Would you let strangers see your boobs in public? One woman in New York City does, and she’s hoping more topless girls will join her.
Moira Johnston made a name for herself recently by traipsing around NYC topless–as in no shirt, no bra, no nothin’. And guess what? She and other publicly topless girls in the Big Apple are doing this completely legally. And theoretically, that’s kind of cool.
So why is it okay to keep your boobs uncovered in New York? In 1992 a state court case, two topless girls fought the law and won. They didn’t think it was fair that guys could walk around shirtless, but that if topless girls enjoyed public space in a non-sexualized way, it was still considered vulgar. The court ruled in favor of the topless girls, thus ensuring your right to show your boobs in New York if you feel like it. And we think that’s awesome. Because although we wish more topless dudes would just put their shirts back on (I mean, come on, guys. You don’t look THAT good.), girls should have the same right to air out their torsos if they want to. But note that this is New York state–do not try this at home, either, because if you’re under 18, child pornography laws can come into play and get you and other people around you in big, big trouble.
Most people aren’t aware that this law actually exists and that it’s legal to let your boobs go free, so whenever topless girls take advantage of their legal right, it causes a little bit of a stir. Enter Moira. In an interview with Dr. Drew, the 29-year-old professional topless dancer explained, “I understand that it’s not as socially acceptable and there are safety issues involved . . . I would like women to feel empowered about their own bodies and go topless whenever they feel comfortable in their own social context in their own communities.” Watch Moira talk more about why topless girls are empowering and about the double standard that exists within society about exposing men’s and women’s bodies:
Thing is, while we love two of Moira’s points, in which she notes that she wants to empower body confidence (we love love love that!) and that she’s trying to promote equality for all women, we’re not convinced that walking outside with your boobs flopping around is the best way to go about getting equality. For one, it seems pretty uncomfortable–in the hot weather, the under-boob sweat wouldn’t be fun to deal with (this is one reason bras rule). In the cold weather, everyone would know just how cold it was by glancing down past your chin.
What’s more, it’s unclear how topless girls in public contribute to other areas in which women face inequality. Does showing off your boobs really send a message about the glass ceiling? If anything, topless girls in the streets may simply distract from the larger point that the same topless girls are trying to make: Women still face inequality everywhere from health insurance (though the new laws are helping to remedy that) to the workplace to the media.
It’s amazing to be comfortable with your body and to stand up for and use your rights. We think that’s freakin’ awesome. But if you’re trying to take a stand against something, it’s generally better to lead with your voice and your brain rather than with your boobs–because even though they’re pretty quiet, your boobs can still drown out the message you’re trying to send.
Do you think showing your boobs in public is a good form of activism? Would you ever show your boobs in public? Have you ever seen topless girls out and about? Tell us in the comments!