In Defence of Nipples
Earlier this week, Facebook removed an image from my page because it didn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards. It was a beautiful photograph of Native American tribal women in their traditional summer costume from 1870s signifying historic cultural values. However, the customs and traditions of the tribal women do not comply with present day’s modesty norms which were originally introduced by white folks of Western society. It is unfortunate that the Native American tribe’s traditions and customs will not be tolerated by Facebook. This is a classic case of cultural hegemony where a powerful class imposes or manipulates the traditions and customs of a society that’s culturally different from theirs.
Modesty & nudity norms exist to avoid indecency. Primitive humans covered the sacro-pubic region of the body to avoid the well-marked horror of causing disgust to others. As seen in art & clothing history, ancient women naturally flaunted their breasts and nipples were never associated with shame till religion influenced in shaping the patriarchal society of late Greco-Romans. Those were times when women of Western society were dictated to cover even their hair & neck. In contrast, women in Asia-Pacific, Native American and African societies naturally left their upper bodies uncovered till the influx of Christian missionaries and Islamic invasions in medieval to modern history. Read more about evolution of nudity norms for detailed understanding of how female nipples became a sign of indecency with time.
In India, women predominantly started covering nipples only after European invasion in contemporary history. Unaware of our own clothing history, the modern Indian society takes offence at the sight of nipples like no other generation in India’s history. As a fashion designer and blogger, clothing and art is my significant medium of expression. It makes absolutely no sense to claim that cleavage is acceptable but nipples are not. It takes basic human intelligence to understand how ridiculously biased it is when Facebook thinks nipples are NUDE when they don’t belong to DUDE. I put together this look which aims to rip and tear apart the existing norms to provide an alternative outlook and perspective.
The interpretation is on your face – right signifies the male, left signifies the female. Right has a choice which left does not and that’s just not right. Some people want to free the nipple, others want it covered…. and amigo, it don’t matter if you’re girl or guy. Let’s voice our opinion aloud to cut loose from primitive patriarchal norms and liberate all nipples irrespective of gender. It’s about freedom from from gender bias. It’s about comfort. And, most importantly, its about personal choice.
This gender neutral look comprises of destructed convertible white shirt and a lungi, designed & hand-stitched by myself. The lungi itself is a victim of cultural bias. The tubular lower garment of South Indian men is banned in most night clubs in Chennai and it’s bizarre to ban your own traditions in favour of modern Western imports. Maybe this is my attempt to play around with the aesthetics and give a high-fashion makeover to lungi. As a Rei Kawakubo loyalist, it is only obvious that deconstruction and reconstruction are my key exploration techniques. I wear what I design. I design what I am. I am an artist. Fashion is my artistic expression. If you’re watching closely, you know what I have to say.
Lungi – Designed by Purushu Arie
Shirt – Destruct H&M shirt
Photography – KumAr Photography
I wish to end this article with a cynical joke on Facebook’s biased nudity policy. The prank isn’t completely new but worth it because according to many photo-sharing platforms like Facebook & Instagram, not all nipples are created equal or considered nudity. Hence I wish to repost the photo of Native American women with my own masculine nipples… because according to Facebook male nipples are not nude.