Editor’s note: A thought-provoking opinion piece by Genesia Alves on various attitudes about nudity, male and female nudity, and public vs. private. It was interesting to see that the author didn’t make nudity the item in question when it came to public vs. private. Rather, the critical question was really about whether to open vulnerable moments to scrutiny from absolute strangers online. She also raises a probing question about consent of children when it comes to being exposed to such feedback.
A picture by Heather Whitten of her husband holding her fevered son close, under a shower was taken down by Facebook for being inappropriate, specifically with regards to nudity. Both the photograph and the censorship raked up a predictable furore. Facebook has often been accused of policing women’s bodies, specifically breasts, while ignoring more serious issues like threats of violence against women and hate speech.
But how we react to nudity, both public and private, is a combination of personal upbringing and the milieu. Traditionally, Indians really shouldn’t be bothered by nudity at all. Our tribals and ascetics are often unclothed. Only two months ago, at 8am on busy Linking Road in Mumbai, I saw two Jain men walk buck naked across the street surrounded by a small posse of chanting devotees. But in Facebook-speak, it’s complicated because for women, it is all about location. While the Slut March and the bikini are touted as signs of liberation in some big cities (okay, maybe two) in the less civilised parts of our country, nakedness is used as a tool to shame, to disempower, to punish women.
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