In doing some research on body image over several generations in my family, my 86- year-old mother mentioned an incident of which she had never spoken.
Imagine for a moment — Going off to your freshman year of college a little nervous — “Will you do well in your classes? Will you get along with your roommate? You then learn about a mandatory procedure for freshmen — a “posture study” where you’re photographed stark naked from the front, back and side.
Sounds ridiculous — but this really happened. My mother’s brief flashback started my research to verify if her mental faculties were still intact! There it was — a detailed and compelling article by Ron Rosenbaum in the New York Times Magazine Section, January 15, 1995: “The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal. “(1)
“One fall afternoon in the mid-60’s, shortly after I arrived in New Haven to begin my freshman year at Yale, I was summoned to that sooty Gothic shrine to muscular virtue known as Payne Whitney Gym. I reported to a windowless room on an upper floor, where men dressed in crisp white garments instructed me to remove all my clothes. And then — and this is the part I still have trouble believing — they attached metal pins to my spine. There was no actual piercing of skin, only of dignity, as four-inch metal pins were affixed with adhesive to my vertebrae at regular intervals from my neck down. I was positioned against a wall; a floodlight illuminated my pin-spiked profile and a camera captured it. The procedure did seem strange … But I soon learned that it was a long-established custom at most Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools … All of them — whole generations of the cultural elite — were asked to pose.” – Ron Rosenbaum