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Merriam-Webster Forced to Update Definition of 'Nude'

Online dictionary Merriam-Webster has been forced to change its definition of ‘nude’ after a teen complained that it was racist, perpetuating the idea that white skin is the norm of beauty. Connecticut student Luis Torres set up a DoSomething.org campaign called ‘Nude Awakening’ on July 14 – National Nudist Day – to pressure Merriam-Webster into action.

Merriam-Webster's updated definition
The dictionary now defines nude as "lacking something essential especially to legal validity," "devoid of natural or conventional colouring," and "frequented by naked people." Posting on the campaign page, Torres said: "Up until August 2015, Merriam-Webster was the only dictionary that defined nude as 'having the colour of a white person’s skin.' But you all changed that!" 850 people flooded Merriam-Webster’s page with comments asking for them to remove their ‘racist’ definition.

Nude Awakening received widespread support across the world. Torres said that the campaign aimed to prove "that Eurocentric standards of beauty are detrimental to people of colour’s self-esteem and confidence."

In an article for Huff Post, she explained: "research shows that de-constructing the beauty standard of white skin reduces colorism and racism, benefitting the confidence and overall wellbeing of people of colour."

Merriam-Webster said that they reviewed current evidence of the use of ‘nude’ in the fashion industry and subsequently recast the definition so that it more clearly reflects the contexts in which it can be used.

Torres said that she is very happy with the new definition. "I think the new one is super inclusive with broad language. It’s a small micro-aggression, the word 'nude' itself."

Aaron Waterhouse

Aaron is a recent English graduate from Durham University who is now working as a content writer intern. An enthusiastic traveller, he hopes to become a journalist and report from around the world. Follow him @AaronAtSMF.

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Merriam-Webster Forced to Update Definition of 'Nude' Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, September 07, 2015 Rating: 5

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