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Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA)

(Association du droit égal aux seins nus)

postal address on request

E-mail: info @ tera.ca OR info @ topfree.ca
tel.: (+1) 646 597 9169


The Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA) helps women who encounter difficulty going without tops in public places in Canada and the USA, and informs the public on this issue.

Statement of purpose and principles
Contents of this site
New on this site
Front page news

Directors of TERA:

Co-ordinator

Dr. Paul Rapoport
e-mail: info @ tera.ca
voice: 646 597 9169

 

Treasurer

Mr. David Basford
e-mail: dbasford @ fcn.ca
voice: 905 627 9935

Chief Advisor

Ms. Judy Williams
e-mail: judyw @ direct.ca
voice: 604 856 9598

Some e-mail addresses are listed on this site. To use one, remove the spaces and retype the address in an e-mail program.

TERA requests news stories like those below: please send complete information or reports about topfree events, problems, or issues---or references to them.

TERA will also add you to its mailing list for special announcements and news items (sent infrequently). Just send us an e-mail message with your address and a request to be added to our mailing list.

 
 

RECENT TOPFREEDOM NEWS

2014 December 19. BRAVO, LINA ESCO!

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One week after the movie Free the Nipple was released, it's clear that it's an important (not to mention unqiue) event in the struggle for topfreedom. There have been lots of reactions and analyses, of which Time's is one of the better ones. BuzzFeed makes good points also. A thoughtful review from someone inside the topfreedom movement is here.

The New York Times put out a short review that basically doesn't get it but inadvertently hints at one of the problems in the movie: the conflation of women's topfree equality with nudity and sexual expression. Although one may well argue that women's breasts represent any of that or all of it together and more, it leads to a little confusion as to what the movie is about.

The scenes sometimes come across as connected vignettes. A few are a bit off base, but many are very compelling. The movie has been called shallow, but it's not: it's a serious beginning, and incidentally Lina Esco's directorial debut. It's notable for its impressive acting, direction, and camera work. No small successes, those.

Let's hope she goes on from here. Her statements in various media leave no doubt about how difficult this movie was to make, but also about her position (e.g. here and here), which is larger than what the movie suggests. Meanwhile, Free the Nipple has enough ideas, lines, and scenes to start several interrelated revolutions led by women. We recommend watching or buying it online, the easiest source probably being iTunes.

 

2014 December 07. It's only a few days to the release of Lina Esco's movie Free the Nipple, which we've been mentioning for quite a while. The new trailer isn't as good as the old one (which was technically a teaser), partly because it's censored.

The online universe is commenting heavily about the movie and its possibilities, too often making superficial or irrelevant statements. (Some are simply wrong. Example: "Facebook lifted its ban on breastfeeding photos.") Lina's own comments are better, of course.

One of the fun FTN places to hang out is Twitter, where many supporters have been active for some time.

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In some ways, America is still a breast-panicked, body-phobic, censorious, misogynist country. Not thoroughly, and in some respects it's better than it used to be. But when the biggest legal breakthrough in the battle to free the nipple is over 20 years old and women's breasts are still controlled by men to everyone's detriment, we can only hope that Lina Esco's movie will make a big difference. Like it says, a "nipplelution."

 

2014 December 06. Taking inspiration from both Free the Nipple and Bare Reality, the Leeds University Union has asked people to send in anonymous photos of their chest. That they are asking both men and women ought to help it "normalise the nipple" during Human Rights Week, December 8 to 12.

 

2014 November 12. Sonoko Tagami has filed suit in a US District Court, claiming that Chicago's anti-topfree ordinance is "unconstitutionally vague and a violation of free speech," also that it unjustly discriminates against women, violating the principle of equal protection under the law. She was cited in August for being topfree when her chest was covered in paint.

Most other courts in the country haven't bought any of those arguments. We'll see what happens this time. It's important that women not be granted permission to be topfree solely under the First Amendment, because then they have to be expressing something, as in a protest, instead of being granted a right that men have had for decades.

 

2014 November 07. The topfree photo we posted a few months ago of Keira Knightley is making the rounds again. She makes an important point in encouraging dissemination of that photo:

I've had my body manipulated so many different times for so many different reasons, whether it's paparazzi photographers or for film posters. That [shoot] was one of the ones where I said: "OK, I'm fine doing the topless shot so long as you don't make them any bigger or retouch." Because it does feel important to say it really doesn't matter what shape you are.

 

2014 October 31. "If a man posts a photo of his nipples, it's ok, but not a woman? Are we in 1825?" So wrote comedian Chelsea Handler as Facebook's Instagram deleted this photo of her repeatedly---after which she left Instagram and posted it on Twitter.

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It's a parody of a photo of Valdimir Putin doing the same thing, of course clothed the same way.

 

2014 October 30. It has been announced that Free the Nipple will appear in theatres and by Video on Demand on December 12, 2014.

 

2014 October 29. We've heard from Éloïse Bouton, a former Femen member who was charged with "sexual exhibition" in Paris for being topfree at a protest in a Catholic church there last December. Her own account of that and its aftermath is here.

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Éloïse Bouton in the Madeleine Church on 2013 December 20.
The writing on her torso refers to the 343 women who famously protested
against anti-choice in France in 1971.
(photo by Thomas Samson)

She faces a suspended sentence, a fine, and registry on a sex offender list, the sentencing to take place in December. In that connection, she asks important questions:

Obviously, my trial raises a deeper question about what sexual exhibition really is. Are women’s breasts considered sex organs? Can an act be linked to sexual exhibition when its intent was political? Are women’s breasts obscene? Why reduce a political act to a mental illness?

Femen held a protest in Paris last Sunday on behalf of Éloïse Bouton and Yana Zhdanova, who faces a bigger sentence for stabbing a wax figure of Russian president Vladimir Putin while topfree.

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Demonstration in Paris 2014 October 26 for Éloïse Bouton and Yana Zhdanova

 

2014 October 18. At the Go Topless Day rally in Chicago last August, Sonoko Tagami was cited for not having an opaque covering on her nipples, which were covered in paint. She was found guilty recently, but reportedly with a twist: because the judge wants this case to be decided on constitutional grounds in a higher court, she found the woman guilty in order for her to appeal her verdict.

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Sonoko Tagami being cited by police for violating a Chicago ordinance
2014 August 24

Opaque coverings as a tactic don't usually interest us --- they're unlikely to change bad law. But with a good attorney, this appeal could strike down the whole anti-topfree oppression of women in the area. If it argues merely that paint is opaque, then no advance in topfree rights will be achieved.

 

2014 October 14. Catharine Pierce, known as the topfree gardener of Boulder, Colorado, was in an incident in July over her sitting topfree on a Boulder Transit Center bench. Her husband Robert, who was with her, has been charged with assaulting a security guard there.

 

2014 October 06. Last week it was announced that Lina Esco's movie Free the Nipple, which we have referred to much, would be released by Sundance Selects. We don't know when. Stay tuned (or focused).

 

2014 September 28. Recently in some European centres, fashion shows have featured women in see-through tops. Commentators are calling this a result of the Free the Nipple Campaign, and making other connections for which there's no evidence. That doesn't mean they're false, nor does it mean this is journalism at its best.

The most pictures from London are probably found in this article from the tabloid the Daily Mail. Fashion isn't one of our main topics, although we notice when it does something connected to our interests.

 

2014 September 11. Here's a fine article by a journalist who decided to walk topfree on the main street of Montréal one day this summer. (Translation here.) Aside from the positive results, Lili Boisvert notes that she wasn't insulted, threatened, or attacked, and no one regarded her with anything worse than indifference. (Note that the author was accompanied by a photographer who was a barebreasted man.)

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Importantly, she asks the question about equality. If heterosexual women and homosexual men like men's chests, why are those chests permitted exposure while women's aren't? « Est-ce que le désir des gais et des femmes "vaut moins" que le désir des hommes hétéro? » "Is gays' and women's (sexual) desire 'worth less' than hetero men's?"

Of course, desire isn't even involved in an overt way any more than it is when a person walking on the street is fully clothed.

(The English article contains a warning about "nudity," which is both false and unnecessary. The French article contains no warning.)

 

2014 September 08. A major new project has just been announced in England, Bare Reality: 100 women and their breasts, a book by Laura Dodsworth. A hundred women are photographed barebreasted. They also tell their stories, "about intimate aspects of their lives as women, such as growing up, sexuality, motherhood, breastfeeding, relationships, body image, health, cancer, and aging."

That's important, because work like this makes its biggest impact when there are both images and words. As the book's motto puts it, "This is how we look. This is how we feel." To see an excellent video introduction to the project and read one of the stories, go here.

With a foreword by Soraya Chemaly, the book will have £1 donated from the sale of each copy to Breast Cancer UK. Meanwhile, a Kickstarter campaign opened a few days ago to fund the rest of the project. Happily, it was more than fully funded very quickly, but you may still go there to support it and receive benefits, including a copy of the book (e-book or paper).

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Copyright 2014 by Laura Dodsworth. Do not reproduce without permission.

 

2014 September 07. Our colleagues of the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society recently tried three New York hotels in succession to let them use their pools topfree. The answers were No, No, and No, even when the prospect was a lot of business (= $$$). The group's spokesperson related the following from one of the hotels:

"You're more than welcome to join us as hotel guests and access the pool, however being that this is a family friendly hotel, going topless would not be an option." Oh, don’t we know it! We have tried and tried to train our breasts not to be so unfriendly to families, but they’re just incorrigible.

Meanwhile, Central Park in New York City is still no problem, and the favourite hangout for the group (in good weather, of course).

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2014 September 06. In Montréal a little over a week ago, a 3-year-old girl was injured when a pool lifeguard insisted she wear a swimming top. The girl's mother knows, as we do, that that absurd rule was a fabrication, and she isn't putting up with it.

 

2014 August 29. In the September issue of Interview magazine, several models are featured. Two are Naomi Campbell and Keira Knightley. Fuss has been made over the latter's topfree photograph, because she doesn't pose that way normally. She doesn't really state a reason for the photo, which in itself is a good thing. It's pretty much "Topfree, so what?" (Still a fashion shoot, however.)

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2014 August 28. Last Sunday was the annual Go Topless Day, sponsored by the Raelian organization Go Topless, in the USA. A large number of cities (50+) was promised for demonstrations; how many materialized and how many people participated, we don't know. The organization's website doesn't tell us. This year, as usual, there are news reports of strong showings in several American cities. Also as usual, in many cities the women wore pasties or tape, and traditional news media (paper and television) censored at least those who didn't.

There was a large gathering in New York City, where women are allowed to be topfree. Even though many commenters say this is so in NYC only, it's valid for all of New York State.

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In New York

Here's one comment ("They're topless, get over it") from the annually-in-turmoil Asheville, North Carolina, where there was reportedly a large crowd but not many topfree women. We assume that, as usual, the erstwhile local politician and holier-than-thou anti-topfreedom crusader Carl Mumpower sent his agents to the rally to get lots of pictures to add to his already large collection.

For one of the best commentaries on Go Topless Day, go here (article by Jillian Page in Montréal).

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In Montréal

 

2014 August 22. Lina Esco is interviewed here about her movie Free the Nipple. The relevant material is between 3:53 and 15:25, with comments occasionally later in the hour-long program.

Lina hopes that the movie will be in theatres by November. Note what she says about being topfree in Times Square in New York.

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Lina Esco in Times Square an instant before this better-known photo

And maybe she'll still take action against the police for unjustly trying to prevent her from making her movie. Meanwhile, another article explains cogently and imaginatively (if with a few errors) why women's nipples are deemed a problem in the USA.

 

2014 August 21. Raven Williams is suing members of the Los Angeles Police Department for arresting her in March and other mistreatment of her for being topfree. There are other parts of California where she'd be more likely to succeed, although she's morally right in her position. She explains in this news report, which is unfocused.

 

2014 August 10. Here's a fine article by Lara Freidenfelds. She isn't going topfree herself yet, but gets it. An eloquent presentation.

