The Nude Debate. A response from Toesox to Judith Hanson Lasater’s letter to the editor in Yoga Journal.

Via on Aug 10, 2010

The Nude Debate.

There’s a continuing debate regarding the use of nudity in ads, even more so after Judith Hanson Lasater’s letter that was published in the recent issue of Yoga Journal.

The yoga community offers a peaceful space to share ideas and opinions, so we also wanted to weigh in with our thoughts. It’s not certain that Lasater’s comments are directed toward us, but since our ads do fall under the category of which she is speaking, we will assume she just might be (in some cases, our ads are being used as the example).

We have been big fans of Jasper Johal’s work since December of 2004 and admired his work for several years before approaching him with the concept of using his fine art series of nude photographs, “The Body As Temple”, as a marketing campaign for ToeSox. This was not an endeavor embarked on lightly and Jasper wanted to be sure of our intention before he agreed. For the record, our intention has been to associate ourselves with inspiring, beautiful artwork that celebrates both artists’ work and showcases them in a forum that reaches many. We do this because we are patrons of the artistic efforts of Jasper Johal, Kathryn Budig and Carrie Macy. The ancillary benefit is that the audience is simply aware of our product. We do not try to oversell in the ads and clutter the art. If the audience wishes to know more, they are welcome to view our site.

We do not equate nudity to sex and selling sex can be done without nudity. Sex is not our intention and the proof is shown through the mindful gaze of the artist and the positioning of poses. There is no coquettish look at the camera or wink to the audience. We aren’t using nudity for nudity’s sake. The campaign is about minimalism and expression. Each month features a different pose, each with thoughtful use of lighting, depth, and composition. Images are not just thrown together, but instead orchestrated with genuine heart and love of the human body and its strength.

There is a lot of passion surrounding this matter. We appreciate the dialogue. We appreciate Lasater’s stance and her willingness to speak out. We also appreciate our ads, the work of Jasper Johal, and the incredible spirit of our models and hope that you do as well. In no way is our intention to make you feel inadequate or lustful or market the idea that “you must look like this, to do that.” We know we can’t please everyone, but for every person that is offended, there are 50 that voice to us that they are inspired. And that is our focus for the marketing campaign. The selling of ToeSox is actually secondary.

In the end, we’d rather inspire and be inspired than bored.

In kindness,
Joe Patterson, Founder/President
ToeSox, Inc.

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27 Responses to “The Nude Debate. A response from Toesox to Judith Hanson Lasater’s letter to the editor in Yoga Journal.”

  1. Tricia ptak says:

    Joe, we love the ads. The human body is the most beautiful creation. Thank you for your visionary inspiration.

  2. david says:

    these ads are about minimalism? you're selling socks…for yoga…

    I love the photos and I also think they are inspiring and beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. As a man, I don't find them sexually stimulating, but enough of this kind of "whitewashing" In the end, you are a company trying to sell a product, and in my mind, a gimicky one at that.

  3. I really like your letter, except for the very last sentence, "The selling of ToeSox is actually secondary." This is B.S. on the surface, and I choose to ignore it in favor of all the sincere and convincing things you said before that.

    Thanks for writing.

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

  4. nicole says:

    okay look, Toe Sox, you are a business using yoga to sell a novelty product. nude, sexy, artful, whatever. you're selling yoga. And for me this is the biggest issue. you cheapen it, pervert it and turn it into a "marketing campaign." There is no value in what you are selling, It does not advance the evolution of our species in the name of yoga. It does not in any way contribute to the improvement of the lives of those who are suffering. It's crap. And all the money you spend on your "marketing campaign" to sell it in yoga mags could be better spent, I'm sure. You are out to make a buck. And you know what, if you were trying to hawk your product to any other demographic besides the yoga community, it would be just another (perhaps forgiveable) instance of American capitalism. Your company wants to make and sell a product: outsource production to China (which is a whole other ethical issue), get high profile personalities to market product, saturate the "market." instill fear and worry to said market to prove the value of your product (from your website," "While we know your studio is clean, there still may be germs lurking on the floors, equipment, and your clients' feet that you are not aware of. So join the Foot Revolution and turn your facility into a sock-only studio to stop the spread of germs.") and sit back and see how it goes.
    NOT IN YOGA. Does our consumer maniacal culture have to put a price tag on everything?? I have long ago dismissed Yoga Journal because I believe that they are in the business of selling yoga. I value some of their contributors, but enough of the shiny, happy white women defining and marketing what yoga is in our culture. Their mag is one big contradiction.
    So go ahead Toe Sox and keep thinking of ways to manipulate us yogis to buy your product in the name inspiration. I, for one, am just plain bored with it all.

  5. amygreenblatt says:

    I think the toe sox ad is very beautiful and very much like art. If I were to venture a guess, and I'm just guessing, I'd say the objectionable ad in the Yoga Journal was for the yoga mat, where a young woman – a girl, really – was lying back with her torso naked and her hands covering her breasts. That gave me a really bad feeling to see. Her youth, her not doing a yoga pose, her vulnerable position, etc. There was another ad in that issue, too, that could have been it. Thank you Joe Patterson, for your kind response and contribution to the discussion.

