May 08, 2009

The Western Culture

My close friend London Spengler raised the issue To Nipple or not to Nipple on her blog. What started as my comment to her post turns out to become a post of its own. It often gets claimed that we are all part of "The Western Culture", and while you or me seem to have a sufficiently similar background to our friends in the US or Canada to make us seem alike, we are - in fact - not.

Our friends from Northern America come from a completely different culture, with different values and different ethics. Probably the largest area where this manifests itself is the issue of decency/sensibilities when it comes to nudity. For you or me seeing naked breasts or full frontal (female) nudity is not a big issue. We are confronted daily with it, magazines and TV is full of it. A naked breast is not considered harmful for a kid. And even in daily life and language a certain amount of innuendo does not meet raised eyebrows.

For our friends across the pond many of this might seem bizarre. What we consider banter among colleagues or even friends might constitute sexual harassment for them. What we consider a sexy advertising might seem smut and filth for them. As much as we tend to smile about it or openly state it is silly, we should accept it as the cultural background our friends have.

But there is more difference. Not only do North Americans and Europeans SEEM alike at the surface, but show discrepancies when you dig deeper. Also we Europeans are not as homogeneous. Despite Italy, Spain and France being seen as the countries of hot (latin) love, in fact the Southern countries of Europe are more prude and conservative compared to the more Northern and Scandinavian countries. An Italian woman might play with symbols, but at the same time perceive a Scandinavian woman as ferociously sexual.

This world - atomic or digital - is about variation and versatility. We have all strong sides and weak sides to add to the mix. We are all different - and that is very good. The key is having respect for everybody else. I love to see a naked female body, but I respect if a friend from the US feels uncomfortable with that, and I try to avoid confrontation. At the same time I expect that they respect that I see the issue more relaxed.

Thus said, and getting back to London's original post, when I chose to read a skin review on a blog, I should be prepared to see nipples.
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