“A woman’s body is just as decent as a man’s.” This is one of the governing tenets of the Topfreedom movement, which uses women’s public toplessness as a form of political protest. Helese Smauldon, a singer, model, and writer in New York, is singlehandedly taking on the cause there, going topless in Union Square and near the Brooklyn Heights promenade. By her own account, it’s an exercise that has led to open communication about women’s rights and personal freedom, as well as a run-in or two with the NYPD. Though she’s never been arrested for going topless in public squares, the police have asserted that her bared breasts are harming children.

In a blog entry at her site, Helese Talks, she addresses the intent of her mission:

This one is about my breasts and my right the bare them, and what it means for my personal liberation at this time in my life. One of my purposes for the movement is to bring up a few points: I think it says a lot about our society and culture when we:

  1. shun the sight of the human body in its natural form
  2. allow our children to view violence but we are afraid to be naked in front of them
  3. spend more time trying make a woman put her shirt back on rather than helping people who truly need help
  4. are openly sexist, and have no problem with a man baring his chest, when the breasts of a woman are nurturing and generally fare better when they are not strapped down, pushed up and out or otherwise covered where the skin can’t breathe and the lymph isn’t free to move around. (I wear push up bras, but they don’t feel like I’m wearing anything. I’ve gone back to wearing no bra most of the time, it makes it easier to go topfree, and also I have some pretty nasty scars underneath my breasts from wearing them in the heat where the combination of the sweat, fabric, and friction caused a pretty serious rash. Now there’s hyperpigmentation in that area. Battle scars.)

Commenters have shown support for her cause, citing that sexual repression is more harmful to children than exposure to nudity and that public toplessness demystifies the naked female form and undermines the sex industry.

Though topfreedom is rather uncommon in the States, it has its own support organization in Canada (which extends its support to individuals who take up the cause in the U.S.). The Topfree Equal Rights Association provides an online gathering space for women to share their stories and challenges concerning their public toplessness.

What do you think? Bold and brave or perhaps too extreme? Would you ever consider joining the Topfreedom movement?

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