By contrast, there's a slew of articles proclaiming that French women don't go topfree on beaches any more. There are many copycat articles. The original comes from Elle in France (the issue of July 18, 2014), a magazine not known for its research. Its basis includes anecdote, a questionable survey, and nonsense. One main reason offered: skin cancer --- as if covering a few more square inches of skin makes a difference.

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Maybe the proclaimed result is true, maybe not. If it is, we think that one resaon not offered is worth investigating: the export of American attitudes towards women, including rampant body shame and phobia.

 

2014 August 06. An Australian model. Abby Valdes, has taken advantage of New York's topfreedom. Even better, she's said a few trenchant things about it, such as: "Women have been objectified and banned, shamed, or made to feel like it's taboo to show themselves because we are an item to be sexually desired and nothing more."

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Abby Valdes in New York City recently

The headline for another relevant article managed to be both irrelevant and wrong. Nothing new in that.

 

2014 August 01. TERA notes with much sadness the death (as yet unreported publicly) of Sue Richards, creator and publisher of the Breast of Canada calendars, very creative publications devoted to breast health and lore. Sue produced them from 2002 to 2007, before she stopped because of Parkinson's disease. She was a major artistic and social force in Guelph, Ontario and an inspiring influence on many people.

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The cover of the 2008 calendar, which was never produced

TERA is honoured to have been associated with her and to have helped her with her calendars, which remain unique.

 

2014 July 24. One month from today is the annual national Go Topless day organized by the Raelians in southern California. It's the only event of its kind and an important undertaking. (TERA makes no recommendation about it and suggests caution regarding the information and advice on the Go Topless site that's about laws.)

 

2014 July 23. As everyone who reads this site knows, there's a lot on the Internet about topfreedom. Little of it is useful or correct, and much is poorly thought out, written, or produced; yet anyone may claim to be an expert or want you to know her or his opinion. That opinion may be uninformed or absurd, or badly expressed. Perhaps its publication is nonetheless useful to bring up the subject of topfreedom, as long as one reads or watches critically.

A recent article (to take but one) has errors in each of its first three sentences, and descends in quality from there. Although the author says she's been in the legal profession, her every utterance is cringeworthy. (Trying to correct such people is almost always a waste of time, for more than one reason.)

No, we won't give that person any further publicity. Really, we'd rather concentrate on the positive or the important stuff, the two not necessarily the same. The most positive recent general news is that "Free the Nipple" is becoming better known, also the word topfree. Progress!

Still, let it not be said that understanding comes easily. "Free the Nipple" has become a slogan that any unthinking commenter can slap onto a celebrity to claim she supports "the movement." The recent photo (below) of and by Lady Gaga on an airplane is an example. It has nothing to do with Lina Esco's movie or any useful derivation from it.

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2014 July 01. It's become clear to TERA that Facebook's "new" breastfeeding-friendly policy on photos is pretty much a sham. Women are finding their breastfeeding photos removed as usual on Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns and operates in the same paternalistic, censorious manner. Facebook has often trotted out similar false policies just to try to get people to think it has changed.

Jeanna Hoch notes that she's in trouble again for the same photo that Facebook claims was removed "by mistake." Courtney Patten had this one removed from Instagram:

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She observes that the photo, "according to the supposed change in policy about breastfeeding or skin-to-skin pictures, did not violate anything." Both she and Jeanna Hoch are eloquent promoters of what TERA stands for in connection with breastfeeding photos.

 

2014 June 30. Occasionally we see longer articles on the subject of topfreedom. This one, by Calyse Tobias in the San Jose Mercury News, is much better than most.

 

2014 June 30. Narcissister is a Brooklyn-based dancer and performance artist who's gone about New York City topfree wearing a doll mask, which has been part of her costume for some time. "Narcissister's movement, invoking a combination of banality and otherness that stops you in your tracks, doesn't condemn eroticism, vanity or attention. She just demands it on her own terms."

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She's also created a video installation of her friends wearing her mask while doing everyday activities topfree.

 

2014 June 27. Recently near Chicago, a woman was sunbathing topfree in her yard. A misguided neighbour called police. We don't know exactly how this turned out, but we do know the neighbour should have been told to MHOB.

 

2014 June 25. As is fairly well known, Apple Inc.'s attitude towards women's breasts is the same as Facebook's: they're obscene and harmful to minors, and they threaten business. This recent article goes into a few details.

 

2014 June 24. In fashion news (we don't mention clothing much, for obvious reasons), we now have the Tata Top: for women who want to pretend they're topfree, to free the nipple without freeing the nipple, by wearing a top with them printed on the fabric.

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We await the arrests with interest, even if the Tata Top is really providing a clever form of pasty.

 

2014 June 21. This report, like numerous others, says Facebook now allows photos of breastfeeding women regardless how much nipple is showing. Unfortunately, believing that is being naive. Why would anyone believe an operation that claims it has "always allowed breastfeeding photos" while demolishing thousands upon thousands of them?

Facebook's attacks on breastfeeding photos and the like continue. We don't know how many, because it's impossible to know. Jeanna Hoch had her account suspended recently for the photo in the left half of the image below. It was reinstated only because a news outlet chased Facebook and forced it to apologize. Of course, Facebook didn't apologize to Jeanna Hoch, but to itself for getting caught yet again in its longstanding mistreatment of women.

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The only test of Facebook's "new" policy would be to report/complain about breastfeeding photos on it and see what happens. Will the results be different from Jeanna Hoch's? We're not optimistic. Until Facebook stops censoring altogether, people would do well not to believe what it says.

Facebook's attitude isn't unique, of course. After Karlesha Thurman posted the wonderful photo below of herself and her daughter Aaliyah at her graduation in May from California State University at Long Beach, many people criticized and attacked her.

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Pressure recently put on Facebook has come directly or indirectly from the Free the Nipple campaign of Lina Esco, for her movie of that name. Joining her have been several celebrities, including actor Caitlin Stasey, who posted two photos in protest, including this one:

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Rumer Willis, Scout's sister, appeared at a Free the Nipple fundraiser in West Hollywood, California with an unusual shirt. She's on the right in this photo with director Lina Esco:

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2014 June 04. Lina Esco staged a protest in New York on Sunday in connection with her Free the Nipple campaign and movie, building on Scout Willis's recent walkabout and campaign. Lina's group was accosted by police.

What's still wrong with the NYPD? The officer in this heavily censored video even pulled the "What about the children" line. But well done, Lina!

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From the New York City event June 1, 2014,
with Lina Esco and Free the Nipple

 

2014 June 03. In McAllen, Texas, a woman is arranging topfree gatherings for women and men combined. The next is this Saturday. Read here her well-stated principles and objectives, which thankfully go well beyond a simple statement of equality: "We have no voice in the debate about the control of our autonomy, our reproductive rights, our medical decisions --- all of that is primarily (decided by) older people, primarily men --- who have no idea what it is to struggle day today as a woman in the Rio Grande Valley."

We wish Sara Longoria complete success. (She's in the middle of the photo below, left.)

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From the first topfree gathering in McAllen, Texas, May 31, 2014
 
 
2014 June 02. Scout Willis continues her campaign, much wider than criticizing Instagram, with this well-considered piece for XoJane. "I call out to every person moved by this to take physical --- as well as digital --- action, and help transform what started out as a casual topless stroll into something resembling true change." Well stated!
 
2014 May 31. Instagram's reported response to Scout Willis (see the next item, below) is here. If it's genuine, it reveals the smarmiest nonsense we've seen in a long time on this issue. Particularly notable is the line, "Please note however that we prohibit all forms of nudity on Instagram because some audiences within our global community are particularly sensitive to this type of content."
Topfreedom isn't nudity. Moreover, Instagram/Facebook's "policy" is illogical. It pretends that it does things for a small number of unknown, largely imaginary others. If that were true, it wouldn't allow much of anything, because everyone may be offended by something. If a few complaints could dictate its actions, what would be left? Instagram's statement is merely one of the manipulative lies that Facebook has been telling over its whole existence.
 
As we've often said, it's possible to give users the tools to determine what they see. (Checked out Twitter lately?) In refusing to consider that option, Instagram/Facebook merely continues its indefensible, hypocritical ideology, including its blatant oppression of women.

 

2014 May 28. Scout Willis, daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, walked topfree in New York recently to protest Instagram/Facebook's policy of self-righteous bullying when it comes to women's breasts.

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She was protesting in part the removal of her account from Instagram because of this photo:

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On Twitter, where she posted the above photos, she noted, "It has nothing to do with me posting nudes on Instagram. It's about the basic hypocrisy of what is and isn't allowed." "Violence, drugs, and the general degradation of women [are] ok but areola is 100% taboo. That's why I am mad." Her hashtag: #FreeTheNipple.

The gossip/celeb/news sites that censored her photos or labelled them NSFW are merely proving her point, hypocritically pretending to be objective or even to support her.
 
Because Scout Willis is somewhat known and has famous parents, news outlets were all over this one. Is this the beginning of something useful?
 
 
2014 May 26. This splendid article from a few days ago about women's and girls' breasts sums up the ignorance and immaturity that is Instagram/Facebook. Meanwhile, Instagram is host to something called The Topless Tour, in which women visit locations anywhere and take photos of themselves, often in small groups, topfree but with their backs to the camera.

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All the photos we've seen are the same in their censored cliché coolness. They're a stilted pretense, as much about topfreedom as sitting on a swimming pool deck is about swimming. The words used to describe the photos, such as "tasteful" and "modest," are code words for body phobia and women's bodily oppression.
 
 
 
2014 May 06. Towards the end of April, the pop star Rihanna appeared on the cover of the French Lui without a top. Although this magazine is not the sort TERA takes much interest in, we point out that a topfree photo would not appear on a similar cover in North America.

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After posting that and similar images to Instagram, Rihanna found her account disabled. Instagram said that action was a mistake, which evidence suggests is untrue. Because it's owned by Facebook, we're not surprised by action of this sort, a pretense of a "mistake" (a common, false Facebook defence), or other sorts of cover-up, including outright lies.

 

2014 May 01. Here's a useful inside interview about Femen with Kitty Green discussing her video about it, Ukraine is not a Brothel. Interviewer: Jian Ghomeshi (who mistakenly refers to the Femen women as nude).

 

2014 April 26. Yesterday the St. Cataharines Standard published an article about a recent topfree incident in nearby Niagara Falls, Ontario. The reporter, Ray Spiteri, had the right perspective in separating fact from fiction. TERA's Co-ordinator didn't discuss with him the more interesting reasons why women may wish to be topfree, or what the benefits of that are. Maybe he should have!

 

2014 April 25. We often assume that Scandinavians have it all together when it comes to topfreedom. That's an exaggeration. Beginning over six years ago, the Swedish group Bara bröst (with the splendid double meaning of bare breasts and merely breasts) staged interventions to protest not being allowed to swim in public pools topfree. They had notable successes. Most often, pool administrators didn't impose their personal opinion on the women.

Earlier this month, the problem arose at a pool in Umeå, where the administration had decided women had to wear full bathing suits. When women protested by not doing so, other bathers complained and the staff (we think) called the police. At that point, a North American pool would have triumphantly decided to throw out all topfree women. But in Umeå, an administrator eventually said something different: "We think women should wear tops when they swim, but we're not going to force anyone to. We want everyone to feel welcome."

How ironic: in North America, making all people feel welcome is twisted to mean taking away their right to feel welcome.

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2014 April 23. Ana Álvarez-Errecalde, the artist in Barcelona, kindly sent us the recent cover of Hip Mama with her photo called Symbiosis. On the left is the version sold in American stores. The quotation on the right comes from the interview inside with Ana. The large censoring dot says "No Supermoms Here." For the explanation of that phrase, we may have to wait until the issue is released, on Mother's Day, May 11. Everything else is explained here.

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Ana rightly points out that such censorship undermines support for any breastfeeding, including the extended breastfeeding depicted. Her quotation, however, is a treasure. Indeed, shaming women's bodies is part of a very large problem, a harmful attitude towards life itself.

