Making headlines while avoiding tan lines: 33-year-old Phoenix Feeley refused to pay the ticket she received for topless sunbathing in New Jersey and spent nine days in jail, hunger striking for women’s right to bare their lady parts alongside their male counterparts as an activist for Go Topless. The group are “advocates for women’s right to go topless on the basis of gender equality,” who assert that women’s chests should have the same freedom from legislation as male chests and be able to bare their breasts comfortably. Founded in 2007, Go Topless is a grassroots organization that insists that it is our actual constitutional right to go topless in public. Redefining legislation regarding nudity seems like a much less cumbersome task than the reshaping of our cultural landscape that Go Topless encourages, insisting that female’s breasts need not be valued sexually more than men’s.
“It makes me feel bad that I have to hide. I’m not protecting my breasts by hiding them. My freedom is taken away from me.” ~ Nadine Gary, spokesperson for Go Topless
Nadine Gary, the organization’s spokesperson, grew up in a much more liberal culture in France and found our views regarding nudity stifling. “When I arrived in the United States 30 years ago, I noticed, wow, this is a conservative society. We don’t do that here. For 30 years I have been in this repressive society. This is why I jumped on the toplessness bandwagon. I wanted to stand up.”
She argues than men’s chest are sexy just as sexy as women’s, telling Slate, “When I look at my husband’s chest, it’s quite sexually appealing. Males with beautiful chests—wow, they are very arousing. And there are nerves there. I just don’t think the “sexy” argument is valid. The same goes for the size of the chest.”
“For men, when they get older, when they put on weight, they can have huge boobs. You see them around the swimming pool: They have quite a bit of tissue! And likewise, I have many girlfriends who are so flat. So amount of breast tissue doesn’t mean very much. If we are going to speak about tissue and size, we need to be very specific about how much tissue is allowed.” It’s not a bad point.
Gary finds our society’s compulsion toward covering up an insult to women’s independence and notes that not everyone should exercise their right to toplessness if they aren’t comfortable, but that that should be a lady’s personal choice. “ Why would it be desirable to cover your breasts? To me, it’s degrading. It makes me feel bad that I have to hide. I’m not protecting my breasts by hiding them. My freedom is taken away from me. Of course, if women don’t want to exercise their rights, they don’t have to. It’s like voting. Some women are very shy, very private. But just because they don’t want to exercise their right doesn’t mean mine should be taken away.”
Do you feel repressed by the hypersexualization of our breasts and our tacit agreement to keep them covered? Would you bare your breasts in public if there were not legal consequences? — Casandra Armour