This post includes links that are NSFW
If you follow me on twitter and were online in the early hours of Christmas morning 2011 (GMT), you may have noticed @LeaBecca, @jolantru and I discussing nipples. In particular colonialism, body politics and how they affect nipple colour. You may want to read their write ups on the topic before continuing, Body Politics and White Skin, Pink Nipples.
So now you know that there is a ‘right’ colour of nipples. And that there are bleaching creams available to turn brown nipples lighter even as there are ‘brightening’ creams for the face and the body. That pink nipples are a sign of innocence and lack of sexual knowledge.
When I reblogged this anime style drawing of a brown-skinned, female character on Tumblr, I wrote ‘Finally the artist got the right nipple colour!’ because at that moment it struck me just how often I’d seen brown- and dark-skinned anime style characters drawn with pale, pink-ish nipples. There’s been a lot of discussion on how ethnicity is presented in anime and manga, on the ‘race’ of characters in anime and manga. It is relatively rare to see characters with darker skin tones in anime and manga, nevertheless they exist and several people of colour who enjoy watching anime and reading manga across the globe are happy that they exist.
But what happens when your favourite brown-skinned character takes of his or her clothes to reveal pink nipples? Take for example, this image of Miyuki from the anime Basquash!. What would you think? Initially, I thought this suggested that the brown-skinned characters are actually white-skinned characters in blackface. The implications of imperialism and body politics that affect brown-skinned women did not occur to me at that point. I was genuinely confused, I understand some brown-skinned characters look tanned (and are supposed to be tanned) but why would you draw a brown-skinned character that has locs or a huge Afro and colour their nipples pink?
The first time I recall noticing pink nipples on a brown-skinned character was when I came across one doujinshi with characters from Code Geass by Nekomata Naomi, a female hentai mangaka. When I saw the manga, ‘Brown New Wife’, I barely registered that the new wife had brown skin and pink nipples on the cover (mostly because I was squeeing over Nekomataya being a female hentai mangaka). I must have laughed shaking my head and wondered if these artists had seen brown women topless before? Or who knows there could be brown women with pink nipples in this world. I convinced myself that it was a one time thing. I did not want to ‘overreact’ and basically silenced my own criticism.
I joined Tumblr recently and it did not take long for me to come across this photo blog dedicated to brown-skinned females in anime. As I went through the archives and saw that when they were shown, most of the brown-skinned characters had pink nipples I grew disturbed. I was confused and not entirely sure how to react, so I saved the pictures for later discussion.
That was until I saw the art I reblogged. I was surprised at how relieved I felt to see that at least one artist got
the colouring things right. I believe it was at that point that I decided it was okay to say something. I am glad that @LeaBecca and @jolantru had things to say as well. As I mentioned above, most of my earlier thoughts revolved around blackface. I wondered if all brown-skinned characters in anime, doujinshi and art are actually white-skinned characters in blackface or tans? I briefly entertained the idea that all of us brown-skinned people who have adored brown-skinned characters in anime and manga have been hoodwinked.
I still do not understand why an artist would draw a brown-skinned character and colour their nipples pink but now I know how they conform to white supremacist ideals by doing so. In a world that regularly extols white skin, straight hair, skinny figures, and now pink nipples, as beauty ideals colouring a brown-skinned character’s nipples pink plays into the idea that there is something wrong with the natural tones of brown-skinned women.