Cleaning off my desk this evening, I came across a flyer that’s been hiding since August under big piles of “things-to-do-or-file.”
I happened to be on a beach in Florida on the Sunday closest to August 26. International go-topless day, I learned as a gaggle of golden chested men and saggy breasted (let’s be honest) women walked down the boardwalk in the perfect weather, distributing flyers.
I was sporting a bikini—bright orange and pink bottoms and tops, covered up with a white linen button down shirt I used to wear to the office. My legs were bare. The man who handed me the flyer was sporting chest hair.
“As long as men are allowed to be topless in public,” read the flyer, “women should have the same constitutional right. Or else, men should have to wear something to hide their chests.”
The flyer had a women’s beautiful breasts bared, a man’s flat chest covered in a bikini top.
My little sister and her husband were seated next to me. He had on a green polo shirt. She had on a cute navy blue and white striped cotton ankle length dress—the low scoop neck scooped lower to allow her 6 week old baby to breastfeed demurely in the shade outside the candy store. A light cotton blanket was positioned strategically over her chest.
“If we could all go topless, you wouldn’t have to hide,” said a pale-skinned middle aged women, as she passed by beating her drum, her breasts reaching her waist.
When, as a student, I visited Senegal then Gabon, I never saw women attempt to hide their breast feeding. In public—on a bench, on the bus, at the market–they’d pop out their natural perfectly-heated on-the-go bottles, and pluck the nipples into the mouths of their babes. I never heard a baby fuss in public. I’m trying to think back, to see if that universal statement is really the truth. It really was. I should probably say I do not remember ever hearing a baby fuss in public. I remember being shocked at how good the babies were. Whether it was iron deficiency or life contentment with an ever-present breast, babies in public were always well behaved.
In Senegal, breasts weren’t considered sexual objects. They were there to feed babies.
Thighs, on the other hand, were sexy. The maid in Senegal made a big fuss one day when she walked into the room and I was trying to keep cool in my underwear and a tank top. She dropped a pagne on my lap and ordered me to keep my thighs covered, tsking under her breath.
The shock! The dismay! The permissivity. The wanton abandon! The thighs!
Topless? Covered up? Bottomless? Head in the sand? It’s all cultural, what’s considered sexy, and what, if anything, needs to be hidden. Cultures can change. Cultural movements can make change happen more quickly. http://gotopless.org .
“All or none, that’s gender topless equality!” reads the flyer.
What about you? Men, would you wear bra tops? Women, would you go topless or breast feed in public?
Culture wars, yet to be fought.