  6. b dugger says:

    I dont understand why everyone has to have such an extreme opinion of this stuff. If you go to a yoga studio to practice, you have to pay. Therefore money changes hands and those of you who feel that yoga is being sold out are actually participating. Let it rest. If someone wants to buy ToeSocks, let them buy them. If you feel that the ads are an attempt at manipulation, it seems that if you dont buy the product then you were not manipulated. There are so many things in this world that can use our passionate involvement, why do we waste that energy on disagreeing about something that is really, in the big picture, a very minor issue. Good Grief. Stop the arguing and name calling and just let each person decide what works for them and what doesn't. In otherwords, get a life for heavens sake.

    • Brooks Hall Brooks Hall says:

      b dugger: I’m glad you spoke, and I’m sure that you are not alone in your ambivalence, but it scares me. I care about yoga. I care about women, and think that Yoga Journal should be more discerning about what is printed in the magazine. Yoga is empowering for practitioners. Images that suggest that women are objects to be “taken” sexually or otherwise are inappropriate for the magazine in my opinion.

      I know that opinions about the toesox ad vary.

      Without clothes, people are vulnerable. 

      We need to make our choices wisely: as consumers, readers, advertisers, models, teachers, etc.

    • nicole says:

      nicely put Brooks. I agree that the choices we make everyday matter. And when a leading magazine on Yoga, is making not so smart choices, we have a responsibility to discuss and pave the way for change. B dugger, sure we pay for yoga classes. I'm a teacher, I get paid for my services and also offer them for free. When you put your money in my hand though, it's going towards feeding my family and paying my rent. I am not using that money to contribute to more consumption, more pollution, more trash and an economic model that polarizes and exploits The only motivation and dharma for me to do what i do is the empowerment and evolution of our human family. This very minor issue has a very large footprint and my passionate involvement. Like I stated before, my issue isn't with the nudity, it's with the production of a yet another product which has no necessary value. Maybe this is the wrong forum, but after reading Mr. Patterson's letter, I felt compelled to write. I spoke with a woman today at toesox asking about the conditions under which they were made. All she knew is that they were made in china. We have a worldwide problem of of how western consumption and waste is affecting third world countries. I care about yoga and I care about our world. I believe that as yogis we have the responsibility to take care of one another and our planet as well as maintaining the integrity of our species. Putting socks on a beautiful yogi and having a talented artist take her picture for the purpose of selling something, is a waste of our potential and global responsibility. And when what works for you doesn't work for the rest of the world or our environment, especially in the yoga community, it's time to make a better choice. you may say it's just socks, but it's really so much bigger.

    • Kara N says:

      These ads are inconsequential with respect to the various concerns people are raising about them. If you're worried about the possibility of exploitation occurring, drawn out discussions about toesox ads aren't really appropriate.

  7. You had me until "the selling of toe sox" is actually secondary. I like the ads, but, really….you are just spending thousands gratuitously in order to provide the yogic public with these images? Please.

  8. Jasmine says:

    The ads and concept are beautiful and done tastefully. In yoga, we are celebrating the human form and as yoga teachers and students we are looking at each others bodies to watch for alignment and posture in order to be strong, be present and evolve through the medium of our bodies. Is the selling of Toesox really secondary?

  9. candice says:

    Yeah Linda! That would be a great ad comapaign!

  10. Ben Ralston Ben Ralston says:

    Completely agree with what Nicole says in the comment above.

    Would simply add:

    ToeSox are laughing all the way to the bank. Bet they didn’t dream they’d get this much publicity… or, wait a minute, maybe they did!

    And, from the point of view of a long term yoga teacher, WHO THE HELL WANTS TO WEAR SOCKS when practicing yoga asana??!!
    In fact, I tell my students to take their socks OFF! Why?
    To feel the ground better;
    for better balance;
    to let your poor bloody toes breathe a bit;
    to help the circulation…
    There are many reasons. But my advice, as a professional yoga teacher, to anyone thinking about buying socks especially for yoga is:
    Think a little before buying products simply because they’re presented to you ‘artistically’.

  11. nicole says:

    "then you know and accept that Yoga Journal is a money making magazine that answers to the call of the shallow market and the sexy body rather than the call of the cultural, the wholesome, the intellectual and the spiritual"

    I know and it's sad. Another way America has marketed the soul out of something so pure and truly human.

  12. candicegarrett says:

    amen Ben.

  13. jennifer says:

    "the selling of toesox is actually secondary"??? Wow! How great!! I am kinda broke right now, but since money is not the main priority for your company, here is my address, I would love a free pair.

  14. MatWitts says:

    Unfortunately, it appears that a lot of arguments regarding commercialism / nudity etc. are based on a misunderstanding of how "yoga" and "Yoga" actually work together – the semantic relation between them is complex but thankfully quite easy to sort out.

