College campuses are notoriously rife with expressions of nudity, and Gustavus is no different. Streaking is common across our campus; whether a public display at Midnight Express or a private run through the Arb, streaking is a tradition at our school, and we should not seek to shame, repress, or condemn it.
Nudity encourages confidence, self-love, comfort in one’s own skin, celebration of the body, and appreciation of the diversity of the human form. Nudity is important to counter unrealistic images portrayed in the media aimed to produce insecurity and negative self-image. Our attitudes towards the body are shaped, standardized, and controlled by the media. We forget, or maybe we don’t realize that the human form is naturally diverse and imperfect. Bold displays of nudity remind us that abnormal is normal and should not be a source of shame.
Clothing is repressive, promotes materialism, and reinforces social status, position, and roles in society. Clothing centers around the idea of “display,” compelling the wearer to make some statement in their clothing choice because they will be judged regardless. Some argue that nudity is a sexual display when in fact, it is an attempt to move away from sexualization. Fashion, on the other hand, seeks to enhance sexual desirability through a delicate balance between clothing and exposure, and this business of sexual display has greatly impacted women.
Nudity empowers women. Women have been historically mistreated by our fixation on clothing as a regulator and conduit of expression. Clothing has traditionally restricted women in movement through corsets, bras, foot binding, and high heels as well as expression, as women have been subject to slut shaming in its innumerable guises throughout history simply because they desired freedom from repressive cultural expectations.
While today some may feel that women have more freedom to dress as they choose, laws regulating chest exposure illuminate further aspects of inequality. Breasts are not sexual organs, yet women are widely prohibited from chest exposure in the U.S., reinforcing female inequality before the law and cultural repression.
There are serious consequences of breast sexualization, and common misconceptions result from mandating female chest coverage. Breast enhancement is an unfortunate symptom of our unique, cultural fixation on breasts and our unrealistic perception of breast size and symmetry. The most common surgical cosmetic procedure, breast enhancement reflects culturally inflicted female insecurity.
Shamefulness surrounding nudity is not innate but learned and reinforced by American society. Contrary to national laws and county ordinances against “indecent exposure,” nudity is not inherently “indecent,” merely a repressive cultural attitude we have cultivated in our country. Children feel no shame in their nakedness.
Relativistic ideas of body shame differ wildly throughout the world according to culture and custom. In a nutshell, there are numerous cultures where nudity is perfectly acceptable, where breasts are not sexual objects, and where necks, feet, heads, and other body parts are considered shameful, sexual objects to be covered. Nudity appreciates the body as a whole and discourages sexual shame.
I disagree with the stigmatization of streaking because it is repressive and antifeminist, and it promotes insecurity, and false perceptions of normalcy and standardizes of beauty.