Luis Torres is an Ithaca College sophomore and pretty regular kid who changed the dictionary — for a very good reason.
Torres noticed earlier this year that Merriam-Webster's dictionary defined the word "nude," among other things, as "having the color of a white person’s skin." That understandably made him a little angry, and so he did something.
He started a petition to change that on DoSomething.org
— kicking it off on August 14 (National Nudist Day, of course). Now, just a few weeks later, after an outpouring of support, it worked! The definition was recently changed to a more inclusive definition. Now, it reads,
"(1): having a color (as pale beige or tan) that matches the wearer’s skin tones (2): giving the appearance of nudity."
We caught up with Torres to hear about his campaign to stop what he called a "small act of discrimination." And then — just for fun — we got a group of R29ers together and took some pictures of them decked out in "nude-colored" things to make the point that "nude" is way more than "beige."Check out our chat with Torres below, and click through for pics.
How'd you get started on the project?
"Since I was a campaign intern at DoSomething.org
, I was already in the mindset of campaign creation. I actually read an Audre Lorde essay where it was mentioned that Band-Aids being only the color of a white person's skin is a form of a microaggression. I researched 'nude' in marketing and came across Merriam-Webster's definition, and was just blown away with the fact that an academic source could have such a bias."
It's such a small thing. Why did you think it's important?
"I think it's super-important that a small act of discrimination was shown to be unacceptable. Language is how we all communicate, and when words are designed and defined to be exclusive, it can be hurtful and harmful."
Were you surprised at how quickly you achieved your goals?
"I was extremely shocked when I found out Merriam-Webster took down their definition! I think it really shows the power behind DoSomething.org as a change organization. Eight hundred of their members pushed and made a real impact. It was super-amazing."