Here's the real Symbiosis, which magazine subscribers will see:

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2014 April 05. Last week in Vancouver, British Columbia, an artist created a performance piece in which she dragged ceramic breasts along the sidewalk and smashed them in front of a Victoria's Secret store. Mallory Palmer was protesting "sexualized ideals of bodily perfection within mainstream visual culture." She was topfree for most of her performance. Good for her!

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2014 April 03. Yesterday in Toronto Serenity Hart was promoting her coming six-week topfree travel across Canada, where she wants to be photographed in every province, and parts of the USA. Strikes us as basically a good idea, especially for a reason she states: "I want to form a discussion around the stigma and the shame attached to toplessness for women."

She may need to say more about the subject than that and go beyond the experience of a model. She can do it, because she knows what body acceptance is about. Without more in-depth points, however, she risks notable adversity. Indeed, we have a few concerns:

1. She says that being topfree is legal throughout Canada. She may be unpleasantly surprised.

2. She mixes up topfreedom and nudity. That may put people off her important message.

(3. We suggest a change to her tour title, which isn't correct French. How about a bilingual one?)

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Her hashtag is #thishalfisnotindecent. (Does that refer to women, or her upper body? If the latter, that's another concern. If the former, it's brilliant.)

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We wish her luck and applaud her enthusiasm and determination.

 

2014 March 30. A couple of weeks ago, Allen Henson launched a lawsuit against the Empire State Building. ESB had sued him for a million-plus because he'd supposedly ruined its reputation with the topfree photos he'd taken there. In his countersuit, Allen asks for five million for "false and defamatory statements."

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One of Allen Henson's snaps at the Empire State Building last August

The full text of both lawsuits is here.

 

2014 March 16. An Australian music video about breastfeeding in public is making the rounds. "Ruin Your Day" by Sparrow Folk is mostly whimsical but makes its point well.

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2014 March 10. For International Women's Day Saturday, the actor Cara Park addressed people at Stormont, the site of the parliament buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her speech shows why and how women's topfreedom may be considered closely related, even central, to comprehensive feminist goals.

I am wearing very little clothing. By dressing like this, does that immediately make me a "slut," a "slag," a "dolly bird," a "whore," a "loose" woman? Am I letting the side down by wearing lipstick, fake tan, dyeing my hair, showing my nipples?

I am expressing my femininity. My sexuality. My youth. My body. Does that make me superficial? Should I be able to dress how I like and not face discrimination?

This may seem like a superficial, trivial matter, but it is not.

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The comments from media in Belfast were predictable: "inappropriate," "indecent," etc. (Maybe Cara Park should have appeared like these famous women --- including Maryam Namazie, Amina Tyler/Sboui, and Aliaa Magda El-Mahdy --- outside the Louvre in Paris on the same day.) They miss the crucial point of women taking back their own bodies.

 

2014 March 07. As mentioned before, Femen plans to operate in the USA. Here's a video of its leader, Inna Shevchenko, and colleagues in New York City yesterday, with discussion here.

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Clearly their target yesterday wasn't in the USA, and the visit of Inna Shevchenko (above, right) is connected to a documentary about Femen. (The woman on the left bears the slogan "Glory to Ukraine" in Ukrainian, and the one in the centre "Fuck off, Putin" in Russian.)

Femen's leader says its tactics are working. Although they draw attention to a few problems, we think "working" entails rather more, and less alienation of potential supporters.

 

2014 February 23. Now that the Olympics are over, maybe a topfreedom medal should go to Jacky Chamoun, the Lebanese Alpine skier. Three years ago she posed topfree for part of a calendar as a skier in the snow. The calendar photographs exhibited censorship by not showing her nipples, but this video, representing the process of that photo shoot, didn’t censor anything.

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A still photo from the video of the making of the calendar

Official Lebanese reaction to all of that was predictable. Also predictably, many news outlets referred to the calendar or video images sensationally and wrongly as "nude." The object of the scorn apologized lightly but also said simply, “I don’t regret doing the calendar.” There was also predictable support for the skier and criticism of the Lebanese investigation into her photos launched by its Sports Minister. A well-intentioned "I am not naked" campaign in support of Jacky Chamoun has used blatantly censored photos of participants, thereby in large measure supporting her opponents.

Although we don't usually report on situations like this that are more about glamour than topfreedom, the commonest arguments for/against bare breasts in both are similar.

 

2014 February 20. Femen plans to operate in the USA, according to this in-depth report and a recent interview with its leader, Inna Shevchenko. TERA doubts that its extreme tactics, including disruption of events and destruction of property, will endear it to many Americans, any more than its well-known oversimplification of the social problems it rightly points out.

 

2014 February 15. This short French video (with English subtitles) is about sex role reversals. Titled Majorité opprimée (Oppressed Majority), it's dramatic and serious. It's valuable to TERA because it illustrates the context and operation of sex discrimination, of which topfree unequal rights are an important part.

It includes a few seconds of a topfree woman jogging in a perfectly ordinary way:

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2014 February 01. It's ten years since Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" revealed her nipple and nipple shield, those weapons of mass distraction, missing the lace that launched a thousand quips. A mass write-in campaign unleashed by the misnamed Parents Television Council produced thousands of empty complaints filed by people who never even saw what happened in that fateful 9/16 second.

Nipplegate's consequences are still with us, even though CBS never paid a fine (after eight years fighting it). Here's one description of the beginning of the biggest demonstration of hypocritical bigotry in recent television history:

Justin reaches over, grabs a corner of Janet's right breast cup and gives it a hard tug. Her breast spills out. It's way more than a handful, but a hand is the only thing Janet has available to cover it, so she clutches it with her left palm. The breast is on television for 9/16 of a second. The camera cuts wide. Fireworks explode from the stage. Cue the end of halftime. Cue the beginning of one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in America since the Salem witch trials.

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2014 January 22. Here's an insightful article by Soraya Chemaly on female nudity, starting from premises about Lena Dunham. Although we don't usually comment on that subject, she does discuss topfreedom, Femen, and similar topics --- and most people have trouble distinguishing topfree from nude in the first place. After repeating how women's use of their own nudity especially in protest challenges the powerful social hierarchy that penalizes them, she notes, "We all know that the prohibitions on women's nipples have nothing to do with women's nipples, but everything to do with control."

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Lena Dunham, creator, director, and star of Girls, whose body has brought
forth comments like "gratuitous nudty" and "We don't want to see that!"
thereby reinforcing the subjugation of women promoted
in American treatment of their breasts, and not just on television

 

2014 January 14. Photographer Allen Henson has been sued for $1.1 million by the Empire State Building for having taken photos there last August of his topfree model Shelby Carter. Among the ESB's claims are that he didn't have a permit (which none of the many others snapping photos did) and that he harmed the reputation of the ESB of being "family friendly."

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One of Allen Henson's cellphone snaps forming the basis
of the Empire State Building's lawsuit

Once again we have the completely false claim that topfree women harm children. This radio interview (go to 19:18) notes that other events at the ESB have been far worse for its "family-friendly" claim than any known photograph, and there's been no lawsuit over those.

The interview contains adolescent male humour on the part of the host with a little less from Ron Kuby, the lawyer who's successfully defended topfree women in New York. Ron Kuby also says that these women are protected in New York State by "equal protection" and the state constitution. As far as we know, that's not been shown in any high-court case. (The famous Rochester 7 made use of a constitutional argument which did not form part of their case's majority opinion.)

(We note that a century ago, women were told that if they were allowed to vote, that would "destroy the family.")

We've said before than Allen Henson's work really isn't ours. But the lawsuit has brought it closer to our concerns. Its full text is here, full of wrong assumptions.

 

2014 January 08. There's "waste of time and money" and then there's "big waste of time and money." Asheville, North Carolina still wants to ban topfreedom for women. "Complaints from business": How many have complained? One? Two? On grounds other than ignorance or bigotry: zero? What would happen if they complained about blacks or Muslims walking downtown?

 

2014 January 07. Last month in Sweden, a painting by Georg Schröder (1684-1750) with a woman's bare breasts was removed from a Swedish parliamentary dining room. Reasons offered:

1) "We routinely change paintings from time to time." Sure, but the painting has hung there for 30 years.
2) "You have to think of the foreign guests, especially those from Muslim countries." It's been 30 years. Was Islam created last month?
3) "I think it is more a feminist issue." Was feminism created last month? Does it demand that women be censored, silenced, and subjugated?

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We anticipate hearing that Sweden will now routinely change paintings elsewhere, like art museums, in case a Muslim or a feminist might visit.

 

2013 December 26. The recent cover to a singer-songwriter's new album has expectedly brought discussion. Sky Ferreira's image (below) has been censored by Apple and many others, of course.

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As usual, the photo (by filmmaker Gaspar Noé) is considered to be either shameful or liberating. It may be many things; but the shame attached to women's breasts cannot be removed without challenging it in images or actions. It's not possible to reclaim the breast by merely talking about it or presenting censored images --- which, after all, merely confirm the shame.

Here's part of the cover of Lidia Yuknavitch's novel The Chronology of Water, published in 2011. Clever it is, with its removable flap (the image on the left below). Amazon.com lists the book with the uncensored image behind the flap (below right).

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Lidia's splendid analysis of the situation is here. One thing she observes:

When it comes to representation, it is not entirely OK for women to insist upon the representation of their own bodies in their own terms. And by OK, I mean culturally sanctioned, commercially viable, literarily or intellectually respected. And when I say in their own terms, I mean with a specific representational validity and aim, and without apology.

She goes on to explain why her book cover is not just another pretty breast, and how it's part of "in their own terms."

 

2013 December 21. Over the past few weeks, a topfree protest has been organized for today, the first day of summer, on Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to protest the illegality of women's topfree equality in a country whose sexualized carnival events are world-famous. Via Facebook and other social media sites, thousands of women indicated they would attend. Unsurprisingly, only a few women actually did, plus the expected large throng of male photo-snappers.

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Despite some claims, the actual legal situation of topfree women in Brazil is unclear. It's clearer that the practice is criticized except under very restricted circumstances, with the main argument being the usual one of "What about the children?" which forces adults' false assumptions onto children, who don't have them until they're told they must.

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The three backs in the above photo say (l. to r.): "Her body, her right," "My body, my right," and "Dude feminist."

 

2013 December 20. A Missouri woman has been charged with endangering her 14-year-old daughter after another daughter took a photo of the two of them topfree in the family hot tub and put it on Snapchat. After that, the photo circulated to others in the children's school.

This report tries to bias the case against the woman; but photos of topfree females are not illegal. Even if there's more to this incident, does putting your arm across your nipples make a photo illegal? Or suggest some wrong was done, or something was done wrongly? (Whether the mother wanted or didn't want the photo posted, or knew or didn't know it would be, are different questions.)

In connection with various news items or discussions, TERA has posted photos of topfree girls, under the age of 18. Here's one from over five years ago. We ask: "So what?"

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2013 December 16. Here's a good article from today by Robin Abcarian that goes a bit more deeply into the story behind Free the Nipple. (Keep in mind, though, that the quoted Go Topless information on laws is incorrect.) That Lina Esco, the movie's director, and her cast and crew were told by the New York Police Department that they couldn't be topfree for her movie is just another indication of the absurdity of this whole problem, not to mention the problem of the NYPD.

Facebook, of course, has removed the page there devoted to the movie, indulging in its usual crass, ignorant belligerence.

 

2013 December 15. Miley Cyrus has come out in favour of the movie Free the Nipple, with this image:

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The media have jumped on it by declaring things like "Miley Cyrus backs female nudity campaign" and that she supports "a drive to decriminalise female nudity in the U.S." Admittedly, that's tabloid stuff, and the non-tabloid, non-gossip press has recognized, usually with more sense, that the movie isn't about nudity and has a deeper message.

Some of that message is in this dynamic presentation with director Lina Esco, attached to the movie's first trailer.

Miley Cyrus created a self-censored Christmas greeting card on Twitter with the same message and an elaboration: "Merry Christmas [two hearts inserted here] THANK YOU NY for being one of the few states to @freethenipple." She went on to say "It's about equality." Good for her! Unfortunately, her card doesn't project that.

The boost to the movie should be enormous. The gossip media are reporting her tweet --- even though, as indicated above, many continue in varied ways to misrepresent what the movie is about.

