The Associated Press reports that 140,000 people have been evacuated from their homes in Australia due to devastating bushfires, which have claimed the lives of at least 18 people. Around 12.35 million acres have been burned. Over 480 million animals are dead. Photos show scorched earth and dystopian red skies.
Donations to relief efforts are pouring in. The actor Chris Hemsworth, who lives in New South Wales, has pledged a million dollars and encouraged others to “dig deep” and chip in. Margot Robbie, Kylie Minogue, and Nicole Kidman have also made online promises of financial aid. The Australian comedian Celeste Barber organized a Facebook group that has raised $26 million for the NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund which, per NBC News, has been the website’s highest-grossing fundraiser to date.
Many are opening their wallets. This includes women like Kaylen Ward, 20, who has dubbed herself the “Naked Philanthropist.” As reported by Buzzfeed News, Ward is an influencer and sex worker based in Los Angeles who sells nude photos to her followers. After reading about the devastation, Ward wanted to do her part, so she announced on Twitter that she would DM a naked photo for ever $10 someone donates to the cause.
The message “blew up,” Ward told the site. By her estimate, she has since raised a million dollars, but not without detractors. Instagram deleted her account for violating its content policies. “My IG got deactivated, my family disowned me, and the guy I like won’t talk to me all because of that tweet,” Ward wrote on Twitter. “But fuck it, save the koalas.”
Tammy Hembrow, an Australian fitness influencer and mother with over 10 million Instagram followers, also faced her share of slut-shaming for posting a photo of herself while announcing that the proceeds of Saksi, her clothing line, would go to emergency relief efforts. The snapshot found Hembrow standing on the back of a boat, body on full display in pink bikini bottoms and a see-through white tank top.
Hembrow later deleted the post, replacing it with a graphic instead that repeated her pledge, and a video montage of koalas attempting to take refuge from the flames. Of course, The Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame called the move “more tasteful,” its writer taking issue with the fact that the model dared to conduct her philanthropy “BRALESS.”
Commenters on Instagram dubbed her “unclassy,” just like others accused Ward of raising funds solely for “clout” or to promote her personal brand. In a Twitter thread, Ward wrote, “I raised $1 million for Australia at the sake of my naked body being exposed on the internet to millions and millions of people. That’s a scary feeling to be that vulnerable and exposed to the world. But I did it because I wanted to do something good.” (Both women could not be reached for comment.)
Fighting natural disasters, caring for those affected by tragedy, and rebuilding what’s left takes money. The way said money is procured—through Hemsworth’s Thor salary or Ward’s nudes—doesn’t change the fact that it is necessary.
You may not approve of the supposed “nobleness” of Ward’s method. Well, I didn’t really like Thor, which Chris Hemsworth stars in. But whatever—I applaud your generosity, Chris. No hard feelings about the Thor thing.
It’s easy to feel helpless staring at a computer screen, watching disasters totally level neighborhoods or seeing an animal futilely try to escape an inferno. Two years ago, I waited for a flight while watching CNN coverage of Hurricane Maria on an airport TV. A man, back to the camera, stood in front of where his home used to be, scratching his head in quiet, shocked desperation. I did the only thing I knew would help, though the action felt truly passive—I took out my phone and sent $50.
As the saying goes, all money is green. (Well, Australian currency comes in a range of colors, but just go with it.) It’s not that anyone needs a natural disaster to justify taking nudes—sexting is a thing, people, and it’s fine—but these women’s topless humanitarian efforts are laudable, nonetheless. Don’t forget, cheesecake male firefighter calendars have long been considered a charming hallmark of the new year, and the 2020 iteration from Australia is currently sold out.
With the climate crisis raging, these so-called acts of God will become more familiar with each event. We don’t really have time for slut-shaming. If you can’t spare money, or choose not to donate, fine—just remember to respect those who do.