The Brown University Bears are at it again. Brown, well known as the most liberal of the Ivy League schools, is characteristically pushing boundaries this week as the student-run theater, Production Workshop, hosts Nudity in the Upspace Week on campus. The tagline? “All bodies welcome.”
So what’s the point of Nudity in the Upspace? “Brown tends to be very open to students getting to know who they are,” said an anonymous Brown senior. The purpose of the programing is not just the fun and freedom of walking around naked, she says.
“What's cool about this is that it's not about being naked, but about bringing forward the topic of social norms and comfort levels among people … The point is to make people more comfortable and have them step out of what is meant to be normal.”
The first event this year was Monday’s nude body painting, in which students explored “physical mediums in the nude.” Tuesday featured nude yoga, which promised to “stretch your body in ways that it hasn't been stretched before!” On Wednesday night, students hosted a (clothed) panel on how factors like race, class and gender affect body image.
The week culminates Friday with an open-mic night and nude cabaret, where students are encouraged to come “as naked or clothed as they wish.”
This year’s event marks the second annual Nudity in the Upspace after a successful debut in 2012.
So how do BC students feel about such a controversial event? When asked, students expressed concern that people would not take the events seriously, believing that immaturity and “sketchiness” would ruin the true meaning behind the programming.
“It just seems too risky,” says Gabriela, A&S ’17. “There's always that possibility that people will judge each other and spread things about peoples' bodies.”
According to Brown students, however, there were no such problems last year. Cameras, phones and bags are banned at all Nudity in the Upspace programing, and students told the Huffington Post that their peers were "extremely respectful ... We haven't had to worry much about our fellow students acting immature at these events."
Opinions on campus vary when discussing the proposition of a “Nudity Week” at BC.
“I would never ever participate in something like that," said Ellie, A&S ’17. “If people want to be naked with each other then go ahead…I just don't want to be near it!”
“I think it’s pretty weird, but I can see some valid points,” said Bobby, CSOM ’17.
It is important to remember that the point of Nudity in the Upspace is not to walk around looking at other people naked, but rather to shed light on socially taboo topics concerning body image, race, class and gender.
Although most BC students sympathize with the intention behind Nudity in the Upspace, it doesn’t look likely that a similar event here would attract much participation. Even at Brown, attendance is not very high.
“Let’s be honest, social norms are embedded in my brain,” the anonymous Brown student said of her decision to not participate in the events. “I am proud to attend a university where an entire week of events are planned and where my peers feel okay to advertise it and safe in partaking in these events.”
Though the method is very radical, the message resonates despite some practical concerns. Noah, CSOM ’17, raises one final point. "If I'm doing nude yoga, I'm not borrowing a mat,” he said. “I'm bringing my own."
Featured image via TinyTall/Flickr.