 

2013 December 11. Not one but two excellent, in-depth articles today by Anna Merlan in the Village Voice and on its blog! Subjects: Holly van Voast and the whole topfree-in-New-York issue, and the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, which the author joined for a (cold) Hallowe'en outing.

We note with gratitude the assistance in this subject from the New York lawyer Ron Kuby. However, his statement that the NYPD has treated Holly in her late 40s differently from topfree women in their early 20s doesn't hold up. It's treated them all badly, from arrests to hauling them off to psychiatric wards and more.

 

2013 December 10. Here's a welcome explanatory article from yesterday by Lina Esco about her movie Free the Nipple.

 

2013 December 02. Major news of a major video: Free the Nipple.

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That striking, expressive photo is from the movie. Directed by Lina Esco, it's all about topfree equality, in a major independent production with notable talent. Here's one of its statements:

Appalled by the American media’s glorification of violence and repression of nudity, passionate women launch a revolution to "Free the Nipple" and decriminalize the female body. Based on a true story, this mass movement of topless women, armed with First Amendment lawyers, graffiti installations, and national publicity stunts, invades New York City to protest the backwards censorship laws in the US. What is more obscene: violence or a nipple?

Lina Esco herself is pretty famous, with plenty of well-known acting and directing credits (London, Cane, LOL, Exit Strategy . . .). As for others:

We got so lucky with an amazing cast of actors who are also all hardcore activists in real life. Monique Coleman, who played Taylor McKessie in High School Musical 1, 2, and 3, was one of the first to come on board. Stand-up comic and actress Janeane Garofalo from Saturday Night Live, The Larry Sanders Show, and such movies as Ratatouille, Half Baked, and Reality Bites, joined the revolution soon thereafter. Activist and actress Casey La Bow from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and 2, and newcomer Lola Kirke, who is starring in David Fincher's next film Gone Girl.

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TERA has always said this movement could go somewhere with leadership from famous people. This movie may provide that leadership.

It has completed shooting and is in post-production. The first trailer is here. The website is here. The fundraising campaign is here, with many visuals included. Much money is needed for "VFX, sound mixing, color, and the soundtrack, so that we can get all of the music that we love and makes our film even cooler!"

TERA's mandate does not allow it to collect money for anything but the direct defence of women. Nevertheless, we wouldn't be saying so much about this movie if we weren't excited by its possibilities.

Although we haven't seen the movie (its full production not being completed), Free the Nipple does seem like something we've been hoping for. Despite other worthy movies and documentaries on our topic, this may be the biggest of them, with the most chance for making a big difference. Recall It Happened One Night in the 1930s, and what Clark Gable did for men's topfreedom!

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2013 November 23. Here's an update on topfree rollerblading in Brooklyn, New York, carried out by Elizabeth Siematkowski and her cousin Rachael Yaeger, among others, in a report of a recent photographic exhibition. "It's empowering and feminist and takes what could be a joke and makes it real," Rachael points out.

Still, the website for topfree blading and the originators' Instagram account give almost no indication that that's what they're about.

 

2013 November 02. Although it's hard to imagine Hallowe'en costumes and topfreedom combining, women of the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society managed it this year (on October 31), in the vicinity of Lincoln Center in New York City.

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2013 October 30. The suit launched by Holly van Voast (the "topless paparazzo") against the New York City Police Department has been settled for $40,000.

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That's the highest amount yet paid in New York for violation of a woman's rights by arresting her for being topfree, even though we think the police should have paid much, much more. Holly was seriously mistreated in other ways by them, on many occasions, as her filed complaint indicates.

This is undoubtedly not the last we'll see of settlements in such cases. Meanwhile, we congratulate Holly in her persistence and success.

 

2013 October 21. Ruthann Robson, law professor at the City University of New York, has written lucidly and cogently about matters of attire in public. Among her many writings is this, coming from the case of Jessica Krigsman and going on to refer to the 21-year-old decision in the case of the Rochester 7.

Jessica Krigsman's lawyer's action on her behalf against the New York Police Department is here. It's also worth reading.

 

2013 October 15. In California in early September, a woman was charged with violating a San Diego bylaw when she was topfree at a beach. Abigail Kemalyan has sent us us her details:

A lifeguard told me I needed to put my swimsuit top on. I asked her why. She said that I was in violation of public nudity laws. I told her that I didn't understand why those laws applied to me only because of my gender (pointed out the obvious that many men were topless). After much ado and my continued refusal to comply, the head lifeguards and the police were called to the "scene" of me peacefully sitting on the sand. I was handcuffed, blanketed, cited, and threatened with jail if I didn't "cover up."

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I was informed that it counts as nudity if the areola only of females is exposed, so I asked if I could simply put some seaweed on my nipples. They initially rejected my proposal, insisting that it needed to be "an article of clothing." I pleaded ignorance: what does that mean?

One of the policemen said he didn't care if I put suntan lotion or seaweed on as long as I "covered up". They were expecting me to be intimidated into compliance, and evidently shocked that I actually had my friend get me seaweed to conceal my offending breasts so that they would leave me alone.

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Knowing I'm not alone in this fight is indescribably encouraging. This is a huge issue of our constitutional rights as women under the 14th amendment, which is being blatantly violated by an outdated municipal code.

TERA is assisting Abbie.

 

2013 October 14. In July 2012 Jessica Krigsman was arrested for being topfree in Brooklyn, New York. She is now suing the New York Police Department for "civil rights violations, malicious prosecution, assault, and battery." She seems to have been seriously mistreated for simply telling the arresting officer why her chosen mode of attire was legal.

 

2013 October 07. Last week there was a demonstration of breast self-examinations on British (independent) television with --- gasp --- real breasts. Big problem, especially because the program wasn't broadcast late at night but early in the morning, probably when more women would be watching.

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We wouldn't want women to avoid cancer, would we? We prefer to shame them into hiding, ignoring, even hating their own breasts, don't we? And this is an older woman. Older breasts should never be seen, right?

Meanwhile, back in the colonies --- in this case New Zealand --- an ad campaign from Scotland for a similar cause has been banned. In New Zealand, "strategically-positioned pot plants, balloons, and cupcakes illustrated symptoms such as skin changes, changes in size, and redness." Here's an image showing what the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation was forced to come up with to illustrate breast lumps:

tvnz

It might be humorous if it weren't condescending and repressive.

While we're on the topic of censorship: towards the end of September Facebook banned the American Civil Liberties Union from its pages for discussing a case of censorship in Kansas about a piece of public art. Facebook is well known for banning anything as the world's most irrational and irresponsible moralistic police.

 

2013 September 21. A small, devious group in Kansas is launching a second challenge to declare a barebreasted statue obscene. Here's a calm response by the American Civil Liberties Union.

 

2013 September 18. Fine article today in a prominent magazine (The Atlantic) on our subject by Jessica Blankenship, a writer in Atlanta, Georgia. She did her own research, not repeating some errors commonly circulating, and makes an important overall point that's unassailable. The legal situation in the USA, however, is more complicated and less favourable than she indicates.

The article mentions this pioneering article by Reena Glazer (from 1993), "Women's Body Image and the Law." Highly recommended also.

 

2013 September 16. Recently, this article from Massachusetts about a lone topfree protester. Although it makes mistakes (few reporters can clarify the law), it's well presented, and the person involved makes this a different sort of article. (She's in the middle of the photos for September 03, below.)

Unfortunately, when most topfree activists are confronted with the "What about the children?" nonsense, they don't challenge the question or back up their opinion with real information. Where's the evidence that children are harmed by uncovered breasts? There isn't any. Where's the evidence that girls and women have obsessive body image problems forced on them that centre on their breasts? Everywhere.

How is it healthy to hide breasts and shame females over them?

 

2013 September 04. A new documentary in the Venice Film Festival reveals that closely connected to Femen in the beginning was a man in Ukraine, Viktor Svyatskiy. That's not surprising, given Femen's activities, which must cost plenty of money, as well as the weak position of women socially and legally in Ukraine, and the fact that Femen has posted about him before.

Some commenters think that this news nullifies much of what Femen has done. Like Femen or not, it hasn't done that, although it may go a little way towards explaining some of it.

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From Ukraine is not a Brothel, a documentary by Kitty Green

We're sure there's much more in the documentary than this point, although most media reports have distorted it by focusing only on the connection to Viktor Svyatskiy.

 

2013 September 03. Go Topless Day (August 25) came and went this year with, it seems, more media attention than ever. The word is getting out, for which we largely have gotopless.org to thank. Each year we see the subject being treated with more respect, including by the media, and each year we see more articles, broadcasts, and events, some of them clearly influenced by Go Topless Day even if not part of it.

The day itself still consisted of relatively few topfree women in most places that held the event, and many (male) spectators with cameras. Most of the important points about equality and bodies weren't usually mentioned. Many still think that the issue is trivial. Others call topfree women "naked," play "What about the children?" or make uninformed pronouncements about laws. Mixed in with all that are many comments showing genuine understanding and interest --- and, nearly always, censored images.

In some places women wore pasties or other nipple coverings where they probably didn't have to. In others they kept their tops completely on. (Although we understand the desire not to be arrested, laws will not be struck down without well-planned court cases. It's difficult to challenge an unjust law by obeying it.) In still others they were genuinely topfree. The number of cities involved was probably higher than ever, although we haven't a total.

In an event sponsored by Topless Equality (whose aims are similar to ours), this photo from Boston went in for equal opportunity censorship

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perhaps following others' unhelpful or humorous suggestion that men not be allowed to go without shirts. But we applaud police in Boston, who didn't bother these protesters. In Pittsburgh, police threatened potentially topfree women with arrest.

An uncensored version of the photo above:

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In Asheville, North Carolina, police reported no untoward incidents. As usual, the chief loudmouth against women's equality didn't show up, instead getting his cronies to take photos to add to his private collection.

Finally, a photo from New York City, where there seem to have been more participants:

2013nyc.jpg

Progress is being made. The time to build on this event is now, and all year. The movement also needs spokeswomen who have a good understanding of the subject and are able and willing to lead. Both social and legal restrictions against topfree women still need to be removed.

 

2013 September 01. A week ago was the annual "Go Topless" day organized by the Raelian gotopless.org. A report on it is immediately above.

Shortly before the day itself, a skilled journalist, Lori Welbourne, interviewed Walter Gray, the mayor of Kelowna, British Columbia on the subject and pulled down her top during the discussion. Of course the video is censored (by YouTube, we're informed), amounting to unwarranted interference that says, "We won't acknowledge your point and we're deciding the matter negatively for all our viewers."

Lori's YouTube video of the incident has received worldwide media attention and millions of views. It was staged in part but still is effective. We congratulate Lori for her acumen and apt demonstration, and the mayor for being an understanding and helpful good sport.

(Unfortunately, he said that hundred-year-old bylaws on the subject have been repealed. Perhaps he's confusing the old law in the Gwen Jacob decision in Ontario with a more recent bylaw in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Both were ruled not to apply to topfree women. Neither was repealed, and the legal situation in the mayor's city is not as clear as he stated.)

Lori Welbourne also wrote about topfreedom here and here, intelligently and wittily.

 

2013 August 30. Recently in Saskatoon, Sakatchewan, a topfree woman at a beach was told to put her top on. This report suggests that the police involved don't know the law. The right to be topfree in that province was established by a court case involving Kate Rice and Evangeline Godron in the late 1990s.

 

2013 August 28. Another good article on topfreedom (they're still too rare) by Mark O'Connell for Psychology Today. His last "Imagine" is of course reality, with the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, about whom we've reported often.

 

2013 August 27. The site Topless Equality is recruiting women to be spokesmodels. So far, they're mostly young women defined by mainstream American culture as attractive. (The person who runs the site doesn't make himself or herself known by name.)

Tess Meier of Hawaii, below, a declared spokesmodel, is no newcomer to topfree protests. We acknowledge her commitment, which goes back some years.

