“FREE YOUR BREASTS! FREE YOUR MIND!” reads the GoTopless website, an organization that claims women have the same constitutional right that men have to go bare-chested in public.
Women across the country may have a perfect excuse to do just that on August 21. GoTopless has scheduled marches in various cities throughout the U.S. in order to honor National Women’s Equality Day. Women in the marches are expected to go topless, while men are asked to wear bikini tops, to symbolize the need for gender equality. Several cities where marches will take place include: Washington DC, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
“The ultimate goal is for the laws to change on the national level so that women have the same rights as men,” said Lara Terstenjak to the Daily Caller, spokesperson for GoTopless. “As long as men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have the same constitutional right or men should have to cover up in public.”
But not everyone is thrilled about the idea of women ditching their tops. The Christian community is specifically opposed to it.
“This isn't a matter of legality, it's a matter of decency. It's not a matter as to whether someone can do this. It's a matter of whether they should do it,” said Johnnie Moore, campus pastor at Liberty University to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, expresses harsher criticism of the movement.
“It’s a shame that a group of women would take such a serious issue such as sexism and discrimination and trivialize it by claiming the right to go topless,” Land said. “Sexism is still a big problem in the US. I was appalled at the treatment of both Palin and Hillary Clinton by the media. So it’s a shame that this group is trivializing this matter.”
He goes on to say that if women were to go topless it would just add to the issue of objectifying women’s bodies.
“True feminists would be fighting the cause of modesty, not exhibition,” he said.
Currently, the laws concerning dress codes are in the local domain and vary city by city. In fact, several cities, including Washington DC, South Beach Miami, Florida, New York City, and Boulder Colorado say it is perfectly legal for women to go topless in public. Washington DC women have had this right since 1986, although the law is barely known to the public.
Women are often unaware that they are able to be topless in the cities and states that allow it, Terstenjak said. When women receive the right to be topless, they are still treated like they don’t have it because law enforcement is often unaware of the law. GoTopless aims at promoting this awareness among women.
Phoenix Feeley, a New York artist, who was arrested in 2005 in Manhattan for being topless in public, was charged with indecent exposure. The police were not aware of the 1992 law that made it legal for women to be topless in public. Feeley was awarded $29,000 in a lawsuit against New York City. The GoTopless organization was founded in 2007 by Rael, a spiritual leader, after he learned about Feeley’s case.
“I don’t have the same freedom as men if I’m stuck in traffic and my air condition is broken to take my shirt off. If I was in my own car driving without a shirt on, I could get in trouble,” Terstenjak said. “It’s the only thing right now that’s keeping women from having the same rights as men.”
GoTopless, according to its website, is committed to helping women perceive their breasts as noble, natural parts of their anatomy. Breasts shouldn’t have to be “modestly” or shamefully hidden from public view any more than arms, legs or feet, according to GoTopless.
However, the opposition to this movement voices concerns about male sexuality when seeing a topless woman in public. GoTopless has issued this response on their website: “GoTopless is also committed to helping men differentiate between nudity and sexuality. If the presence of a topless woman in public triggers a sexual impulse, it can easily be controlled in the same way men control themselves when they see a woman wearing a mini skirt or revealing ample cleavage. Men manage to appreciate these things while still showing respect! Choosing consciousness above hormones leads to a peaceful, respectful society providing additional freedom and beauty.”
The Daily Caller reports that in 2012, GoTopless is planning a “2 million boob march in Washington” to bring attention to their cause.
Terstenjak compared the topless movement to the civil rights movement.