Quick! Check the weather forecast. It’s almost time for International Go Topless Day! Held annually on the Sunday closest to August 26?Women’s Equality Day?this year’s topless event is scheduled for Sunday, August 28.
The annual Go Topless Day event is held to support the right of women to go topless in public. As the official Go Topless website points out, women have?or should have?the same constitutional right as men go bare-chested in public.
Go Topless Day began in 2008 in Nevada and Go Topless events are now held in at least a dozen countries. Canada’s first Go Topless event was held in Toronto in 2011.
In Canada, women won the legal right to go topless in 1996 following an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which overturned the indecent exposure conviction of Gwen Jacob. Jacob, a University of Guelph student, challenged the law and public sensibilities by going topless in public on a hot day in 1991. Although the appeal court did not address the constitutionality of the act, the precedent-setting case has boosted women across Canada toward topless equality.
Go Topless Day events are organized by local groups who feel the enduring double standard?in fact if not in law?of public toplessness must be challenged. Women and their supporters will march in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, according to http://GoTopless.org‘s “BoobMap“.
I have a pair of concerns about this event (aside from the worry that my online research for this article is going to result in racy internet ads popping out at me):
First, the Go Topless event wasn’t conceived by women concerned with the rights of women. Go Topless was established?and continues to be sponsored?by a group formed by former auto racer and journalist Claude Vorilhon. These days, Vorilhon goes by the name Rael and he is the spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement, known as a “UFO religion” by some. Now, It’s perfectly feasible that Vorilhon and the Raelians have the women’s movement’s best interests at heart, but given the prominent promotion of Raelian philosophies on the Go Topless website, it makes one wonder if the topless movement is more of a promotional lift for the Raelians. The motive of their slogan “Free Your Breasts! Free Your Mind!” isn’t apparent in the context of equal rights.
Second, I’m not convinced that fighting for the right to go topless in public is where women want to focus their energies right now. Is this the most important issue facing women today? Is this going to thrust women’s rights forward? Perhaps topless rights are symbolic of all other matters of disparity between the sexes and Go Topless participants want to get the message out there. But, given that these events typically draw more oglers than true supporters, it seems doubtful that the intended message is being received by those who most urgently need to receive it.
Still, where’s the harm in freeing the girls from the shadows of oppression and letting the sun shine on female nipples as well as male ones. If exercising your right to go topless is important to you, go right ahead. Just remember to take along some sunscreen. And watch out for UFOs.
Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.