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In addition to some good words on the subject, the Topless Equality site (definitely an ally!) says it is campaigning to "have all U. S. beaches allow topless non-sexual activities such as tanning, surfing, or other various activities." We note that most beaches are not on federal land and are run by individual states. More problematic is that campaigning for beaches looks like segregation based on sex. How do women have equal rights if they have them on beaches but not elsewhere?

 

2013 August 26. We draw your attention to an intelligent and wideranging article on topfreedom by Rachel Kramer Bussel. (She hasn't grasped TERA's critical position on Femen, however, although she graciously modified her article slightly when we pointed that out.)

A less helpful article is here, showing why it's important to question even what a lawyer says about the law. In this article, most of Ruth Carter's legal points are incorrect, despite a fine attitude. She participated in Go Topless Day yesterday in Tempe, Arizona.

 

2013 August 20. In Tunisia, Amina Tyler/Sboui has quit Femen, saying it's Islamophobic. Femen says she has betrayed the women who supported her. She still awaits trial on charges relating to her earlier actions.

 

2013 August 18. The annual "Go Topless" day, sponsored by the increasingly known gotopless.org, is a week from today. More details on its site.

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TERA makes no recommendation about the event but plans to report on it, as usual. The advance press leading up to the event is considerable and presents certain expectations, especially in Asheville, North Carolina. There Carl Mumpower, an ex-politician who is said to have a notable collection of photographs of topfree women, objects to topfree equality and seems to be hoping that participants engage in illegal acts. It won't be hard for him to stage some.

 

2013 August 14. Phoenix Feeley, who went to prison and engaged in a hunger strike there rather than pay an $816 fine for being topfree, has been released from prison in New Jersey. Her actions brought attention around the world to this issue and to the injustice done to her and uncountable other women.

She should be commended for her persistence and courage.

 

2013 August 12. Allen Henson has been busy photographing models topfree in various places in New York City. According to one report, last week his model was chased by police in a boat. (The model, Cheyenne Lutek, was also on a boat, in Central Park.) His calling card, however, seems to be photographing women in restaurants or bars. Below: Shelby Carter.

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They were of course asked to leave, and outside encountered police, who seem to have taken no action.

This isn't mostly about topfreedom. One reason we're skeptical: where are the women who are older or of a different shape? Wearing more than underwear? And how many men (or women) were topfree in this bar/restaurant, or wearing only underwear?

A performance art intervention this may be, and notable as such, but it's not central to topfree equal rights.

 

2013 August 06. An intelligent article today (minus the glib, false headline and censored photographs) by Elizabeth Siematkowski, creator of Toplessblading (in New York City). The legal details about New York are almost right, and the thoughts about topfree equality are well presented. "Runner upon biker upon stroller upon driver passed by without so much as a second glance at me," she writes, but her exhilaration at topfree blading goes beyond encountering no negative attitude.

 

2013 August 05. Rebecca Anne Clark was told to cover up when she was topfree on a beach in Québec recently. She has complained to the Québec Human Rights Commission.

 

2013 August 05. Phoenix Feeley, who lost an appeal of a conviction in New Jersey for being topfree five years ago, has voluntarily gone to jail instead of paying a fine and is planning a hunger strike. Phoenix is absolutely right in her principles. She has been treated horribly wrongly by the justice system in New Jersey.

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This article notes her wish to take her case to the US Supreme Court. It may be better if the court declines to hear it, because it's hard to imagine that in its current composition it would rule in favour of women's topfreedom. A broadly based negative ruling would be bad news for much more than this one case.

There are other ways to advance this issue in the legal system.

 

2013 August 01. In Tunisia, Amina Tyler/Sboui, the woman imprisoned there while awaiting trial for Femen-related activities, is said to have been released pending the trial. (The Tunisian politics involved in this are not revealed or discussed.)

 

2013 July 31. The author of this article, Kendra Holliday, has a great attitude and posts fine questions about women's topfreedom, even if she doesn't answer them. (The article is two years old nearly. This sort of attitude and writing is increasingly common on the Internet, we're glad to say.)

 

2013 July 21. Here's a recent chatty podcast interview with Moira Johnston, host Timaree Schmit. Although it wanders, the second half of the long interview contains good points from Moira about her increasingly known topfree walks. Still, someone needs to do more analysis for the general public, and to demolish the issue expressed by "What about the Children?" A fun interview, nonetheless, and thanks to Moira for mentioning TERA.

 

2013 July 15. Recently the model Cheyenne Lutek was photographed topfree in two New York City restaurants by the photographer Allen Henson. The first one went along with the shoot, the second one told them to leave. (Some commenters have said that a private establishment may make any rules it wishes about clothing, which is incorrect.)

Cheyenne was next seen photographed by Allen as she stood between two New York City police officers. Perhaps the photo is an illustration of said police officers being aware of the law in New York, although it's not the most useful we can think of as a promotion of topfreedom. Later reports suggested that the two officers in this photo were to be investigated for it, perhaps confirming our description.

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Nonetheless, Cheyenne's stated opinion of topfreedom is similar to that of New York's Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, whom she admires.

 

2013 July 14. The new image of "Marianne," a symbol of France, on the country's stamps has been partly modelled after Inna Shevchenko, leader of Femen, who had been granted political asylum in France as a refugee from Ukraine. Concluding anything from that seems far-fetched to us, although the French political right has seized upon the slight resemblance to call for a boycott of the stamp.

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It should also call for a boycott of a very famous Marianne image, from the 1830 painting Liberty Leading the People, by Eugène Delacroix:

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Which reminds us that in Sofia, Bulgaria yesterday there was a recreation of the Delacroix scene with a Bulgarian flag, in support of France and against the current Bulgarian government. Here's part of it:

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2013 July 14. Girlrillaz announces a video shoot tomorrow in New York City, calling for women to be topfree for it, with the following description for the movie:

Appalled by America's glorification of violence and repression of female nudity, disruptive activists LIV and WITH begin a grass roots campaign to "Free the Nipple" and make toplessness legal across the country, and raise awareness of gender inequalities in the US. Their revolution opens a national conversation about the extraordinary amount of violence being blasted at the youth of America. Their mission concludes with a triumphant topless rally outside the Lincoln Memorial to protest the backwards censorship laws in the United States.

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Video promotion here. An e-mail address for response may be found here. As usual, TERA makes no representation with regard to the video. We note the use of "nudity" and "toplessness," among other terms.

 

2013 June 28. Here's a clever article by a woman who gets it, supports it, but won't go topfree herself. Her assumptions about being harassed indicate that she should consider different contexts to successfully combat what she's concerned about. There's still no denying the validity of her concern.

Note that TERA doesn't tell women they should be topfree. That's their choice. Still, it sounds like the author of the article is looking for an answer. And there are answers.

 

2013 June 28. Earlier this month, Femen protesters went in front of the Tunisian embassy in Paris to call for the release of three Femen members in jail in Tunisia. This event is notable for having in it Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who last year was forced to leave Egypt because of nude photos of herself that she posted online and her subsequent statements about them.

The three protesters (Marguerite Stern, Pauline Hillier, and Josephine Markmann) had been sentenced in mid-June to four months in prison. Femen also protested the sentence outside the Tunisian embassy in Madrid, and elsewhere. Legal experts said the punishment was very severe.

On appeal, the sentences were suspended, mainly because the women crafted apologies and promised to leave Tunisia, possibly also because of objections from Tunisia's economic partner, the European Union. Femen claimed that the women were seriously mistreated in prison, which is supported by this article.

 

2013 June 25. A recent article here explains well the position of New York's Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society. We particularly like this exchange, from the question "Do you think that your actions have any chance of being accused of objectifying women even more?"

We strongly disagree. Women's breasts have been objectified for centuries. There is no possible way they could be more objectified than they are now, when they're rarely seen other than as objects, on magazine covers or posters or being used to sell movie tickets or clothing or beer. What we're doing is showing people that women's breasts are just part of a woman's body, like her neck or shoulders or hands or feet. They move when we move; they sweat when we sweat; they're part of us. If people see us topless in public, just reading and chatting and laughing and being natural, normal people, they might lose the sense that breasts are some sort of magical object that exists for the sexual gratification of males.

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The OCTPFAS in Strawberry Fields, Central Park, New York City, in early June 2013

 

2013 June 24. A transgender artist was arrested after being topfree on an airplane flight in Canada. Although it's unclear what she was doing, the arrest highlights legal confusion in this particular subject that has not been solved anywhere we know of.

 

2013 June 08. One of the better debates about Femen (in English) is here with continuation here. The 47 minutes are worthwhile, despite a few repetitions, misunderstandings, and mistakes. The multiple interviews, a bit noisy at times, and the accompanying visuals are uncensored.

 

2013 June 07. Moira Johnston has been topfree again in Philadelphia, wearing pasties, which she says are required in Pennsylvania. (We're less certain.)

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In this article, she states her case quite well. (There are further things that need saying to help the cause. One of the biggest myths that should be attacked is the one about children being harmed by the sight of a woman's breasts.)

 

2013 May 29. Today in Tunis, three apparently European members of Femen were dragged away and arrested after protesting topfree in front of a court. Video here, and a quite different one here.

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Their fate is unknown, but it is unlikely to be pleasant.

 

2013 May 23. Recently a woman was arrested in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for going topfree. Whatever may have been involved, she appears to have been doing little or nothing wrong until police approached her, told her to "stop" (?), then wrestled her to the ground, handcuffed her, and took her away.

The Internet chatter about this and other recent topfreedom news is 99% useless. The comments by the person(s) making the above-linked video are definitely in that 99% category. Also perpetuating body shame and misogyny are all the news outlets that censored the video.

 

2013 May 22. The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society has been outdoors in New York City again, now that the weather is warmer there. They report being approached by New York City police and being asked if someone else's poodle was topless.

We suppose it was a joke . . . yet the police think that topfree women are crazy . . . their only role in this situation should be to stop even approaching topfree women and to start educating complainers.

Some of the women then strolled through Central Park.

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2013 May 21. The woman known as Amina Tyler, noted Femen activist still in Tunisia, was arrested recently for attempted topfree and other activities in Kairouan, Tunisia. One of Femen's Ukrainian leaders, Anna Hutsol, posted this news video, apparently of the arrest. Reports in English are here and here.

 

2013 May 20. A cartoon drawing of a topfree woman marking the location on a map of a public beach in Sweden has drawn criticism.

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Instead of that annoying stereotype, why not use drawings or photos of real women and men both?

 

2013 May 17. A week ago, Holly van Voast had this to say about her topfree activities and leadership in New York: "I wasn't the trailBLAZER, I just happened upon the trail and followed it. Ramona [Santorelli] and the [Rochester NY] Topfree Seven were the trailblazers . . . and I really did do what I did for awareness about artists in NYC, but also had to deal with this . . . what I did is more complicated . . . but pretty much the same thing in reality."

Two days ago, Holly van Voast sued several parties in New York City over the many wrongful detainments she has suffered at the hands of ignorant, careless, or vindictive police officers and other public authorities. She deserves to win, not only a very public apology but a very large sum of money.

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Holly's suit, at the above link, is worth reading in its entirety, to see the depth and scope of the New York Police Department's willful, egregiously unconsitutional action against her.

 

2013 May 16. Topfreedom promoter Jeff Johnson of Huntsville, Alabama, appeared today in Asheville, North Carolina, with two topfree women to draw attention to the anti-topfreedom bill in the state legislature. He may have provoked more support for the bill. Although it officially didn't make it out of the committee stage by today's deadline, its sponsors may still try to sneak it into an unrelated bill at the last minute, in order to get it passed suddenly and escape public notice until it's too late.

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2013 May 15. Today the New York Times ran the rather old news (from February) that the New York City police have been told not to arrest topfree women. That's the good part. The article reveals that some police there still don't know the law. That's the expected part.

The enduring news is that many may continue to think that this topfree equality is something new, results from a law being passed, or applies only to New York City. All of that is false.

 

2013 May 02. Recently Al Jazeera television broadcast this program mostly about Femen, centred on an interview with Inna Shevchenko --- until she decided to take off her shirt (at 21:30). At that point, the program operators shut her down.

