San Francisco’s Winter of Wiener

On February 1st, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener’s nudity ban will take effect.

The popular website SFist summed it up this way: “…this year that shall forever go down in infamy as the year that one of the last libertine vestiges of the Summer of Love got wiped away by the Board of Supervisors” .

The Summer of Love has fallen to the Winter of Wiener

The Summer of Love began in 1967, transforming the City of San Francisco into the epicenter of the counterculture movement. In the years that followed, people migrated from around the globe to be part of it, to be part of something bigger than themselves — and people sought it out as their own personal island of misfit toys.

If you didn’t belong anywhere else, you had a home in San Francisco.

And the city exported its culture far and wide, through art, music, books, fashion and politics.

Recent years have seen change, including skyrocketing rents and mass displacement. As longtime residents are pushed out, they’re replaced with people who tend to be far less interested in being part of something larger than themselves in a cultural context. Not only are they not misfits, they’re not even tolerant of the old misfits who made this city great. They’re merely looking for a prestigious address, that just happens to be in a very cool city.

The Castro, which elected the outward looking Harvey Milk in 1977, went on to elect his bookend, the inward looking Scott Wiener in 2010. Milk was worried about reaching the isolated queer kid in Kansas who needed a place to belong. Wiener’s not interested in that kid unless he/she has really rich parents to pay the rent. Instead the total focus is making the area more palatable for the increasingly upscale, mainstream residents who don’t want to feel “uncomfortable.”

Shoving San Francisco Back into the Closet

Wiener has been uninhibited about his desire for San Franciscans to become more inhibited.  And his nudity ban is his flagship achievement to date.

Wiener can run for higher office rightfully claiming he tamed the City, and brought it in line with Main Street America. The thing is, America already has thousands of Main Streets, and a lot of them, while nice, are rather boring. And America already has 88,000 municipalities where being nude in public is illegal. What America needs is what San Francisco has always been: a world class city at the forefront of social change, and a creative and dynamic city that challenges people to be comfortable with who they are, who they are not, and the potential for who they might some day be.

Will someone make a powerful Milk-style movie about Scott Wiener’s gentrification victories? Doubtful. Burning Man was born on a San Francisco beach. Will the next artisitc phenomenon take root in a nanny state that’s purged its artists?  Will the next Janis Joplin come to a city where she’s not even allowed to sit down on the sidewalk?

The Winter of Wiener is indeed cold for anyone looking for the free San Francisco they once knew, especially in the cranky Castro. A group of harmless older women, decked out in festive holiday attire, discovered the “new San Francisco” firsthand on Christmas Eve when they were grabbed, shoved, pushed and dragged while peacefully protesting a product manufactured in the occupied West Bank. And a few months ago, the disgruntled manager of the Castro Theatre went off on a reporter from Reel Gay News for interviewing some nudists on the public sidewalk outside of the theatre. Keep in mind that the Castro Theatre is “the” symbol of the old gay Castro. Things have truly changed.

To those who want a more mainstream San Francisco, Wiener’s a rockstar.  The supporters who rush to his facebook page, to cheer his every move, derisively referred to as “Cheerwieners,” could not be happier with the changes he’s making, and they salivate at what’s to come.

Rather than continuing to export its culture, perhaps San Francisco will begin exporting its anti-culture. I’m picturing thousands of anxious and uptight people flocking to places like the French Quarter in New Orleans, and De Wallen in Amsterdam, like white blood cells on a germ. Screaming and caterwauling about the “offensive” local mores until all character is dead, and the world’s great cities are as pedestrian as Disneyland.

Chris Andoe
Chris Andoe is an author and seasoned activist. After meeting John Aravosis at a Chicago “” protest in 2000, Chris was inspired to organize his own major demonstrations in St. Louis, which drew national attention. Since then, his activism has revolved around LGBT, affordable housing, and mass transit issues. In 2011 Andoe made headlines taking on the amorphous hacker group Anonymous for publishing nude photos of a Bay Area Rapid Transit spokesperson, saying “Puritanical shame-based tactics have no place in the capital of sexual liberation”, and he extensively covered San Francisco's jarring gentrification, from mass evictions to the nudity ban. Andoe was on the ground in Ferguson at the height of the unrest, recording events as they unfolded. Always in the fray, Andoe’s been interviewed by NPR, CBS, and has been quoted from CNN to The St. Louis Post Dispatch.

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