Our relationship with the Nude

With regards to Giorgio Agamben’s view on the asymmetry of the face-body relationship within our culture , I think it is also important not to ignore the purely instinctive and practical reasons of why the human body is clothed and not the face. The sense of protection of the body can be overlooked at times. We are so accustomed to having clothing readily available , that we probably would not understand the discomfort of being nude, or partially nude, in certain temperatures or environments.  Our hairy ancestors had no need for protection . The face in most weather conditions is very impractical to cover, it does not come into as much contact with the environment as other body parts such as the feet. It is also the most frequently used body part for the purpose of communicating consciously. We look, hear, listen and talk more consciously than we gesture, and therefore the face is a vital means of communication for the human species.

 

One can compare choice of dress in extreme temperatures. In the northern hemisphere  with extreme cold, the body is covered to the extent of hands , head and parts of the face, with masks. In extreme heat conditions both women and men cover their bodies entirely, with headdresses for both sexes, in the desert for example . The covering of the face is also practiced by some men, along with protection of the eyes from the sun with the use of eyeliner. On the other hand, the lack of clothing can also be practical . In ancient Greece, for example, athletes performed better when not restricted by clothing. It was common to be nude when performing a physical activity such as working , dancing, or exercising.

 

The reasons for clothing, are of coarse more than instinctive and practical. Over the course of history they have dramatically changed and developed in meaning , in all parts of the world. Cultural meaning at times overpowers the practical. These meanings clash in many cases, and fluctuate over time. Under the British rule of India, for example, nudism , practiced by the Ajivikas, was restricted . Victorian archaeologists, also , frowned upon the nudity  practiced by the Egyptian pharaoh and his wife Nefertiti .

 

All of which to say, that with our current media culture and abuse of the human (and in particular female ) body there will be a change at some point , cultural belief systems do not remain the same forever.

Mona B.

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