Should Women Be Able To Go Topless In Public?

I was amused and impressed to see that some women in Portland, Maine, decided yesterday to challenge the double standard about male and female nudity.  Around two dozen women, organized by Ty McDowell, walked through the streets of Portland without shirts on, staying on the sidewalk because they hadn’t obtained a demonstration permit to walk in the street.  The Portland Press Herald reported that the march, which attracted around 1,000 onlookers, was peaceful (“no incidents and no arrests” – it is illegal in Portland only to expose one’s genitals), but the organizer was “enraged” by the turnout of men to the demonstration.

The high attendance of men, McDowell said, defeated the purpose of the march, which was to normalize, rather than sexualize, women appearing topless in public.  She said that in future, she would be more “aggressive” in discouraging oglers.  One wonders what, exactly, that entails.

This march is particularly interesting in the context of Erykah Badu’s recent fine for disorderly conduct during the filming of “Window Seat,” her new music video, where she strips naked and feigns being shot in the head in the park where John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  Sgt. Warren Mitchell of the Dallas police force explained the citation, saying, “We feel that these charges best fit her conduct. She disrobed in a public place without regard to individuals and small children who were close by.” Mitchell said the department has had “people calling from all across the country to express their concern.”

Badu, certainly, was in a different category of nudity than the women in Portland.  But one aspect of her project was essentially the same.  She was trying to promote a sense of the female body as a subject rather than an object, and certainly de-sexualizes the female nudity that is common in other music videos (others thought that the video was just a publicity stunt, but that’s a conversation for another day).  The reaction to Badu’s video and the Portland march show that we are very far from erasing the double standard about nudity – unlike men, women can’t appear shirtless in public without immediately being sexualized and objectified.  Fair?  Not so much.

Photo from Dominic Bartolini's Flickr photostream.

625 comments

Phil Smith
Phil Smith2 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

Norma P.
Norma P.3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was pro mpted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend dau

JOHN REID
JOHN REID3 months ago

I just returned from spending the weekend in Las Vegas where out in public in broad daylight on the "strip" (pun intended, LOL) were young women dressed in thongs and either pasties or painted nipples advertising for the casinos. The streets were crowded and among the crowd were families including children of both genders and all ages. I found myself disturbed on more than one level. First because of the fact that there were so many young children of both genders. Were the young boys going to see this and begin at too young an age to start viewing women as objects for there amusement and young girls being way too young to start wanting to use there bodies to get attention (power). Because make no mistake, if you ask instead of should women have the right you ask why would they want to walk around topless the answer is, to get attention of course.
I was prompted to ask myself why was I disturbed. Was I disturbed because being American did I think sex and the naked female form somehow "dirty" (answer: No, I am an admirer of the beauty of women as much as any guy. These girls however were 30 years younger than me so to me they looked like girls not women) or was it because throughout my whole life I have been surrounded be strong, intelligent female role-models and my inner feminist was saying to me that it is wrong to view women as objects for my amusal. Mostly though because it was being forced on me, my girlfriend and her young daughter and new son in-law. My girlfriend daug

Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINIabout a year ago

I think women can go topless if they like