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.

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI7 months ago

I think women can go topless if they like

Norma Picken
Norma P.4 years ago

Like I said there's a time and place for everything!!! you want to go topless!! FINE go on a Nude Beach!!
Not on the street's ...I don't need to see you..nor dose my child. To many crazy's out there.

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Pendragon4 years ago

Were the women in the demonstration topless? I read "without shirts on" which isn't the same thing, obviously, unless they were not wearing bras. And why does the article mention that it's "illegal in Portland only to expose one's genitals"? Not relevant to the matter. And the organiser must be daft if she thought that there wouldn't be oglers. Women's breasts will always be looked upon as something sexual, who could blame anyone for looking? As for the police action regarding the filming of the music video, citing that "she disrobed in a public place without regard to individuals and small children who were close by" sounds ridiculous, does he regard the human body as something dirty, something we must protect children from seeing? Puh-lease! However I can't see women being allowed to go topless, I mean it would probably cause a lot of traffic accidents :)

Phil Smith
Phil Smith4 years ago

There is no question about their right.. Sure they should have it.. My question is "WHY"

- Why would women want to?? That bra is designed for support.. Take that away and your chest will be hanging below your waist...

michael mifsud
.4 years ago

Unfortunately, attitudes depend on the mental evolution of those who demonstrate them. Why anyone should be offended by the fact that women or men want to go topless is beyond me. However, since there are bodies and bodies and a great deal of the world of service industries like hotels, restaurants etc are based on romantic concepts it stands to reason that most of us would like to see what we want to see and not that which offends the eye. That is really the reason behind all that nonsense. I like many others who have often gone nudist, enjoy the visual effect of bodies despoiled of garments and like all others do it hoping to see and perhaps attract others. The argument therefore is a circular one, but I do not think people should be offended by upper half display.

S F.
Sandi F.4 years ago

Here is a question for those who do not believe women should be able to go topless on a regular public beach- Should MEN be required by law to wear a shirt on a public beach? If you think men should be able to go topless and women should not you are a sexist and a hypocrite.

If it is about the size of the breasts on women that bothers you, that still does not make sense. All fat men and some that are not fat have bigger breasts than I.

So, men, should it be illegal for you to be topless on a public beach?

Frank Lornitzo
Frank Lornitzo4 years ago

First of all I don't think it is not good for women to go around competing with other which is a toxic thing that starts with the middle schoolers. General fashion should be comfortable for whomever even if one has scars from surgery. Rather that guys should also refrain from dressing or undressing with "messages".

S F.
Sandi F.4 years ago

Everywhere men can go without a shirt legally, women should be able to go without a shirt legally. Why is this logic so hard for some to understand? There are lots of men who have fetishes of women's feet. Should we ban sandals and going barefoot on the beach to "protect" women's precious modesty? Stupid laws are from stupid people. If YOU don't want to go topless, don't. But others should be able be on the beach topless if they want.

And for the puritans here: Little children don't get traumatized by seeing women's breasts, only religious fanatics do. So get some help, your crazy is showing.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y.4 years ago


Norma Picken
Norma P.4 years ago

NO!!!! for Woman or Men , Thats what nude Beach's are for...not streets...or parks...
Time and place for and that would be in your Home or nude Beach ONLY!