It's the familiar censorship result, constituting unwarranted interference with the message and biased editorializing that mitigates free discussion. In the end, not much new was said in this long interview and discussion, even though many points are worth hearing and discussing.

 

2013 April 15. "I will do a topless protest, then I will leave." In this crucial Internet interview with Femen from a secret location, Amina of Tunisia states that in the past month, she was confined by her family and beaten, and that she was forced to say certain things to the public.

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2013 April 11. Reactions to the "topless jihad" of Femen in support of the Tunisian woman Amina are mostly negative. This Muslim woman calls Femen's actions offensive, colonial, and oppressive, although she distorts what Femen does and its meanings. For more on the accusations against Femen, there's this article from late last year.

It seems clear that Femen's actions annoy many people regardless of religion. In this article, whose authenticity is unconfirmed, although elaborated here, Amina herself rejects Femen's actions taken on her behalf while still apparently supporting its feminism. Her objections, which she later said were forced, relate more to issues other than bare breasts.

The main questions about Femen's actions seem basically the same in the West and the Middle East, although there are differing answers. While questions about their tactics and effectiveness remain, the topfree aspect of their stagings is rarely understood. It does more than gain attention. It's a symbol of freedom and equality, of both strength and vulnerability; a challenge to men's control of women's bodies; and a practical way to present text on a body. Still, those are mostly Western connections that are hard to "export."

In our opinion, effectiveness would increase with less radical texts, more varied women, less violence, and more local understanding. The use of men might also be considered. We doubt that Femen would understand our dislike of using the word "naked" for their attire:

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This article explains the nature and origins Femen's specifically Ukrainian radicalism rather well. More on Femen by one of its principals, Inna Shevchenko, here. Although topfree equal rights are not Femen's issue, in this interview from 2:24 to 3:44, Inna Shevchenko articulates the principle of women taking back control of their own breasts.

In Europe, interest in TERA's principles remains sporadic. It also remains a question whether topfree equality gains or does not gain from Femen's actions.

 

2013 April 09. This event, "Two Topless Miles," is a topfree walk this June for breast cancer, in aid of a major charity. It's an idea that should be common but isn't. Breasts of all ages, shapes, and conditions need to be more visible in real life (as well as elsewhere), partly to help fight breast disease and promote breast health. Mountain Air Ranch, the nudist campground in Colorado where this takes place, should be congratulated on its initiative.

But the organizer says the following: "Please be advised that in order to protect everyone's privacy and safety, there will be no private cameras allowed at the event and no names will be published. Official photos will only be taken from the rear." That suggests the bad old days when nudist campgrounds gave the impression that what they did was shameful, even obscene, by unwittingly going to notable trouble to imply it. It also suggests that simply to see women's breasts is bad.

Some (probably many) individuals want their names, faces, and breasts (or lack of breasts) to help promote a good cause. The organizer could plan this better while still protecting people on various levels. Other nudist campgrounds do that. Multiple severe restrictions of the sort quoted above for everyone (hiding, anonymity, censorship) don't help the public cause that the event is about.

 

2013 April 07. The "topless jihad" organized a few days ago in several cities by Femen for the Tunisian woman Amina ended in arrests at least in Paris.

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In Brussels yesterday, in front of a mosque. The French writing
on the woman on the right is a translation of the Arabic originally on Amina.

Bravo to the Atlantic for not censoring its photos, although issuing a warning that they contain "nudity" is incorrect as well as pointless and biased.

 

2013 April 03. We recommend this article written by a bright, talented 14-year-old dancer. It's mostly about breasts. Her mother is the well-known Jessica Martin-Weber of The Leaky Boob. Ophélia's article is very much her own.

 

2013 April 03. This photo

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was removed recently by Facebook, and its poster, the Estonian artist Fideelia-Signe Roots (to the right in the picture), threatened with loss of her account. Are we surprised? To those who think Facebook has reformed its bad attitude and actions concerning women's bodies, it has not. It's behaving worse than ever, promulgating its notorious misogynist body phobia and other harm along with its sanctimonious false claim of protecting children.

A music video by Robin Thicke was also banned, from YouTube. The women in it are mostly topfree. Claims that that version had naked women are false. Of course, many news outlets falsely claim that topfree means naked. It increases hits on their sites.

This production, however, isn't our sort, regardless of clothes. Aside from the very low quality of much of it, the women are merely sexual objects for the men. Here's the censored version, which came first: same problem.

 

2013 March 27. 3 Minutes about Sue is the title of a short video about one of the most important breast health and topfreedom people in the world. From 2002 to 2007 Sue Richards created, published, and lived the phenomenally pioneering calendar known as Breast of Canada. Her inspiring leadership led us all in fearless, crucial images of women in a mainstream publication that had to survive by merit and hard work alone. And it did.

Those calendars haven't been matched before or since. They stopped because of Sue's illness. This video honours a social entrepreneur of brilliance, explains her situation, and describes how to help her.

 

2013 March 26. From Femen, this time a group of women in Spain expressing support for Amina:

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The languages in the above photo are Spanish, French, Catalan, Portuguese, and Basque.
They all say "My body is mine."

Yesterday came a report from Tunisia that Amina was back with her family. It seems to have been designed to stop the international pressure and was not confirmed. All other reports about her are also unconfirmed.

 

2013 March 25. In Memphis, Tennessee, neighbours have complained about someone's having put a statue of a topfree woman in his front yard. "But what about the children!"

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Ignorance is bliss; it even encourages curtailing someone's use of his own property.

 

2013 March 23. On the Facebook cause page run apparently on behalf of the Tunisian woman (Amina) who posted photos of herself topfree and was then apparently threatened with death is the request for women to send in photos of themselves topfree in support of her. The campaign is called "Mi cuerpo es mío y de nadie más" ("My body is mine and no one else's"). Written messages have used those words and others.

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(TERA recommends neither for nor against participation.)

 

2013 March 22. The Tunisian woman pictured first in the March 20 report below has been reported detained in a psychiatric hospital. TERA cannot confirm that. But the reported attitude of those responsible for her possible removal is distressing and outrageous.

 

2013 March 21. The best cartoon we've seen out of North Carolina regarding its bill to make felons of women with exposed breasts:

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By kind permission of Randy Molton and Mountain Xpress
of Asheville, North Carolina

It's hard to imagine a more compelling illustration of the crass, sexist, deviously oppressive demand that women cover their breasts.

 

2013 March 20. Not long ago, this photo appeared on the Internet:

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It's one that a Tunisian woman took of herself, also claiming alliance with the well-known group Femen. The Arabic means "My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone's honour." The feminist activist Maryam Namazie and others report that a Tunisian cleric has called for this woman's death by stoning.

TERA doesn't usually contend with topfree issues outside of North America and sometimes Europe. But this woman's use of her body and its consequences draw attention to the plight of millions of women outside our usual geographic areas of interest. That plight is serious and needs massive correction.

At the same time, women's breasts are gaining strength as intense symbols of freedom. More words reported from the woman pictured above:

In July, I saw the photos of Femen and I started reading about them. I liked that their message was radical.  It was the first time I saw women who are not posing naked for the camera but are angrily protesting . . . if I posted a picture of myself wearing a T-shirt with that slogan, it wouldn’t have any impact. I want the message to be read this way: (a woman's) body is hers---not her father's, her husband's, or her brother's . . . I received death threats. But I don't think that what will happen to me can be worse than the situation of women . . . when a woman takes off her shirt, that means she has reached the breaking point and can't take it any more.

Another woman reportedly from Tunisia took a picture of herself with the same message:

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It is easy in the West to see this as a struggle not against a religion but against a devastating patriarchy which, as the first woman indicates, claims no less than ownership of women by men --- which not so long ago was a more obvious attitude also in the West and even there is far from eradicated.

 

2013 March 17. Here's a story about a beach in Florida that was once available to topfree women. We don't know how much of it is correct, and the legal details are not presented clearly. But the essence is plausible: beach is topfree, a few people complain, beach is no longer topfree. The question is always what the political machinations are behind the scenes, which are also not available from this article.

Our favourite line from this: "After complaints from nearby condominium owners, who were scouring the area with high power binoculars . . . " There's nothing like trying extra hard to be offended, if that's what such people were trying to do, and succeeding. In some countries, going out of your way to be offended disqualifies you from having a valid complaint. The USA is not one of them.

 

2013 March 16. The champion breast(feeding) cartoonist Heather Cushman-Dowdee (the erstwhile Hathor the Cowgoddess) has kindly sent us her three cartoons relating to the current North Carolina fiasco, about which you may read plenty below. We think the cartoons speak for themselves (rather well), and for millions of people too!

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2013 March 15. In Brazil recently, a Danish women's team of gymnasts went to a beach in Rio, were topfree, were asked to put their tops back on, and did so. The news media in Brazil were mostly calm about it, while others were trying for some sort of diplomatic scandal, claiming that it was horribly wrong in Brazil for women to be topfree. Here's the "scandalous" photo:

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For women to be topfree on most Brazilian beaches is still uncommon.

 

2013 March 06. Another sharp article on North Carolina's House Bill 34, which we hope gets the death it deserves. Also sharp is the legal position paper written by Michael Goodyear of Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. It demolishes the North Carolina Bill on so many grounds that no reasonable person, on reading his analysis, could possibly be in favour of the bill.

In addition, he attacks supposedly pro-breastfeeding bills as unjustly creating two classes of women. Moreover, "the exemption for breastfeeding mothers raises further difficulties, since if it is considered acceptable to expose the breast for one purpose, namely breastfeeding, then the burden of proving harm by exposure of a non breastfeeding breast becomes more difficult. The exemption vitiates the rational basis of harm ascribed to the exposed female breast." His conclusion: "The proposed legislation is reactive, lacks widespread public support, fails to identify a harm of significant gravity to attract state interest, [and] is regressive and discriminatory."

Prof. Goodyear's work could be used to invalidate laws in the USA at any level that forbid women's topfree equality.

 

2013 February 28. The infamous "Topless Bill" in North Carolina has been pulled from the legislature, supposedly for consultation. This is an old tactic when sponsoring politicians merely hope to cause the negative uproar over their bad ideas to die down, and to reintroduce the bill later in a manner that is less likely to draw such attention.

 

2013 February 27. The annual "naked sledding" (Nacktrodeln) event in Altenberg, Germany took place recently, with a reported thousand euros in prize money. Not actually naked, the competition is strictly a topfree one. Notably, there were 12 women and 13 men participating.

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2013 February 26. Lena Koschmann, a newly appointed chief ranger of the Fire Island National Seashore, says that it's illegal for women to be without tops in New York. She has insisted on this in several interviews: "But I’m not going to go on record saying it’s legal to go topless because really, technically, it’s not."

Really, technically, Lena Koschmann doesn't know what she's talking about. How is a person who not only doesn't know the law but wants to act against it qualified for such a position?

 

2013 February 25. This recent article in Asheville, North Carolina is one of the better ones on the current subject of banning women's exposed breasts in that state. Still, it implies in part that women should be punished for their breasts.

It's notable that NC House Bill 34 has gained world-wide attention, much of it condemnatory even if much also doesn't understand its implications.

One odd thing is that what this bill was designed to prevent, namely a small rally in one city, would technically still be protected under the First Amendment. In any case, the bill has been sent back to committee. TERA urges people in North Carolina to write their state legislators polite but firm letters of opposition.

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Body painting in Asheville in August 2012

 

2013 February 19. Holly van Voast talks about her topfree episodes in New York here. Although it's good to hear her, she makes assumptions about other topfree people that aren't likely correct. She also states that it's wrong to assume that the sight of her breasts harms children but doesn't explain why. Here are a few reasons why it's wrong in a wide sense:

1. It's untrue. There's not a shred of evidence for it.
2. Ever watch kids at one of her events? Mostly they're not even interested.
3. People wrongly assume that presence of women's uncovered breasts always implies an immoral, dangerous sexual activity. But not men's, of course.
4. Stigmatizing women's breasts passes onto children disrespect and intolerance towards women. Those attitudes correlate with high rates of violence towards women and body image problems in females of all ages.

To hold the opinion that women's breasts harm children is not just wrong; it's dangerously, insidiously wrong.

