This College Student Took on the Dictionary’s Racially Insensitive Definition Of “Nude”... And Won!

How the #NudeAwakening movement helped redefine a natural state of being for the better.

image via (cc) flickr user nbhamla

Hear the words “nude” and “college student” and odds are the first thing that comes to mind *isn’t* a campaign for racial equality. That, however, is exactly what happened when Luis Torres, an incoming sophomore at Ithaca College, noticed something strange about the Merriam-Webster dictionary entry for the word “nude.” Until earlier this month, the definition reportedly read as follows:

  • having no clothes on
  • of or involving people who have no clothes on
  • having the color of a white person’s skin

Bothered by the obvious racial tone-deafness in the third definition, Torres took action. On July 14th–National Nude Day–he took to social change platform to launch “Nude Awakening,” a grassroots campaign to “[d]emand Merriam-Webster Dictionary change its racist definition of the word ‘nude.’” Speaking with Mic, Torres explains:

This is something small that most white people, myself included, take for granted. I started doing research around Band-Aids, which led to nude fashion, which led to me discovering the Merriam-Webster definition of nude. It blew my mind that an academic source was perpetuating this same racism.

Judging by the public’s reaction to Torres’ campaign, his wasn’t the only mind blown. Hundreds joined in the call for Merriam-Webster to revise their definition, plastering the dictionary’s website with comments calling for change.

Wrote one commenter:

“Hey @Merriam-Webster Dictionary, did you know you’re the only dictionary with a racist definition of the word “nude”? Remove the third definition from this word to get with the times. #NudeAwakening

Said another:

Yo! Change that definition please. According to you all, I have never been nude in my life........
Changes the directions on how to take a shower dont ya think?

Peppered throughout the comments, as well as throughout the endless stream of #nudeawakening tweets, and facebook posts, was a common refrain: “’Nude’ is a state of being--NOT a skin color.”

It’s a message Merriam-Webster heard loud and clear. Earlier this month, the dictionary site amended their online entry for the word “nude.” It now reads:

screen capture via

In response to the change, Torres updated his campaign page to announce the new definition, and thank all those who helped bring about this new, more inclusive entry. And while changing a single sub-definition of a single entry in a single dictionary may seem like a small victory, Torres is optimistic, explaining:

People are quick to overlook small things that can actually harm a community. We can become dismissive and defensive of very real issues because we don't see their importance. This is why if you don't understand why something is offensive but an entire community says it is, you need to listen.

That’s the naked truth.

[via mic, the washington post]

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

Keep Reading Show less

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet