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We decided to take on Jesse Watters

Jesse Watters just can’t stay away. He and his camera crew returned to campus yesterday to report on Nudity in the Upspace.

But this time, Blog was ready for him. We attempted to formally interview him, but he declined, stating that we would have to go through Fox’s Media Relations. But he agreed to talk to one of our reporters (who went on the record as a Brown student and not a reporter) while both Fox and Blog filmed.

So, with some trepidation, I jumped in.

Watters, the infamous “The O’Reilly Factor”  producer and interviewer, infiltrated SexPowerGod in 2005 and filmed students getting it on in their undies. More recently, Watters returned to Brown’s campus to interview students about the fictional  “Holiday Tree” controversy. Watters heavily edited the footage of Brown students—placing audio of crickets chirping over one student as she thought about her answer.

“The admissions policy at Brown,” said O’Reilly. “They have ‘Do you believe in Christmas?’ And if you say yes, they don’t let you in.”

When I brought this up with Watters, he protested. “That was tongue in cheek!”

Yes. But the angle of Watters’ reporting is clear. Brown students, according to The O’Reilly Factor, are over-privileged and hyper-sexualized liberal idiots, out of touch with the rest of America.

Full disclosure: I’m not an expert on Nudity in the Upspace or nude events. I’ve never been to SexPowerGod, and I’m probably going to pass on Nudity in the Upspace this year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with its mission statement, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t defend my home, my school, when it comes under attack for the third time by Bill O’Reilly and his team of “Fair and Balanced” reporters.

I recognize how SexPowerGod, naked parties, and Nudity in the Upspace would seem odd, prurient, and disgusting to the rest of the public. I certainly felt that way before I came to Brown. Nudity can be non-sexual? Blasphemy! 

But I think the intense negative media scrutiny this event has received in the past week only underscores why it is so necessary. As a society, we tend to fetishize the nude body. But we’re all born naked. Why not discuss nudity as a social construction? And what more powerful way to discuss it than naked?

Stray Observations:

  • Before talking to Watters personally, I observed a number of Brown students being interviewed about their “experience” at Nudity in the Upspace. Some of them confessed to me that they actually had never been to any of the events, but wanted to be on national news. Shame on you, Brunonians. Shame on you.
  • Watters kept on referring to the event as “Brown’s Nudity Week.” When I corrected him, he said—and I’m paraphrasing here—that that was how it was being reported by the media. Sorry, Watters. You’re the media. That’s no excuse for getting your facts wrong—especially in a way which makes Nudity in the Upspace seem like an administration-sanctioned event that most Brown students attend. The majority of Brown students aren’t running around topless. Unless they want to.
  • Watters repeatedly asked students if any “perverts” attended Nudity in the Upspace or did naked yoga. The assumption that perverted Brown students attend Nudity in the Upspace is somewhat ironic given that Watters is the reporter who paid 80 dollars to attend SexPowerGod and film students in their underwear. Bill O’Reilly was also the target of a massive sexual harassment lawsuit. You can read interesting quotes from the lawsuit here.
  • Watters says he would have participated in Nudity in the Upspace during his college years and gone to nude yoga. He thinks O’Reilly would have taken a pass.
  • Watters probably would not accept a donut from a naked student.
  • In the SexPowerGod story, O’Reilly criticized Brown for funding such a debaucherous event. Before they make the same criticism of Nudity in the Upspace, let’s get our facts straight: Each student pays a Student Activities Fee of around $214 per year. 6,133 undergraduates currently attend Brown, which means that Brown gets about $1,312,462 a year from students for student activities. According to the creator of Nudity in the Upspace, PW provided $25 worth of funding for posters. The rest of the funding came from an Open Jar grant. That means Brown used, at most, 0.000019% of our tuition money to pay for this event.
  • Many universities have naked traditions. Princeton—a more conservative Ivy League school—is home to the Nude Olympics. Collegiate streaking is run-of-the-mill silliness. But when Brown students attempt to have an intellectual naked discussion about nudity, students find themselves in the midst of a media firestorm.

One last point: the creators of Nudity in the Upspace have found themselves targets for negative anonymous comments on news articles. “It’s never the girls you want to see naked,” one anonymous commentator lamented. They’ve been called fat, ugly, and slutty. But comments like this underscore why a discussion like Nudity in the Upspace becomes necessary. Why is being naked somehow “perverted” or “slutty?” And since when did it become respectable to shame people’s bodies?

I’d like to extend Watters a challenge: From my conversation with you, you seem like a pretty reasonable, charismatic guy. So this time, don’t edit crickets over Brown students. Don’t make “tongue in cheek” jokes. Approach this story without an agenda. Live up to your motto and be fair and balanced.

Your move, Watters.

18 Comments

  1. I’m sure a lot of people that produce reactionary, dumbed down “news” are in fact decent, intelligent people underneath. But why would you do that for a living? I was at Brown and SPG when Waters initial attacked in 05. I was also a relatively prude observant Catholic who stripped half naked while the band played David Rose “The Stripper” at hockey games and went full monty at Co-op nude parties. Kudos to those Brown students that want to explore nudity.

  2. Zack

    the Open Jar Grant is funded by an independent non-profit (the Open Jar Foundation), so technically no University money went directly to the event

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