 

2013 February 13. This article notes that North Carolina's anti-breast exposure bill has now moved into its legislature after a superficial visit to one of its judiciary committees. Remarkably, one of its proponents says it won't change North Carolina law. That she doesn't know the law is reprehensible; that she falsifies it is worse.

In North Carolina, as in other states and any study of anatomy, it's clear that women's nipples or areolas are not "private parts." It's also clear that shaming and criminalizing women for being women is unjust and unconstitutional. Some day that will be made clear, perhaps even in North Carolina.

 

2013 February 13. Holly van Voast has been acquitted of three topfree charges in New York. This article does a fine job of muddying the story and explaining almost nothing.

 

2013 February 06. Our sister organization, Go Topless, has vowed to fight the North Carolina legislation mentioned in the next item below. It has made some serious points very well.

This article by the student newspaper at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill quotes several people against the bill. Nadine Gary, leader of Go Topless, makes trenchant comments about the subject. One sponsor of the bill says it's not trying to legislate morality. Yeah, right.

However, if North Carolina decides to criminalize men's breasts, that will satisfy Go Topless, according to its principles and statements. We've never understood its agreement to penalize everyone. It's like saying that if women can't hold public office, men shouldn't be allowed to either.

(Go Topless has indicated before that it doesn't deal with the legal side of topfreedom. Although it does fine work in other ways, its page on "topless laws" is not recommended.)

 

2013 February 03. At the end of January, a bill was filed in the North Carolina General Assembly to criminalize women's breasts. Clearly based on a vocal minority's complaints in Asheville about women's topfree equal rights, the bill contains the following wording: ". . . the term "private parts" means external organs of sex and of excretion, including the nipple, or any portion of the areola, of the human female breast."

So North Carolina wants us to believe not only that breast parts are private parts (and only on women), but they're sex organs. No physiological or medical definition of organ includes any part of a breast, and breasts are not needed for sexual reproduction. The only other possible explanation of this wording is that breasts aren't sexual but excretory, just as eyes, noses, and mouths may be.

In addition to being unjustly discriminatory against women, the bill is de facto nonsense.

 

2013 January 16. We don't report much on breastfeeding incidents, because there are so many in which women are told to stop breastfeeding, or do it the most inconvenient way, or just leave. But here's a full, beautifully written report by one woman who encountered an objection in a hotel in Las Vegas. It's not just anyone, but Jessica Martin-Weber, who runs the important blog The Leaky B@@b and is one of America's major lactivists.

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Jessica Martin-Weber and her youngest child, from
"Fear and Breastfeeding in Las Vegas"

 

2013 January 13. We don't report much on Femen, the Ukrainian topfree protesters who've expanded operations into other countries. But here we have a fortunately uncommented video of its recent action in St. Peter's Square, Rome while the Pope was speaking. Well, one bystander did comment by linking one of the protesters to the devil. (We have no comment on the protest as such.)

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2013 January 03. Felicity Jones, who was arrested on August 1, 2011 for being topfree in New York City, received a payment from the city after she launched a lawsuit against it. Bravo, Felicity!

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Felicity Jones engaging in completely legal behaviour in New York City, August 1, 2011

In her words:

I filed a lawsuit against the city after being falsely arrested in an art performance on Wall Street called "Ocularpation" in August 2011. I had been charged with "disorderly conduct," but it was very clear the officer involved simply had a problem with my being topfree.

In August 2012 I met with New York City officials for mediation. The officer's lawyer / city representative tried to defend the NYPD's actions by reasserting that I had been "blocking traffic" (there are photos to prove I wasn't) and that the arresting officer was not informed of what was going on. He also stated that the officer was concerned about my state of dress because there was a school nearby.

The city came to a settlement agreement of $9,000 on August 28. I was a little surprised that they actually tried to defend the officer's actions when he very clearly had no legitimate reason for arresting me. And the talk about the school nearby: I could only think, "Are you serious?!"

To which we can only add, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." For a police officer who mistreated Felicity and refused to find out what the law is, it should be reason to question his fitness for his profession.

 

2012 December 09. Twelve days ago, Britain's Guardian newspaper ran a video of a protest against the tabloid Sun's topless women on page 3, a part of that paper for over 40 years. Even though women's breasts may reflect conflicting meanings, the context and quantity of page 3 women are very different from what TERA stands for. The more images appear of topfree women of every age, shape, size, and condition doing a variety of everyday things, and the more we hear from those women (their words are important), the more likely women will disappear from page 3. (We wonder what the protesters would say about TERA.)

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On the protesters' placard, the images on the left and right are of women and men respectively.

 

2012 November 20. Our correspondent Bart Wijnberg of the Netherlands has made us aware of topfree photos of the Québec singer-songwriter Diane Dufresne. Still performing, she released an LP in 1973 with the photo below, left as its cover. The one on the right is from an appearance in Paris in March 1980 (photo by Thierry Orban, Corbis Images).

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2012 November 20. Last month, Seattle Parks and Recreation decided to let Jodi Jaecks swim topfree, on the basis of this document, solely because she's had a double mastectomy. While that may help her, it's highly denigrating to all women, telling them that the size or condition of their breasts determines their rights. See also our comments for June 21 and June 19, 2012.

 

2012 November 07. The website Not So Shameful on Tumblr has arisen in response to the recent death of Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old who committed suicide partly because a photo of her breasts had circulated on the Internet against her will. Hugo Schwyzer has noted (in an article from Australia), "By displaying breasts, sending a message that they are just normal body parts, we are more likely to normalize nudity and end body shaming."

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From the site Not So Shameful: Felicity Jones in New York City,
by permission of Dream Reality Photography

 

2012 November 03. On their current visit to Papua New Guinea, Prince Charles and Camilla were greeted by a barebreasted girl, Jessie David, said to be 15, and other girls of a similar attire and age.

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According to many in England and the USA, the video and photos of the couple's arrival must constitute child pornography. Wouldn't that make Charles and Camilla accessories to a crime?

 

2012 October 31. Here's a look at the issue of breast cancer and awareness campaigns, and the meaning or impact of images of breasts in such campaigns, from an American perspective.

(TERA takes issue with some of the organizations mentioned in the article and with the advice from a few years ago to women to stop doing breast self-examinations, also mentioned.)

 

2012 October 12. In one week in Montréal will be the launch of what seems a remarkable book: Breast Stories: Cancer Survivors Speak Out, with photographs by Phil Carpenter. In the book, 53 women with mastectomies are photographed, and not in a clinical way, as this example confirms.

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The photographer travelled across Canada to create his book; his photos are accompanied by short personal accounts from the women. He notes, "The more of these images we see, the easier it will be for some women to deal with losing their breasts." The book is published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

 

2012 October 06. The magazine Marie Claire in France has a major campaign this month promoting screening for breast cancer. Several celebrity women offered to be photographed topfree for it. The magazine writes:

Comme chaque année depuis 1994, Marie Claire s'engage par le biais de l'association "Le Cancer du sein, parlons-en !" afin de promouvoir le dépistage précoce et de soutenir la recherche. Pour sensibiliser un maximum de femmes à cette cause, divers événements solidaires sont organisés tout au long d'Octobre Rose.

[English] As in every year since 1994, Marie Claire is getting involved by way of the association "Let's Talk about Breast Cancer!" in order to promote early detection and give research a boost. To make a maximum of women aware of this cause, various joint ventures are being organized throughout Pink October.

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L: writer and actor Pauline Delpech, with the message "Follow my example. Screening saves lives."
R: model and actor Estelle Lefébure

Par ce geste solidaire, elles nous disent : « En montrant mes seins, j'ai protégé ma vie. Faites comme moi. » Par ce geste fort, elles banalisent le dépistage et convaincront peut-être les 30 % de femmes âgées de plus de 50 ans qui ne passent jamais une mammographie. Et aussi les autres, les plus jeunes, qui se sentent encore moins concernées.

[English] With this act of togetherness, they're telling us, "Getting my breasts out has safeguarded my life. Follow my example." With this big move, they're demystifying screening and will perhaps persuade the 30% of women over 50 who never get a mammogram. And the others too, the younger ones, who feel even less concerned.

TERA thinks this is one of the better ways to produce a public interest campaign about breast health. If similar North American campaigns lack this photographic component and only hide breasts when pictures like these are used, they're sending a mixed message. Part of that is breast shame, which won't likely get women to follow the intended advice.

The French women are using their breasts to show significant moral leadership.

 

2012 October 05. A group of American military wives, drawing attention to the post-traumatic stress disorder of their husbands, is photographed topfree only from the back. In their case there's an advantage to that: the writing on their skin, a major component of their Battling Bare campaign, may be more plentiful and more legible.

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TERA finds the photos in the campaign compelling, even if this isn't typical topfreedom.

 

2012 October 01. Here are a splendid short interview with Moira Johnston and comments by Madeleine Alpert ("hexgrrrlfriend") that go into important matters most topfree advocates and commenters ignore. Plus the corresponding photo (Moira and Maddie), which immature, ignorant, trigger-happy Facebook removed under their "obscene and harmful to minors" clause:

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2012 September 23. In mid-September, needing gas for his car, Floyd Baker stopped with a friend at a station in a suburb of Buffalo. The friend filled the gas tank while topfree. In Floyd's own words:

As we drove away, we were pulled over by *three* police cars. One of the officers came to the car mentioning a "complaint" and asked what we were thinking, what if kids had seen her, and similar remarks. I did btw respond that breasts were made for kids.

He took our IDs, went back to apparently check us out and have a consultation, and came back to the car. He made a big point of something being "wrong" with our thoughts and actions but ended up only with "They don't want you back on their property again." Then we drove off.

Why don't New York police tell complainers that they have no valid complaint, and leave it at that? When will they stop imposing their ignorance on others? When will they learn the law and respect women and their rights?

And why is it always multiple police cars wasting a lot of money investigating this oh so serious "crime"? Your tax dollars at work, blaring more than a little hypocrisy.

 

2012 September 18. We received the following notice from NIFTY in Vancouver, British Columbia. (NIFTY stands for Naked Iconoclasts Fighting the Yoke.) We think it speaks well for itself!

NIFTY held a successful topfree reading event in Vancouver's Grandview Park on Saturday, September 8, 2012. Inspired by the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society events in New York, we enjoyed an afternoon of reading and good company on a beautiful Vancouver Saturday. We are pleased to report that we were entirely unmolested, unchallenged, and simply accepted as part of the mix of humanity enjoying the park that day.

Our next event is scheduled for Saturday, September 29 from 13:00 to 15:00 at Grandview Park; all are welcome.

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2012 September 17. The media frenzy over Kate Middleton's topfree photos in France added small irony recently as she and her husband were photographed receiving necklaces from women on the Solomon Islands. A few photos show her giggling, which may or may not have been her main response. This one is slightly more mature.

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We won't join the mainstream media in labelling these women topless, or even topfree. This is their normal attire for many occasions.

 

2012 September 06. The National Health service in Scotland, quite different from that of England, has released a video advertisement about breast cancer. It features photographs of real breasts with narration by the actor Elaine C. Smith.

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Because the media often like shock headlines, this one goes all out and uses the word itself. The result is purportedly shocking for the mock-offended commenters who try unsuccessfully to hide their oppressive immaturity in anonymity.

 

2012 August 28. Many women cover their nipples with tape, pasties, fake nipples, etc. in the belief that such keep them from being arrested. Moira Johnston knows otherwise. So does a woman from San Antonio, Texas, about whom we received this report from Saturday:

She was clad in jeans, with 3x3 pieces of black duct tape over her nipples and areolas. She was charged with Texas's "disorderly conduct by exposure," which states that someone is disorderly if he/she "exposes his anus or genitals in a public place and is reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by his act; or for a lewd or unlawful purpose."

The police were verbally abusive and demeaning and criticized her for causing trouble. And charged her under that statute despite that her "anus" and "genitals" were not exposed, and neither were her nipples/areolas. She was detained and threatened with jail if she didn't post a $200 bond, when normally alleged disorderly conduct offenders are issued citations and released.

