by Miller Saltzman
“Breasts, vaginas and penises! Oh my!” Did those words make you feel uncomfortable? Good!
Our society in America is uncomfortable with nudity. We rate movies depending on whether they show parts of the body that make us feel uncomfortable. If they do, we are advised to have precaution when seeing them because of “strong sexuality.” But at the same time, many Americans drool over pictures of nude men and women.
So why is nudity such a taboo in America?
According to the New York Times, Dr. Richard Klein, a Stanford archeologist, said he thought “Neanderthals and other archaic humans must have produced clothing of some kind in order to live in temperate latitudes like Europe and the Far East.” That’s why clothing was first created. But clothing has become a custom in developed countries as a sign of civility. We use our clothing to express ourselves, promote companies and organizations, and to impress others. But as free as we are to wear what we want, we are forced by law to wear something.
According to California Penal Code Section 314, “Ever person who willfully and lewdly, either exposes his person, or the private parts thereof, in any public place, or in any place where there are present other persons to be offended or annoyed… is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Why would people be offended or annoyed by nudity? Two reasons. One, showing off skin is sexual in our society. Even if a women wears a dress that doesn’t show cleavage but just shows the skin on her back, it’s sexy in our society. But the biggest reason is that the majority of people in America, especially females, are not comfortable with their bodies and compare themselves to other people they see. If we were all comfortable with our body, we wouldn’t mind seeing other people’s bodies.
This reality isn’t good. According to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) “Nearly half of the nation’s girls are unhappy with their bodies…. ten out of every hundred American girls have an eating disorder; more than 50 percent of today’s teenage girls are on diets and use unhealthy means to control their weight; and 42 percent of first- to third-grade girls want to be thinner. Forty percent of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15 to 19 years old.” All of this wouldn’t be if we didn’t idolize perfect male and female figures and were comfortable with the bodies we have. The best way to do this is to promote the idea in America that everyone’s body is beautiful and clothing is only a choice used to shield you from the cold or the sun, or express yourself, not to hide your body. Psychologically, it’s unhealthy not to want to show your body in public because you are self conscious about it. Our society needs to stop making people feel this way. If we didn’t, people would not feel uncomfortable being nude around each other and seeing other people nude.
Because nudity is a taboo, social movements use it as a tool to promote their message. Here’s how it works. Organizations decide to place nude people in public to give those who pass by a message about their cause. This is usually effective because we are not used to seeing naked people in public. For example, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an organization which, according to their website, “is a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.” In November of 2012, ACT UP decided to place naked protesters in Speaker Boehner’s office to force him to “confront the taboo” because they believe that public figures avoid talking about AIDS because conversations like sex and homosexuality tend to be taboo in our society. “Budget cuts are really rude, that’s why we had to be so nude,” they chanted while standing is his office naked. Other organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also use nudity to promote their message.
So let’s end this taboo in America and make everyone feel good about their bodies. Then nudity won’t be such a big deal.
College campuses are a great place to start this initiative because we are supposed to be learning about ourselves. And in order to do that, we need to be able to be naked. Currently Pitzer’s Student Handbook states that, “all members of the Pitzer community, including guests, are required to wear clothing at all times when in public.” Resolution # 50-R-3, authored by Pitzer Senator Harold Johnson, asks the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to review Pitzer’s clothing policy with two student senate members. The resolution states, “A positive and open environment for body image is critical part of any individual’s development. As well nudity can also be used as a powerful tool for students, organizations, and faculty members.”
If this resolution passes and OSA changes the clothing policy to allow nudity in our Pitzer community this could be a wonderful change for us. Maybe, just maybe, we will start to become more comfortable with our bodies and the taboo of being naked and seeing naked people will vanish. Pitzer has the power to do that right now. So tell Senate you want this resolution passed, start loving your body, and take off your clothes!