We all have different nudes

A few years ago my sister and I wrote a piece titled What colour is nude? for the British feminist website The F Word, The piece discussed the use of the word nude in order to describe a beige colour that is quite common in clothing articles, shoes and nail polish. By naming a colour nude it suggests that humans are white since the nude colour will not match all nude bodies but only white bodies. By using the word nude we are saying that a nude person´s skin is white and that a person´s skin is white. Person in this regard equals a white person.

In the piece we wrote:

“Brown shoes and clothing are labelled brown. It is only shoes and clothing which would be considered nude on a white person that is referred to as nude in the fashion world, thereby accenting the fact that nude is based on the white body and white skin. There is also ‘nude’ lipstick and ‘nude’ nail polish. ‘Nude’ lipstick however is only nude on a white person and does not blend in or can be considered nude on a person of colour. ‘Nude’ nail polish is not nude on any other person than a white person. It might seem innocent to refer to the specific beige-like or pinkish colour as nude, but it does mask an unchallenged and assumed belief that whiteness is considered to be the norm”.

Recently I started to notice that other variations to the word nude are being used and I hope that this is due to increased awareness of the fact that there are norms connected to ethnicity wherever we go. For example, I have seen clothing articles labelled beige or pale instead of nude. I also saw a palette of eye shadows the other day that ranged from beige to black and had all sorts of colours in between. The palette was named nudes and it is such a good way to acknowledge the range of colours that to people all over the world is their nude.

People that fit the norm rarely consider norms connected to their privilege and do not consider it troublesome because it does not affect their everyday lives and it does not place them in a box or consider them a minority or “not the norm”. Instead, everyone needs to question norms, and especially so the people considered the norm since they tend to be unaware while people considered not the norm are fully aware of this fact. The recent changes (based on what I have observed) from using the word nude to describe one single colour to not using the word or using it to include all sorts of colours is positive and encouraging. It might seem like a small thing considering blatant racism and violence but all steps forward are positive.


Elin Weiss has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies from University College Dublin. Some of her previous work can be found online at: The F-Word, XY-online, Sex Roles and Metapsychology Online Reviews.