One of the joys of writing is that in the course of researching for it, one comes across such amazing and interesting people. I’m working on a chapter called ‘Naked Rebellion’ which looks at the way the body has been used to defend everything from workers’ rights to protesting against the fur trade and human rights violations.
The most famous use of this way of drawing attention to a cause comes from the 13th century legend of an 11th century figure Lady Godiva – who allegedly protested against her husband’s cruel taxes by riding naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry. Historians believe this never happened, but the idea is such a powerful one it has inspired many protests.
When dealing with the subject of nakedness I am always wary of the possibility of sleaziness, of using an apparently worthy aim for a less worthy end, but I’m also aware that when used in the right way it can represent incredible power: which is why, of course, we use the term ‘Naked Truth’. As Alan Cohen says: ‘The freest people I know are those who have the least to hide, defend or protect. Naked is powerful.’ It is also of course vulnerable, which is why nakedness when used in protest makes such a powerful statement.
In researching the legend I discovered a Youtube clip of a protest against property taxes in Arizona that used a Lady Godiva, a ‘Charmed’ episode in which Lady Godiva appears by magic to defend womens’ rights to breast feed in public, and British Film Institute archive footage of Godiva in a Coventry parade in 1902.
And then I came across the story of Pru Poretta, who has spent the last 25 years as Coventry’s Lady Godiva, parading on a horse. More importantly, she has also become a powerful force for good in the town and further afield, promoting multicultural awareness, women’s rights and children’s literacy. She has formed the Imagination Cafe to promote reading in schools, the Godiva Sisters to foster social inclusion, and the Coventry Women’s Festival. Learn more about this amazing woman on her website and in this BBC article ‘Leading the Life of Godiva’. Here is a piece on the festival which has just finished from the Coventry Telegraph:
“THE ninth annual Coventry Women’s Festival got underway at the city’s Transport Museum on Saturday. The week-long festival celebrates women’s achievements and the successful struggle of women around the world against poverty and exploitation. People of all ages enjoyed dance classes, pampering and a variety of stalls at Saturday’s event. Pru Porretta, chair of Coventry Women’s Festival, said: “It is a place where women’s voices, feelings and wisdom are valued. “You can listen to inspiring speakers, receive an award, find a new contact or career path, have a health check, get pampered or tap into your artistic side with expert guidance all the way.”