February 25, 2014
French booksellers protest the attempted censorship of children’s book Everybody Get Naked by getting naked
by Alex Shephard
Earlier this month, Jean-François Copé appeared on French television, to demand that the children’s book Tous à Poil (Everybody Gets Naked) be banned in France. As my colleague Zeljka Marosevic wrote then, the book is “one of the sweetest ideas for a children’s book… a story in which everyone, the baby, the babysitter, the neighbor, the teacher and even the CEO get naked.” The nudity in the book isn’t gratuitous; it’s there to make a point. The book’s authors, Claire Franek and Marc Daniau, have said that they wrote the book in order to show children “Real bodies in natural situations from a child’s everyday life to counter the numerous images of bodies, often undressed, altered by Photoshop or plastic surgery, that are shown in ads or on the covers of magazines.”
Copé was nevertheless incensed, and suggested that the book “recommended to teachers by the government for use in primary schools and asked how teachers could be expected to be figures of authority if they were naked in the book.” Got that? Everybody Gets Naked isn’t about countering damaging, dominant narratives; it’s an antiauthoritarian book that will destroy the very foundation of France, a notoriously prudish country that despises nudity and has never, not even once, been caught outside its mistresses house on a scooter. Not once.
French booksellers are fighting back, though. Last Wednesday, a group of booksellers stripped down to protest the attempt at censorship. As The Local reported, “the publishers and book sellers sent out a press release titled, “Everybody get naked against censorship!” which carried the photo of them with their nether regions just barely covered by various tomes.”
As The Daily News noted in their report about the protest, Everybody Get Naked hit the top spot on Amazon’s bestseller list after Copé’s diatribe, so it looks like the attack may be backfiring. Unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident. A group of right-wing activists have been, as my colleague Zeljka put it in her report, “targeting public libraries and making lists of books they have branded immoral, in particular children’s books, which they are calling to be removed from libraries. This includes the award for cutest title ever, Tango à deux papas et pourquoi pas? (Two dads tangoing and why not?) and the amazingly named La princesse qui n’aimait pas les princes (The princess who didn’t like princes).” Still, things are looking up for those who are about free speech and literature. If they try to ban books, we’ll just get naked.
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.