Sarah Constantin, an activist from the women's rights group FEMEN,… (Reuters )
My first thought when I saw a pair of pasties at the Pride Parade five years ago was a blunt and bro-y, "Whoa! Boobs!"
It was a decidedly non-feminist thought. It wasn't even rational, given that bare breasts were not particularly "sexy" to me as a heterosexual woman, nor were they a rare sight, given that I had a pair of my own.
But when I saw those bravely brazen pair of bare breasts at Pride, all I could think was Breasts! Boobies! Ta-tas! Out in the open! And they looked so ... real, all floppy and pale.
After the shock value wore off, I thought, "That's so flippin' cool." The fact that women are comfortable enough to go support-less was admirable to me. Plus, why shouldn't they be able to go topless like the hundreds of bare-chested men standing right next to them?
Recently, women's right to bare breasts has gotten national and international attention. In New York, activist Holly Van Voast has sued for her constitutional right to go topless any place a man can. In Europe, a radical group called FEMEN goes topless to protest sex slavery and oppression. FEMEN members were arrested for going topless in Tunisia.
Though it can be a political or radical statement, maybe most women who want to go topless just want the same right as any man: to shed that oppressive layer of cotton when summer swelters on.
At first, I was a bit like, "Hey gals, don't we have more sexist fish to fry than whether or not to let our nipples breathe?" But the more I talked to activists and the more I saw women forced to cover their breasts everywhere from beaches to breast-feeding, the more I realized the right to go topless is a fundamental freedom. The arguments forbidding women to go topless are the same ones used to defend a whole slew of other misogynistic tropes.
Generally the argument goes that women are not allowed to show nipples because they are considered "lewd." The line of logic often continues that bare breasts will be too distracting to men who apparently—according to the laws—lose their minds when they see a nipple.
This rationale doesn't give men enough credit to control their own actions, and it makes women responsible for controlling a man's nipple lust. It resembles the "it is a woman's responsibility to avoid rape by not wearing anything that might attract a rapist" rhetoric we've heard so much of lately.
Other people protest with the cry of "oh, but the children …" And what happens if little Johnny sees a boob? Is he really going to be scarred? Or will he perhaps learn that breasts are just breasts, and not some mystery fun bag full of magic and secrets?
If you really are so offended by bare breasts in public, don't look. I'm disgusted by goatees, but you don't see me trying to ban them. At the same time, I find men's chest hair extremely sexy. I'm not demanding that all men wear button-ups to control my libido. Like the grown-ass adult I am, I can control myself around even the deepest of V-necks.
Personally, I have no desire to go top-free. I like containing the ladies for comfort's sake. But another reason I won't go all free-nippling is that I can't even fathom being top-naked and not getting harassed or, worse, made to feel guilty about my nudity.
But if there are women out there who want to blaze the trail, I say, pasties off to you, ladies! And Happy Pride!
Niki Fritz is a RedEye special contributor.
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