SDSU isn’t ready for on-campus nudity

by Sicily Famolaro

When I was about 10 years old, I remember riding a bike down the Mission Beach Boardwalk with my mother and suddenly bursting into girlish giggles when a man wearing nothing but a thong shaped like a toucan’s head sped by on Rollerblades. My mother immediately stepped on the brakes, stopped and told me to close my eyes until he was out of sight. In my childish mind, I understood that I was not supposed to look at the silly naked man (or seminude, in this case) because it was inappropriate.

My mother told me it was “public indecency.”

Juxtaposing my past understanding to the knowledge I have now, I realize the inappropriate nature of nudity is a societal convention. Like money—a value attached to metal coins and waxed paper—nudity is merely an idea: a bare body, the stigma of which is inherently sexual. Nudity, in many realms, is taboo. It’s something that exists, something that happens, but it’s swept away before a proper dialogue can take place.

Students at Brown University are not satisfied with current ideas about nudity and have attempted to break down its conceptions and conventions. From Sept. 30 to Oct. 5, students held a series of discourses and workshop events devoted to nudity, called “Nudity in the Upspace.”  The “upspace” in the name refers to a room where the series occurred, but it’s also emblematic of the “space” claimed to experience and express nakedness in a safe environment, via nude yoga, body painting, theater and cabaret.

Jesse Watters from “The O’Reilly Factor” on the notoriously conservative Fox News Channel was sent to Brown to find out what the nudity week entailed. After a few awkward and condescending student interviews, both Watters and Bill O’Reilly conceded to having no issue with the event. However, they treated the situation with flippancy and dismissiveness, insinuating the event was something hormone-crazed college students would do haphazardly—O’Reilly even said they were “just having a few laughs at (the students’) expense.” Any attempt at placating their criticism of freedom and youthful expression was undercut by this statement, which demonstrated his opinion of the students’ incapacity to make a statement other than congregating on a college campus in a state of undress.

The Brown students disliked the stigma that Fox stuck on them—exactly what they were trying to evade, claiming that nudity week, in the eye of conservative news organizations, was taken largely out of context. A brown student responded to the Fox interpretation of the workshop series in a student-produced video, saying nudity week was “a lot more than an opportunity for students to just get naked”—but that is what it was reduced to. What students saw as an opportunity to discuss image, beauty and other things not directly related to the body had become convoluted by the media.

Other students thought the fact that Fox found this significant enough to pursue as a story, despite the pending government shutdown, was ludicrous. One could call me a hypocrite because I am using my time to write this, rather than writing something of greater political significance. However, like the Brown students who thought this concept was worth discussing, I feel San Diego State students should know about it, too. It’s relevant and something to be put on the table before being swept away again.

But the question is, should SDSU host its own nudity week?

SDSU students have varied opinions and reservations about it, just as Brown students do, I’m sure.

English junior Daniel Gerardi said “People are (too) uptight about their bodies. We should all learn to be comfortable with who we are.”

Although he went on to explain he might be wary in participating in such an event, he would support it. Others disagree with nudity week.

“There’s a time and place for everything, and I don’t think that a college campus is the best place to be walking around naked,” English sophomore Marie Belprez said.

I agree with portions of both aforementioned opinions, leaning slightly toward the more conservative of the two. People in this generation have a terrible body image, fed to them by advertising, and we need to learn to accept our bodies, but I don’t think hanging out in a dark room doing yoga poses in the nude is the correct atmosphere. There are plenty of private places to choose to be naked, and a public educational institution is not one of them. An event such as this has to be organized carefully, in the light of learning and understanding, rather than physical liberation, to properly reap the intellectual benefits therein. To have a strictly academic or philosophical approach, one must divorce the desire from the body to keep the space from teeming with sexual tension. I don’t think it’s something we can do, as we can’t remove ourselves from our biology.

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