Nudity in the Upspace — a week that attempts to “explore nudity in all its forms” — has received intense media scrutiny in the past week. Media outlets such as CBS, the Huffington Post, theBlaze and the notorious Jesse Watters, the “O’Reilly Factor” correspondent who infiltrated the Sex Power God party in 2005, have seized upon the event, inaccurately dubbing it “Nudity Week at Brown” and questioning its morality.
But a week of nude events at Brown isn’t the real story here. The real story is the negative, body-shaming reaction of the media and the American public.
“The articles don’t have our voice in them, and the comments are horrifying,” said Becca Wolinsky ’14, a coordinator of the event. “The ones that insult my body. These are what people who don’t even know me are saying about me. They’ve Google-imaged and Facebooked me.”
Wolinsky and her co-coordinators did not ask for this level of public attention. Last year, Nudity in the Upspace went up without a hitch. The 2012 event, by all accounts, was a positive, affirming, safe space in which students could witness nude performance, experiment with naked yoga and discuss stigmas associated with the naked body.
But this year, outside media got hold of the event. And that’s when the negative comments started.
“Something tells me that I probably wouldn’t want to see (event coordinators) naked in the first place,” wrote commenter “The_Toxic_Avenger” on an article published on CBS Boston Local. Do this at a large state school, he wrote, “and I’ll pay attention.”
“Liberal college students engage in the stupidest (endeavors),” wrote “Roger Cotton.” He continued, “Learn what? How to be a shameless skank? Is that empowering?”
This anonymous, creepy and cowardly Internet bullying underscores exactly the kind of social stigmas an event like Nudity in the Upspace attempts to challenge. And really, when did it become respectable to call somebody a “skank?”
The female coordinators of Nudity in the Upspace were called ugly sluts. If three men had coordinated the event, they’d be condemned as perverts. Our society finds it impossible to separate the nude body from sex. But the sexualization of the naked body is a social construction. We were born naked. So why not have a conversation about it? And what more powerful way to do it than naked?
Most universities have naked traditions. Princeton — generally considered one of the more conservative Ivy League institutions — has the Nude Olympics. Fraternities streak. We generally consider these activities normal college silliness. But when Brown students attempt to host a safe forum to discuss nudity intellectually, a media firestorm descends upon our campus.
Listen: I’m not an expert on nude events, by any means. I’ve never attended Sex Power God. I probably never will. And before coming to Brown, I had the same reaction as the general public to naked events in general. Nudity among others was somehow taboo, salacious or wrong.
So I understand some of the reaction to the event. What I don’t sympathize with is the vitriol spewed at my classmates. Try to approach the event with an open mind. And if that fails, how is Nudity in the Upspace harming you? Is the moral fabric of American society torn to shreds because a few Brown students decide to do nude yoga?
Jesse Watters came to Brown with an agenda. He filmed students dancing around in their underwear at Sex Power God and described it as “pure debauchery.” Last year, he interviewed Brown students on Bill O’Reilly’s made-up “Holiday Tree” Rhode Island controversy. Fox News heavily edited the footage — placing audio of crickets chirping over a Brown student as she paused in thought. Watters creates sarcastic, biased and occasionally downright mean television.
Brown students, according to the folks at “The O’Reilly Factor” are over-privileged, hyper-sexualized liberal idiots.
“Nudity week here I come!” tweeted Jesse Watters before his on-campus arrival.
“It’s a tough job but someone has to do it,” replied one of his followers. “Be brave!”
Watch out: Brown students are known to be dangerous. Who knows, we might convert you to our topless, slutty and liberal ways.
From observing — and talking — to Watters, his angle seems clear. He repeatedly asked students whether “perverts” attend Nudity in the Upspace. I found the assumption that perverted Brown students attend naked events somewhat ironic coming from a reporter who paid $80 to attend Sex Power God and watch undergraduates make out. Watters is an older reporter asking young female undergraduates about their fathers’ opinions of “Nudity in the Upspace” — with the sexist implication that young women cannot make choices about nudity on their own. And in the past, a female “Factor” producer sued Bill O’Reilly himself for sexual harassment.
Watters also asked how our parents felt about paying tuition for us to attend a nude event. So let’s get the facts straight: We pay a student activities fee of around $214 per year, which means that Brown receives roughly $1,312,462 annually in funding for student activities. According to Wolinsky, Production Workshop provided $25 worth of funding for posters. Further funding came from an Open Jar grant. At most, 0.000019 percent of our tuition money went towards this event.
“We acknowledge that there are many stigmas that can often attach themselves to the naked body,” a note in the Nudity in the Upspace program stated. “We want to talk about these stigmas. One of our main goals is to engage as many people as possible in conversations surrounding these topics.”
Nudity in the Upspace certainly has sparked a conversation. Let’s continue to keep it positive here on campus.
Cara Newlon ’14 believes people should be free to make decisions about their own bodies without nationwide condemnation. Fox News likes to tell the government to butt out of the American people’s lives. Please, Jesse Watters, butt out of ours.