    Lazy copy editors and journos / bloggers like to write both about "yoga" and "Yoga" (capitalised).

    Please note that the debate centers around a publication called (the) "Yoga Journal" NOT (a) "yoga journal".

    A lot of this is at cross-purposes then – we are not actually talking about the same thing – Judith wishes to write about "yoga" and Yoga Journal wish to write about "Yoga".

    This is an issue of conflation – look more closely and you will see how important contextual information can be conveyed either as a common noun or as a proper name.

    There is no obvious difference, and it does seem "Picky" at first but the way we interpret them depends on the specific meaning that the capitalization conveys.

    For yogis, both words will be evaluated within an existentialist framework – subjectively if you like and yet YJ editors are asked to view it more objectively.

    Please note how quickly the same word can be first used as a common noun but then put "on proper noun duty".

    The common noun "yoga" might denote any school of religion or philosophy that advocates and prescribes a course of physical or mental discipline for attaining a greater understanding of the body, mind, self et al – it is NON-DUALISTIC – which is why people get so hot under the collar – they make the mistake of conflating Yoga issues as being issues about yoga (cue the heated debate).

    Whereas the proper noun Yoga references a specific approach or conceptualisation of the practice, such as Yoga Journal, Hatha Yoga etc.

    The unifying theme here then is the word "yoga" – it is a very special case – when we shift from proper to common, (that is: from many instances to one, specific designation) we are doing yoga right there !! (as long as we are aware of the shift we have made).

    It is important to note that the sense which came first was the common sense.

    As Sanskrit – Latin translations were developed to the extent that the readership knew the context, yoga became a dynamic, personal conceptualisation of "union" – or I prefer "holism" as it denotes a more capacious quality rather than "union" which can (in a political sense) imply some form of social coercion – or at the very least a rather uncomfortable idea of "binding together" – limitation – rules – order – yuk.

    As yoga was introduced across to a more secular society there was a need for the common noun to become a name, and the simplest way of doing this is to attach the word "yoga" to whatever one was specialising in, so the general practice and movement of yoga now has an almost limiteless number of specific designators masquerading as the common noun interpretation.

    Linguistically, I have found yogis to be as precise or as imprecise in this regard as they need or wish to be, if they are running a fitness session they might call it a "yoga class", if they own a business they might call it a "yoga shop" – without a second thought as to what that might actually mean – how can a shop do / be yoga ??

    Inappropriate use of the word "yoga" then can cause subtle and yet powerful deceptions – in fact Yoga is not necessarily yoga (but the reverse must always hold true – whether it involves hot naked girls, grumpy old men – whatever)

    In general, words are imprecise, but since the meanings of these words carry so much weight then proper use of them, and their attributed meanings should be tied down, not by bringing in more descriptive words and irrelevant hype, but for copy editors – when you mean yoga write yoga (and when you are writing about some form of yoga [Yoga] use the capitalised version) – I am sure this would cut out most of the hullaballoo ?

    • Interesting post, Matt, but I’ve a 180-degree difference regarding the use of the word. For me, (following Georg Feurstein’s useful distinction), “Yoga” with a capital “Y” refers to the most expansive understanding of Yoga as the Yoga Tradition: that is to say, the pre-Hindu, pre-Buddhist, pre-Jaina ‘ocean’ of teachings and practices dating back to the earliest Upanishads where the word yoga was first used to describe ‘spiritual discipline.’ That original meaning of the word was “yoking” as in the yoking of the mind and senses.

      Then, various approaches such as bhakti-yoga, karma-yoga, jnana-yoga and eventually, hatha-yoga followed. Of course, there is also the school of philosophy more accurately referred to (in present time) as “Classical Yoga.”

      The various trade-marked ‘styles’ of hatha-yoga such as Anusara, Kripalu, Integral, Iyengar etc. are also capitalized.

      A ‘yoga journal’ that is about the Yoga Tradition, is not about any specific lineage, branch or school of Yoga. Thus, Judith is speaking about Yoga, not some trade-marked variant or approach.

      Of course, the problem with this whole discussion is that it was side-tracked (for obvious and not so obvious reasons) from the real issue of commercialism, exploitation and the capitalist appropriation of the female body to a rather superficial discussion (rant) about nudity!

      The very fact that this devolution in discourse happened, to my mind, proves Judith’s point!

      metta
      frank jude

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  16. RJR says:

    As a man I say sure they are beautiful pictures etc. but it is so unnecessary that I think it demonstrates very poor judgment. I beg you to stop the ads.

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  18. BoepSaFrankJude says:

    THANK YOU, Linda! Now, THAT would be a really interesting ad campaign: a different model each month including round folk, older folk, people with amputations, obviously ill folk all beautifully, inspiringly practicing yoga-asana! I wouldn't be likely to buy socks for yoga in any case, but the ad campaign would move me! AND, if it's true and not the bullshit I think it is, it would prove that "the selling of ToeSox is actually secondary."

  19. nicole says:

    hi David, just for discussion sakes, why does this product have the right to exist?

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