Although most people would define ‘nude’ as a color that matches a person’s skin tone, about a month ago, Merriam-Webster would beg to differ. Instead, America’s leading and most-trusted dictionary of the English language defined nude as: ‘having the color of a white person’s skin.’ Then Ithaca College sophomore Luis Torres swooped in and demanded that the dictionary make some changes.
After posting his ‘Nude Awakening’ campaign onto DoSomething.org, which called for Merriam-Webster to alter their exclusive nude definition to something more inclusive of all skin tones, on National Nude Day, the Connecticut native prompted 820 supporters to flood the virtual dictionary with comments demanding for a change.
Scroll down the dictionary’s comment section and you’ll see, “Hey @Merriam-Webster Dictionary, did you know you’re the only dictionary with a racist definition of the word “nude”? Remove the third definition from this word to get with the times. #NudeAwakening.”
Supporters also posted photos to social media platforms.
Torres, who is majoring in Documentary Studies and Production, came across the complexities of the word ‘nude’ after reading an Audre Lorde essay detailing how ‘nude’ can be seen as a microagression. He spoke with Mic about the conceptualization behind his radical efforts.
“I started doing research around Band-Aids, which led to nude fashion, which led to me discovering the Merriam-Webster definition of nude. It blew my mind that an academic source was perpetuating this same racism,” he said. “Looking up the definition of ‘nude’ and seeing that even academic sources perpetuate the idea that white skin is more relevant … or just simply important, is detrimental to the psyche of people of color. Language is how we all communicate, and when words are designed and defined to be exclusive, it can be hurtful and harmful.”
The dictionary company finally caught on and changed for the better. Now, when visiting merriam-webster.com, you can find: “Nude: having a color (as pale beige or tan) that matches the wearer’s skin tones
Way to go Torres! You’ve added tremendously to the social discussion surrounding the true definition of nude.