"Until it was diluted by a so-called 'winnable' legal strategy, our case was about equal rights and body acceptance. Our case was not, as Kyff argues, mostly about the 'fundamental rights' of the 'oppressed class' of 'nudists,' and their struggle to be free from 'apartheid' on their beaches," Craft said in a prepared statement. "Had the case not been so resolutely manipulated by the nudist and naturist agenda, we would be pleased for almost everyone -- nudists and naturists particularly -- to benefit from any legal precedent based on our efforts."
The Seashore's anti-nudity regulations, adopted in 1975, call for $50 fines for violators.
Three times in recent years, Craft has been arrested by Seashore rangers for removing her shirt. Each time, she asked that her case be heard in U.S. District Court in Boston, rather than by the federal magistrate who hears Seashore cases on Cape Cod.
Seashore superintendent Herbert Olsen said the U.S. attorney's office has chosen not to prosecute the cases. Craft said the Seashore dropped charges. Because the cases were never heard in court, and possibly set a legal precedent, the 11 women filed the 1986 class-action suit.
"There are certain areas where there is considerable nudity at times," Olsen said. "We seek to keep nude activity in control so that it doesn't impact on others.
"There is a tremendous expanse of beach, and it isn't possible to be at all places at all times," he said.
"What we are talking about is people taking control of their own bodies," Craft said. "As long as people hide their bodies in shame when a Seashore representative comes along, they've got you."
* Reprinted from Santa Cruz Sentinel Wednesday, Dec.14, 1988
Feminist Plainiffs Withdraw From Cape Cod Nudity Case
Dissention Rips Nudists, Feministsby Lisbeth Lipari
BACK TO NUDIST/NATURIST HALL OF SHAME