On August 23rd at the Gold Medal Park in Downtown Minneapolis, hundreds of men and women alike gathered to celebrate the eighth annual Go Topless Day. Men were encouraged to wear bras, bikini tops, and pasties to cover their bare chests and women were encouraged to go as topless as possible, many wearing tape or pasties covering their nipples, and some going fully bare chested. This celebration was in solidarity with similar events nationwide, and was spearheaded by the Free the Nipple Campaign.
The Free the Nipple Campaign was started by Lina Esco, who is an actress, filmmaker, and activist. Their mission is “to strip society of its tendencies toward the sexualization of the female upper body, addressing hypocrisies and inconsistencies in American culture and legal systems that enforce its taboos.” The campaign has recently seen a lot of support from celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Lena Dunham, and Cara Delevingne, particularly on their Instagram accounts.
In Minnesota, for a woman to be topless in public (excluding breastfeeding) is punishable under 617.23 and can result in a misdemeanor. In New York it has been legal for female persons to be topless in public since 1992, however it is still viewed by many as socially unacceptable and many are unaware that the public indecency law was amended.
In the year 1930 men fought for the ability to be topless in public and won in 1936. The modern day argument for exposed breasts and nipples being indecent is that they are viewed by our society as sexual organs. However, according to Merriam Webster, a sexual organ is “an organ of the reproductive system; especially : an external generative organ”.
I believe that any gender should be allowed to be topless in public. Not because it is something I would personally choose for myself, save for the 103 degree July day at Lake Calhoun, but because there is no logical reason for the law to exist. The basis of the law is that it is indecent, but I find the bare chest of a 50 year old male with excessive chest hair just as indecent and displeasing to the eye. At it’s core, to me it is an issue of equality.
The sexualization of women’s breasts is a Western fetish. A fetish is a sexual attraction to anything that is not a sexual organ. While it may be a common fetish in our society, it is comparable to a foot fetish. However I see no laws banning going barefoot or wearing sandals in public. While the comparison may seem ridiculous, anatomically it is not.
I have heard many people voice concerns about women being topless in public because they believe it will cause more violence against women, specifically sexual assaults. It goes along with the belief in our society that says “If you dress conservatively, you won’t get raped.” The reality is, 8 in 10 victims of rape know the perpetrator. At the same time, when a man is sexually assaulted or raped, no one questions his clothing choices, including whether he was shirtless. It’s an issue of equality.