When I was on Broadway, my most recent Broadway show was ‘Spring Awakening,’ and every night I did a topless scene. —Lea Michele
You knew damn good and well that I wasn’t going to leave this one alone. I mean, the biggest challenge I had with this topic was deciding which pictures to put with it. For me, there is absolutely no reason to not celebrate National Go Topless day (which is really international but it doesn’t have the same impact elsewhere). Merging Go Topless Day with Women’s Equality Day, which was established by Congress to be observed on this day as well, makes perfect sense to me. Men are free to take their shirt off in public, women should be free to do exactly the same. I don’t see the problem.
Go Topless Day also merges well with the #FreeTheNipple campaign as well as public breastfeeding efforts. They all focus on matters of women’s equality, women’s rights, and ending the sexual objectification of women’s bodies. Women’s breasts are there for a very specific biological purpose. Forcing them to be covered is not only unfair, but shames the very nature of our being. The American fear and shaming of a bare breast is one of the most ridiculous acts of self-piety ever committed.
Unfortunately, we live in Indiana, one of only three states in the Union where, technically, even a teensy nipple slip is prohibited. Granted, that law is not necessarily enforced evenly across the state. I’m not the only one who has shot nudes outdoors in fairly public places. Still, the fact that we have to sneak around to be topless is a burden the majority of states don’t have to endure.
How This Got Started
National Go Topless Day isn’t new; it started in 2005, Ostensibly, it was created in response to a lawsuit in New York protesting the ability for men to go shirtless but not women. Equality. We can all support that, right? There are some dubious connections to the actual organization, though. The celebration itself was founded in 2007 by an alternative sect of spiritualists who call themselves Raelians. These dear people are dead sure that we were put here by some alien race and that they keep coming back to check on us and give us smart stuff.
Insert giant eye roll here. Okay, I can understand the whole aliens-planted-us-here thing to a point, but I’m certain that if they did it was to keep us from contaminating other species of beings that are more logical and intelligent. If aliens are responsible for our presence here then Earth must be a galactic penal colony. That’s the only way such a project makes sense.
Still, if the alien-focused spiritualists are intelligent enough to see that such a simple form of equality makes sense, then why is it such a difficult concept for everyone else to grasp? How is it that practically every other country in the world, including some with some really shitty governments, still manage to support this very basic form of equality and the US doesn’t? Even in states that allow events today, there are still too many restrictions and rules. We shouldn’t need visitors from another planet to figure out this issue.
Grass Roots Support
National Go Topless Day is growing. Granted, the growth isn’t overwhelming, but each year there are more events in more cities and the participation increases. This is very much a grass-roots movement that enjoys the participation of women across a wide range of genres. As I’m looking at the hashtag across twitter this morning, here are some of the posts I’m seeing.
— NSFW Celebs (@CelebsNSFW) August 26, 2016
— Eenadu India (@Eenadu_English) August 28, 2016
— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) August 28, 2016
— GirlsAskGuys (@GirlsAskGuys) August 28, 2016
There’s plenty of support for the day from women all over the world. However, especially in America, the movement lacks one of the most fundamental aspects necessary to actually turn a movement into a political force that changes laws: A unifying, well-known and well-spoken leader. This is where the connection with the Raelians becomes a problem. Anyone who shows up at a city council meeting talking about aliens is going to be escorted from the room and possibly placed in a padded cell.
What the movement needs is someone with the social identity of a major celebrity combined with the political clout of a Kennedy. A well-spoken, well-connected person who won’t be shamed or belittled when she takes off her shirt could do a lot to further the cause of body equality.
Overcoming Rape Culture
Another challenge to Go Topless Day in the US is that too many people, not just men, only see boobs. All the talk about equal rights and ending objectification is lost on people who still think that they way a women dresses invites rape. These people show up at events like those held around the country today and try to pick up women. They are backward minded neanderthals whose brains are located somewhere below their waists.
Unfortunately, this rape culture is so embedded in our society, that Congresspersons, Governors, Mayors, and many other civic leaders are among them. This is why states like Indiana still think that baring a nipple is enough reason to throw someone in jail. In their very small minds, an exposed chest is a woman giving an open invitation to be raped.
Our society is slowing challenging and taking on this rape culture in a variety of ways but until women can appear topless in public without men trying to grab at them there is no equality.
Power In Numbers
Gatherings and celebrations on Go Topless Day are important. Not only do those who support equality for women need to stand together, women need to know they’re not alone. There are women in rural towns all across the country who want to go topless but fear the ridicule. They need to know they are not alone. Women need to know that their desire to bare their chests is not alternative, but natural. They need to know that they’re not freaks. Women need an environment where they’re not being called sluts or shamed for their choices.
Unfortunately, these events are really scattered. The closest one to Indianapolis is in Columbus, OH at Goodale Park at 1:00 PM. There is a large rally in Chicago as well. There is what I assume to be a partial list of gatherings on the Go Topless website. The largest gatherings are where one would expect them: New York, San Francisco, Venice Beach.
I know a lot of tasteless jokes will be made today. Perhaps one day we’ll outgrow that childishness. Maybe one day women won’t have to worry about stupid laws or ignorant opinions regarding their bodies. There may even be one day where society doesn’t objectify women at all.
Until then, protest where you can and enjoy Go Topless Day.