By Carolin Scholz
Optional clothing activities are definitely nothing new on the Grinnell, a campus that not only boasts various groups going naked every now and then, but also has been known to have seen some unusual protests.
This past Thursday a number of students took their clothes off and got their picture taken as a way to celebrate not only their own beauty but also to commemorate one of these aforementioned unusual protests.
On Feb. 5, 1969 a representative of Playboy magazine came to Grinnell as part of tour across different college campuses. But not every student was exactly fond of Playboy magazine and its portrayal of naked/nude bodies. During the representative’s speech 10 students stood up, started to sing and began to undress as a way of protesting the magazine. The students were later found guilty of public indecency in 1971.
Forty years later, in 2009, the public display of discontent in the form of nudity came back to Campus in form of a Naked Photo-shoot. A brain-child of Emma O’Polka ’12, the Naked Photo-shoot was initiated last year as part of Media Awareness Week.
“I learned about the Playboy-incident for an independent project in my tutorial,” O’Polka said. “I was surprised that with Grinnell having a history of political and social activism as it is, that no one had picked up on it.”
So she initiated the first naked photo-shoot to occur exactly 40 years after the original protest on Feb. 5, 2009.
“It was not intended as a demonstration against pornography,” O’Polka said. “But as a way to celebrate beauty and social activism.”
Everyone on campus was invited to have their picture taken in whatever state of undress they felt most comfortable, while eating food and hanging out with other like-minded students. With the consent of the photographed person the pictures were later used in a public display contrasting the difference between reality and the media’s portrayal of body image.
“Of the over 50 people who got their picture taken more than half let us use their pictures for a public display,” O’Polka said.
Even though it is not completely ruled out yet, there are no definite plans to use the pictures for any kind of presentation this year.
“Last year was a commemoration of the Playboy incident,” said Zoe Schein ’12, who is also involved in the planning of this year’s naked photo-shoot. “But the main point of it was and still is to celebrate different kinds of bodies and make people feel comfortable in their own skin.”
Of all the key themes running through the shoot, comfort level is the most important.
“There is a lot of peer support but no pressure to do anything,” Schein said. “People can take their shirt off, but keep their pants, or lose both, whatever they feel most comfortable with.”
Students who participated last year confirmed it could definitely have a certain excitement to have one’s picture taken, while being in any state of undress.
“I was positively peer-pressured into participating and it was worth it,” said Adam Lange ’11, who participated in the photo-shoot last year. “It felt liberating to not care for a little bit and appreciate everyone’s unconventional beauty.”