The Culture of Nakedness and the Nakedness of Culture
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Let us examine the relationship between the tight fitting and short western clothing and the western worldview and culture. Clothing is one of the human being's symbols of dignity and in every civilization it is directly related to the meaning and definition of humanity in that civilization. What is the human being in the western civilization\/ or, in a civilization, which is basically materialistic,, what can the human being be? For over four centuries God has been absent form the main stream of life in Europe. Spirituality has crawled to the edge of life and the skeleton of western civilization and culture has become purely materialistic.

The history of the past four centuries in the west is the history of ht negation of spiritual and sublime values. The western civilization today presents life in which spirituality and sanctity are of no value; the human being is no longer the 'spirit of God' and cannot be His successor on earth, for, being the successor of a God who has lost His place and rank has no fundamental or 'existential' difference with animals.

Of course, every animal has its own special characteristics: the lion is fierce and the peacock is beautiful. The elephant is powerful and the human being is intelligent. What can be done? From among all the offspring of nature, the human being has accidentally turned out to be more intelligent than the others and has acquired science and technology with his or her intelligence, gaining dominance over nature but the beginning and the rest of other animals. It, too, will live for several years and die and nothing else. This is the dominant concept in the new culture of the west, a culture in which truth must only be heard from scientists, and some of these scientists have so limited the circle of truth for themselves that they say, 'We will not confirm the existence of God until we have Him under out surgical scalpels'. The west is controlled by an order, which considers matter as principal and considers every value above matter as unscientific, regarding it as mere imagination, illusion and superficial.

In such a culture where no tomorrow awaits humanity after death and no paradise invites them, what can human beings do? Their only chance for 'being' and 'staying' except this short time have no choice but to amass the maximum advantages for themselves and to take advantage of those things in nature which give them the maximum joy and pleasure, before death. One of the things, which can give them pleasure, is the human body.

This development which took place in western culture simultaneously with the Renaissance, and separated human beings from spiritual and divine values, was reflected in many of the human aspects of the west. Following the Renaissance, a new style came about in the literature and art of Europe, in which the human being was the center and foundation of everything. However, not the human being who has a heavenly truth in the ‘self’, but the earthly human being, a human being fundamentally mundane and materialistic. This ‘humanism’ which has been reflected particularly in this period within literature and art and which is interpreted as a special style called ‘humanism’ is more apparent in painting and sculpting than in anything else.

The sculptor who sees the human being as a complete ‘this-worldly’ and corporal creature, finds art in the human body. That is why from under the chisel of the Renaissance sculptors, there appear nude sculptures which more than anything else induce this feeling in the observer than the human being is all body and that the artist must pay attention to this body.

There are numerous examples of such status but, perhaps, the status of ‘David’ by Micheal-Angelo is the most famous. The status is the sculpture of a young man at the height of his beauty and strength who is totally naked and not only the muscles of his chest, arms and legs, but also the details of his genitals have been carefully sculpted. This status is the most obvious indication of cultural change in Europe. It is a sign, which shows what concepts, and culture governed the artist’s hands through his mind.

In painting, also, there is a clear difference between the works of this period and the works of this period and the works prior to this period. The best way to understand the difference between the old and the new is through comparing the faces that painters have made of the Virgin Mary. The pre-Renaissance paintings show her as a woman who seems not to be from the ordinary class of common, normal women. There is modesty and bashfulness hidden in her face, giving her a divine and heavenly expression. The painter tries not to depict her similar to the beautiful women around him and uses all his skill and ability to give her a spiritual beauty. But the painters of the Renaissance and post-Renaissance bring her from heaven down to earth and choose his model of the Virgin Mary from among the beautiful women of the market place. In the painting of this earthly Mary the holy bashfulness has vanished and when the observer looks at the painting, he merely looks at the beauty, before remembering its spiritual values. Even the value of Mary, in a period that man’s value lies in his body and face, depends on her superficial beauty.

This humanity must use all its natural and bodily instincts to the maximum and why should one not do so? What is there to limit one? What truth above nature and matter has the most serious presence in one’s life and society so that one may set a limit for one’s bodily gratification, going after that higher truth. One is basically free and social life does not create limits on one’s freedom. The human being is nothing but ‘body’ is one of the most important sources of one’s pleasure. One must take advantage of all freedoms – including this one – in the short time that one has until one’s death.

That is why the sexual instincts run wild in such a society and woman becomes merchandise with a value equivalent to that of the pleasure she gives. Woman is no longer that human being who is the divine trustee and who can even become so sublime as to acquire her own God’s visage. She is only a ‘body’ and her value is the same as the value of her body. And, if woman does not exhibit her ‘body’ in this civilization and society, what is there to remain for her. If she is not seen, what other value does she have? All her existence lies in her being seen and in being evaluated with a buyer’s look. If four hundred years ago Descartes said, ‘I think, therefore I am’, woman in the present western society – and all the present westernized societies – has no choice but to say ‘I am seen, therefore I am!’ Woman is only ‘flesh’ and man is all ‘eyes’. Woman is an object which man constantly evaluates in the view of his ‘eyes’ scale.

In such a culture in which the human being is hollow, futile, empty of spirituality, having no secrets or mystery, and all one is amounts only to one’s body and face and eyes, what form can clothing have? It is clear that clothing is not an instrument for covering the body but it is for exhibiting the body. Under such circumstances that woman’s personality, and value lies in the exhibition of her body, her clothing must be tight-fitting so that it may cover her flesh like a thin layer of enamel, not hiding her bodily features; and it must be short to cover her body the least. Clothing is not her body’s shelter but her ‘second skin’ and she dresses as to ‘fit’ certain parts of her body and to place certain other parts in a ‘frame’! This thing that determines the style of clothing is sexual psychology and, in fact, the designers of new styles of clothing are constantly in the process of adjusting the ratio between nakedness and covering of the body so as to bring out the maximum of attraction and display in this sex and the maximum of interest in the other sex.

It is not only the women’s clothing that is dependent on the relation between the ‘eye and the body’, but also men’s clothing. It is not accidental that the suits of western men, which we all wear today, clings to the body as much and, as the expression goes, it is ‘tapered’. This, also, is western and exactly the result of the concept of sexuality in the west. It is the tendency towards exhibiting the body that makes even men’s clothing so tight-fitting and clinging to the body.

source: Message, vol. 5, No. 4

Authors: Gholam Ali Haddad Adel
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