A year ago, a singer and activist know as “Ton Dou” (an abbreviation of his real name, Tony Douglas) held the first of what he called his Ultimate Freedom Concerts — events held in public places (in this case, Times Square in the middle of New York City) where people of goodwill could demonstrate that being naked doesn’t need to be sexual or offensive in any way. For six or seven hours, a group of partially or fully nude people congregated in this high-traffic spot, in full view of locals and tourists, vendors and costumed characters, and peacefully sang, spoke, practiced yoga, painted one another, and explained to the baffled masses on the other side of the protective fencing what it was all about.

This year he did it again, and it went more or less as before: baffled masses on one side, naked people on the other, some mutual understanding gingerly arrived at between the two.

Was there any difference? Well, last year’s profound gender imbalance — two dozen naked men, one naked woman — was slightly less profound: there were maybe one dozen men and four or five women. It’s a step in the right direction.

And the interactions with spectators were less confrontational. Last year the group was met with some antagonism, especially from people stumbling on the event unawares after exiting the annual Brazil Day festivities a block away, coincidentally scheduled for the same day. It was again Brazil Day this year, but somehow celebrants from that event seemed more tolerant or curious than hostile. Maybe the slightly better gender balance had something to do with that. Stumbling across a pen of naked men in Times Square is somehow different from stumbling across a mix of naked men and women. And maybe it also helped that some of the Brazilians this year seem to have embraced at least partial nudity:

Participants were still in a pen, though. The group meets with the city’s blessing and under the protection of the New York Police Department, but that same police department mandates metal fencing between the event and the public, and the result is an inescapable suggestion of animals in a zoo. Then, too, the male participants are a motley bunch that include some sincere idealists, some grizzled veterans of the nudist scene, some starved-for-human-contact sorts who might otherwise be tossing tetrahedral dice (not that there’s anything wrong with that…), and some hardened exhibitionists (not literally hardened, thankfully — but it’s clear enough what they’re there for). The message is a good and healthy message — but the participants attempting to convey the message aren’t all equally good ambassadors for the cause.

But: one step at a time. Last year’s event was a bit shaky; this year’s was definitely better; next year’s should be better still. And we do wholeheartedly endorse the goal: to make nudity more acceptable, more understood, less a cause for shame or embarrassment or anger. We feel fortunate to live in a city where an event like this can happen, not just once but annually, and with no motive other than to make the world a better, freer place.