Fighting for the right to be bare-chested
An overweight man sits on a beach with his flabby chest exposed. This image—with the caption “Allowed”—is juxtaposed with that of a bare-breasted woman—“Not Allowed”—on the website of campaign group Go Topless. Why is a naked male chest considered acceptable while female toplessness, in the same circumstances, is often regarded as indecent? The question underpins Topfreedom, an international gender-equality movement that advocates women’s right to be topless (or the less-risqué term “topfree”) in public in the same situations that men can bare their chests.
“Women’s breasts are just fine, and in no way indecent, obscene, dangerous, or some other version of bad, any more than men’s are,” claims Canada’s HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topfree_Equal_Rights_Association” o “Topfree Equal Rights Association” Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA). “We do not suggest that women or men should go about with bare breasts. That is every individual’s decision. We do believe that since men may choose to do so in many situations, women must also be able to at least in the same situations—without penalty of any kind.”
Some Topfreedom groups vocally and visibly shine the spotlight on the issue—and on their breasts. National Go Topless Day, on August 21 in the USA, and next year’s Two Million Boob March in Washington DC, for example, will feature mass female toplessness. Male protesters wear bras or bikinis to illustrate the argument that if women are required to cover up, men should also have to.
In contrast to places where bare-chested women can still face criminal charges and imprisonment for indecency, Vancouver’s attitude is more liberal. A City of Vancouver spokesman confirmed to Hush that no bylaw restricts women from being topless in public. Similarly, landmark cases—such as topfree swimmer Linda Meyer’s successful Supreme Court challenge to a Maple Ridge bylaw in 2000—imply protection for other areas of the province.
Topfreedom fighters aim to change both laws and attitudes so female chest nudity becomes commonplace and unremarkable. In the meantime, other groups—such as Femen in Europe—harness the controversy by staging bare-breasted political protests. Femen claims: “This is the only way to be heard.” Seems baring skin is still a statement.