In October, 2020, we organized the Nipples exhibition in Nicosia, Cyprus, alongside the local artists Ermina Emmanouel, Simone Phillipou, Loucia Serghiou, Anna Miltiadous, Fani Agisilaou, Nicole Demetriou, Irene Stylianou, ArtDose404, Georgia Andreou & Stephanie Mourouzi, Souzana Petri and Panagiota Constanti.
The theme of our exhibition was the perception of the female nipple in the online world of commercialized culture. In today’s world the female nipple is categorized as provocative, vulgar or /and annoying. However, this is not a natural flow of nature, but instead a manufactured category inextricably linked to historical conditions where culture is defined as a spectacle and the human body as an object for sale, entirely isolated from the woman’s personality.
Beauty standards were not always linked to sexuality. During the 19th century beauty was linked with display of character and not with display of sexuality. The change in those standards came in the early 20th century when the growing consumer markets started overflowing the market with beauty products. Somewhere around that the beauty standards and patterns had to change in order to satisfy the needs of the market and the consumers. Therefore, the body was promoted by the cosmetics industry for its aesthetic side, completely disconnected from its moral side of the individual and his /her ontological existence.
The body of the woman has been engraved into the consumer culture as a sexual object through idealized and sexualized beauty. This constructed beauty is promoted in the most aggressive manner stemming from economic factors, thus building an identity for women based on the sexuality that she should be channelling. Consequently, the creation of all those eroticized female bodies among all social classes is one of the greatest “achievements” of the consumer culture of the 20th century.
However, it is important to note that during the 60s in the United Kingdom, the naked female body was portrayed as liberated through protests against wars and the conservative view of the family where the woman was at home and secluded from the outside world. Moreover, the naked female body was used to make a statement expressing that her political life is not separated from the body when it comes to sexuality, contraception, domestic abuse /violence, etc. Hence, the naked body showed strength, a firm standpoint and a social and political dimension.
Nowadays, the female nipple serves a cause, the sexual desire, and as a result of our consumer society it has been objectified and sexualized as a sole object for desires and pleasure. In the capitalist society of today the female nipple is an object of consumerism whose value needs to be safeguarded in every way possible.
Women continue getting judged by their body and not by their voice, they continue being sexualized and objectified daily in order to fit into the constantly changing social beauty constructs. Therefore, we are all called upon to reflect, redefine and reverse the naked body in general and especially in how the female nipple is viewed, in order to express the humanity, complexity and diversity of today’s women.
Text / Research: Natalie Pehlivani & Leandros Savvides
Translation from Greek by Maya Mitsinga
The first photo is Panagiota’s Constanti’s work “Please do not touch”
More Artists from the exhibition