Go Topless Day — Is It Working In Our Favor?

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Not sure if you heard, but Sunday was National Go Topless Day. Yep. And it’s exactly what you think. P.S. this post contains NSFW content.

If you were in midtown NYC on Sunday afternoon, you would have seen a parade of topless women marching down 2nd Avenue, baring their breasts in the name of gender equality.

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The whole thing was a bit of a spectacle. I reeaaally wanted to like the event. I’m all for causes that empower women and strike down body shame. But I just couldn’t get behind it.

To be honest, I was actually kind of turned off by the whole thing. It felt more like women vying for attention, rather than a successful demonstration for gender equality.

THE GO TOPLESS DAY MOVEMENT

The Go Topless organization was founded on the idea that female breasts shouldn’t have to be “modestly” or shamefully hidden from public. Why is it OK for men to expose their nipples, but women are banned from doing so (ahem, Instagram)? It seeks to challenge societal norms and desexualize female breasts.

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I get the aim behind Go Topless Day. It’s raising awareness for a cause that is still very taboo and controversial. And sometimes controversy requires drastic measures. But although I support the cause, I think it could have been executed in a different way.

WHAT’S THE GOAL HERE?

The goal of the topless movement isn’t to get people to agree that women should go topless wherever they want. Rather, it’s about standing up to the idea that society sensationalizes and hyper-sexualizes the female breast. Breasts don’t need to be a taboo and shameful topic.

Yet, that’s not what Go Topless day felt like. Instead, it felt like the activists were using the sensationalism of breasts to gain attention for their cause. And in this way, they’re perpetuating the very topic they’re condemning.

They weren’t just shirtless. They were in booty shorts and neon socks, driving jeeps with giant inflatable pink breasts. And they weren’t just walking, they were barricaded in a plaza, separated from bystanders by a line of police.

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It felt a bit like I was watching caged in animals. Like I was a spectator at the circus. These women were clearly there to make a scene.

And they definitely attracted attention, but it didn’t feel like the right attention. It was mainly men and tourists ogling them from the sidelines.

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I didn’t see any non-topless women supporting or cheering them on in the name of gender equality. And if the whole point of this is to rally women together to stand up to cultural norms, where were all the other women?

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Lots and lots of men . . .

Where the ladies at??

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WHAT WOULD MAKE IT MORE EFFECTIVE?

I think what felt off was the context. It just felt, well . . . weird to see half-naked women parading down the streets of Midtown and posing for pictures like they were celebrities.

But the weird factor wasn’t due to the fact that they were topless women. It also would have been weird to see half-naked men doing the same thing (unless it’s in Times Square). That’s my point.

Men don’t go around the city shirtless in broad daylight. Sure you sometimes see men riding bikes or jogging shirtless (this is legal for women too by the way). Yet most men don’t walk around shirtless because it’s just not the norm.

Would you want to see your male boss shirtless everyday? Didn’t think so. It’s distracting. There’s a reason public places and offices enforce a shirt and shoes policy.

It seems like it would have made more sense to stage this in an environment or context where it’s already socially acceptable for people to go shirtless, like the beach. Or via a social media takeover (if Instagram didn’t police this). Just somewhere where it’s not already unreasonable to be shirtless.

What I think would be really effective would be to do a billboard ad takeover in the middle of Manhattan. Picture topless women featured on building-size ads, like the massive Calvin Klein underwear ads displayed in Soho. Hey, if Justin Beiber can be shirtless in a giant billboard ad in the middle of Manhattan, so can a female model.

An ad on the side of a building in the middle of Manhattan with a topless female would have caused just as much (if not more) attention. And I think it would have made a lot more sense.

We are used to seeing people in their underwear in advertisements, but we are not used to seeing this in everyday life. There are other ways to raise awareness and take a stand without walking around half-naked and having strangers ogle at your lady parts.

ENDING THE SHAME GAME

I’m all for standing up for the female breast. And I agree that hypersexualizing the female breast contributes to the body shame and self esteem issues that so many women have.

We’ve made breasts this mystical thing. An enigma. Something to either flaunt, or to hide. As women, we are praised for having nice breasts, but then shamed for flaunting them. Conversely, we are expected to cover and downplay our breasts, but then feel shameful for not having big enough breasts. You just can’t win.

Why is it that the topic of breasts is such a shame ridden subject?? It shouldn’t be this way. Yet it makes sense why this is our reality.

According to shame researcher Brene Brown, shame needs three things to grow: secrecy, silence, and judgment. And if you think about it, our culture breeds all of three of these around the topic of female breasts: We’re taught to cover our breasts (secrecy); it feels taboo/awkward to even talk about breasts in front of men (silence); and we’re either criticized or appraised for our shape and size (judgment).

Given this, I’m all for causes that try to end the secrecy, silence, and judgment around breasts. I think we can make a big difference simply by making it socially acceptable to talk about breasts and see them in the wild from time to time (Europe gets this). Women need to feel comfortable opening up about their breasts, in order to start the process of accepting them — and all the inevitable changes their breasts will experience.

There’s no reason female breasts should be taboo. Breasts are no big deal. Everyone has them. They serve a very functional purpose. And they come in all shapes.

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And all sizes.

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And women shouldn’t be treated any differently for our breasts (or lack thereof).

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I love the idea of Go Topless Day in theory, but in practice I’m not on board. I fully support the cause, but I’d love to see the day executed in a different way. As we make more progress toward gender equality, we need to be careful about what we ask for and how we do it. If we confuse others about the point we’re trying to make, we’re going to get nowhere. It should be about equality. Not do whatever the hell you want. Being weird gets you attention, but is it the type of attention you want? There are better ways to help society realize that we just shouldn’t take breasts so damn seriously.

What do you think?? Do you agree with Go Topless Day? How could it be done differently? Leave a comment below!

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Originally published at www.yourbreastself.com on August 31, 2016.