A convenience store manager had asked her to put her shirt on (which she did). When we asked "Why?" and pointed out that they'd never asked me to, the manager responded, "We serve food here. It's a health thing." Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, they'd called the police, who sent five cars to the call.

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The rally in Austin, Texas (not San Antonio) from last Saturday

 

2012 August 27. The one certain thing about the annual Go Topless Day is that men and media come out in force. This year (yesterday) seems to have been no different. In many reports, we've observed rude spectators, media hype, political grandstanding, and too much ignorance and censorship, but also undeniably some fun and a few good statements.

Go Topless should be congratulated for raising the basic issue by putting together the day. Millions of people are aware of its annual event. (TERA isn't involved in it.)

It seems that up to a dozen or two women participated in each city where a rally was actually held, and often some men. The men help with the notion of equality, although their wearing breast coverings doesn't make the point the best way, in our view. (We also think some people need to learn how to deal with the media better.)

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From top left, counterclockwise: Phoenix AZ, Toronto ON Canada, New York NY, Washington DC.
(One banner we saw indicated there would be two million topfree women demonstrating in Washington.)

Some women felt so uncomfortable that they left events in New York and in Columbia, Missouri. In New York, Moira Johnston and Holly van Voast attended (and possibly were not uncomfortable).

In Asheville, North Carolina, the number of participants and spectators was down from last year, perhaps because of the inflammatory actions of a failed local politician and the persistent negative bias shown by local media and the City Council, which stated that women have a right but should act as if they don't.

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Not the failed politician, but Jeff Johnson of Huntsville AL
explaining several points to a reporter in Asheville NC

Probably the worst treatment of the day is represented by this video. It's clueless, immature, and boorish all at once. Although that may seem hard to accomplish, its substance may represent the attitude of many Americans.

Was the day a success? Perhaps the organizers will eventually answer in some detail.

 

2012 August 26. One of the articles leading up to Go Topless Day (today) is this. Ostensibly in favour, it says that women's topfreedom is all about sunbathing, about nudity and recreational fun. It is clueless about the subject and offers the "solution" that topfree women should be segregated and banished to some beaches somewhere. That's equality, for sure!

It gives the wrong background, wrong context, and wrong ideas about topfreedom. It is a travesty and an insult to those who've worked in this area in social, legal, and political ways, not least Go Topless. That the publisher of this does not require its columnists to know anything about their topic is no help.

 

2012 August 25. Moira Johnston has a "topless" site, here. Recently she was on CBS's The Couch explaining her position, simple and understandable by now, we'd think. We wish she'd use the word "topfree," although maybe "topless" is all much of her audience can understand.

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Of course, CBS presumptuously and unjustifiably contradicted Moira's message by censoring the images of her.

 

2012 August 24. Two days before the planned Go Topless event in Asheville, a thinking resident has this to say in response to the City Council there telling women to exercise their right by not exercising it.

 

2012 August 22. The City Council of Asheville, North Carolina has published an open letter decrying the Go Topless event scheduled there for this Sunday, saying it wishes it could prevent it and advising people to stay away. In so doing, it joins the bigotry and abrogation of women's rights being fomented by one local goon, a notorious failed politician.

Shame on Asheville City Council. Does Go Topless have a plan to deal with this troubling situation, and the provocateur disruption being planned by said local goon? We don't know.

 

2012 August 18. Two days ago, Moira Johnston was on CNN. A solid interview, although nothing new to TERA readers, including CNN's unjustified editorializing censorship. The unedited transcript of the interview, with more in it, is here. Almost all of that is in this video.

 

2012 August 17. Jeff Johnson, who may be leading the parade in the Asheville, North Carolina Go Topless event next weekend, has been in Asheville recently.

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Although some of his reported statements and actions are confusing to us, we wish the whole event well.

 

2012 August 15. The Parks Department of the City of Toronto has changed its mind and said it would allow a topfree event in a Toronto park on Go Topless Day on August 26. So indicates this article.

But it has now imposed barriers such as forms, fees, insurance --- to grant a right that the event already has. It's a typical cynical, devious, hypocritical move to say "Oh yes, the law allows you to do something but we're going to make it impossible anyhow."


Need more proof? The Parks Department arbitrarily and unreasonably imposed a 14-day-prior application period on Go Topless 13 days before the event. The Parks Dept. should not be praised but severely criticized for its lie --- and ignored. Why does it think it has jurisdiction in this matter and can go against the famous Gwen Jacob decision of 1996? Or why it is trying to take away women's rights? Someone should tell it to do what those fire warnings say: butt out.

Does this event even need a permit? We don't recommend asking the Parks Dept.

 

2012 August 14. Here's a video with excerpts of Andy Golub painting a topfree woman in New York. Note the blah reaction of others in this frame.

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2012 August 12. The headline here is ridiculous. So is much of the rest of the story, but read it anyhow, keeping in mind its source. After a woman exposed her breasts in Philadelphia at a street preacher, he was arrested. The notable thing is that a police officer said that what the woman did is legal. Is it?

Meanwhile, in New York City, someone snapped a photo of Moira Johnston standing outside with another topfree woman. This is the first we've seen with more than Moira topfree in one photo. We hope that still more join her. The more who do, the fewer photos will be taken, because this will simply be more common attire about which no one will care. That's our goal.

 

2012 August 10. Moira Johnston (who by now should need no introduction) was arrested in Philadelphia three weeks ago. In her words:

In Philadelphia, I was in a location in Center City on Chestnut St. between 15th and 16th Sts. I was shopping with a shirt on. When I exited a building, I took my shirt off. I was on public property (the sidewalk).

While walking across the street, an officer asked what I was doing and said, "Put your shirt on." When I said no, he instructed me to put my bags down and put handcuffs on me. Then he took me to a marked police vehicle, where I stayed inside and handcuffed for about a half hour before they finally said I could be released, with no charge.

When I was wrongfully arrested, I had my nipples covered (with pasties).

But are pasties required in Pennsylvania? Is it actually illegal for a woman to be barebreasted there? Moira did a sensible thing and asked police. But the police often don't know the answer or make one up. Watch this space . . .

 

2012 August 09. Another woman (pictured below) is topfree in New York City and explaining her actions and ideas, here. Thank you, Helese! Especially for using the word topfree.

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There's also a video of her being interviewed. (As usual, don't assume everything said is correct.)

 

2012 August 08. At the end of July, the Belle Chère street festival in Asheville, North Carolina had some predictable participants: topfree women and pseudo-religious hecklers. A bigger confrontation, however, is being whipped up for August 26 by Asheville's prime pompous, misogynist politician. He has complained about Go Topless Day, then encouraged his pals to attend it to incite illegality and take photographs --- so that he can get them for his collection without being there, and keep complaining about it. Hypocrisy and lies are of course useful for keeping one's name in the news.

Some women in Asheville who are against Go Topless Day claim that topfree equality is unimportant or anti-feminist. They fail to understand both its practical and its symbolic significance and are telling women to wear shirts and not to be equal to men because "my feminist cause (wages, education, politics, etc.) trumps yours (topfreedom)." That's not a relevant argument. It's not even an argument.

Meanwhile, someone from Alabama whose friends underwent unwarranted hassling over being topfree in Asheville awhile back has tried to take a leadership role in this. The disadvantages: this is a male, he's from out of state, and he's said things that the media readily used against him, despite his good intent.

Women have to be the leaders for topfree equal rights. Men may assist but only from the background.

 

2012 August 06. Floyd Baker informed us of results of his body painting at the recent Buffalo Infringement Festival.

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In his own words: "It went unbelievably well. No one said a word against it, including aunts and mothers with children."

 

2012 August 05. Three weeks until gotopless.org's annual Go Topless Day. This is an important event from our colleagues which TERA supports in principle. TERA is not involved in it, nonetheless. We neither suggest people be in it nor suggest they not be, in keeping with our not telling women what to wear or not wear.

(Unfortunately, some media repeat information from Go Topless's "laws" page as if it were authoritative. The organization's enthusiasm and general intent are much better!)

 

2012 August 01. The American NBC network carried video today of a water polo incident in which one woman pulled at the swimsuit of another underwater, exposing her breast briefly. Calling that a "wardrobe malfunction" is as inane as trying to make it into another Janet Jackson 2004 Super Bowl scandal. Happily, that hasn't worked this time.

Unhappily, the ignorant comments on the Internet about it (and about Moira Johnston, Go Topless Day, and similar topics) vastly outnumber the sensible ones. For the stupidity sweepstakes, we nominate this: "I don't think that's legal to see a girls boob fully exposed on the tv during an olympic water polo game. #wtf there are families watching."

 

2012 July 25. This Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29, from 1:00 PM until 8:00, will have topfree body painting by Floyd Baker, as part of the 11-day Buffalo Infringement Festival, whose slogan is "Art under the radar." Location: 224 Allen Street (outside mostly), where many other artistic things will probably be going on and ongoing. Here's a photo from last year's painting:

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2012 July 20. "Toplessness as Tactic" is the headline of a worthy article by Jaela Bernstein published today. See whom you agree with! There's also this article from yesterday, in which Moira Johnston states clearly what she is doing and why. (But please do not heed the page of legal information and advice referred to by the article's author.)

 

2012 July 17. Thursday we declare to be GWEN JACOB DAY! 21 years ago she was arrested in Guelph, Ontario, for being topfree. Although she was not acquitted until late in 1996, she considers July 19, 1991 the anniversary of her victory. Read why and more here.

 

2012 July 16. Not many know that Moira Johnston's campaign in New York City to raise awareness about topfreedom for women began at a yoga school. The school refused to allow her to practise topfree even though the men there were allowed to. That story is here. Not much deterred, Moira later practised in a very large group, outside at the Times Square yoga solstice last month:

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An excellent New Zealand article discusses topfreedom and Moira, although its accompanying photo is disgraceful. Although there are many, many photos now of Moira on the Internet, we bring them here only when there's something new or different to add, as above. As for the solstice yoga, Moira told TERA the experience was "totally comfortable." About her initial yoga experience at the club that soon ejected her, she told TERA:

I had been practicing at Jivamukti for about three months or so, fairly regularly. The decision to practice topfree felt comfortable and joyful. (It was my first time being topfree in a non-commercial context.) I did it on two different occasions at this particular studio, in January of this year.

My interest in this studio stemmed from their political activist approach to yoga, specifically their interest in promoting compassion for all beings through animal rights and a vegan lifestyle. They also promote environmental awareness and activism of all kinds. This being the case, I thought that my choice to address the topic of topfreedom would be a welcome endeavor.

People complained to management after the first time that I did it. Someone also thanked me, though I doubt that the people who appreciated what I did ran to administration to say how much they supported it. So the unfortunate thing was that the management probably only heard from people who disapproved.

In any case, the experience was enlightening and has contributed to the path that I am on today. If they had allowed me to do so, I may have never gone topfree in other social contexts, as I am doing today in the form of activism. So for that, I am grateful.

 

2012 July 15. We draw attention to another site about topfree equality, TopFree Living, "celebrating and supporting the topfreedom movement." It has many photos and some reports; 42 pages now, going back nearly two years.

 

2012 July 13. The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society has advice for men:

If you happen upon a group of a dozen topless women sunning and reading and quietly enjoying themselves in Central Park, here is what you do. You walk on by.

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July 7, 2012 in Central Park, New York City

Maybe you take an appreciative glance as you pass, if you're so inclined. Maybe you sit down in your own quiet spot and enjoy your own book and bit of sunshine. Maybe you send a thumbs-up or a wave or a smile from a comfortable distance. To the many, many men who did just that, we give our thanks. You are mature adults.

Here's what you don't do: skulk slowly up to the group and stare hungrily as you pass, well within the personal-space boundary. Stand behind a nearby tree or rock and peep out as if we can't see you. (We can.) Gather one by one around us like you're reenacting a scene from The Birds or perhaps The Walking Dead. To the handful of men who did that, we say WTF? You don't have the Internet at home? Or any self-respect?

. . . If you like the existence of a group like ours (and presumably you do), don't act in such a way as to make it go away. Common sense, gents.

 

2012 July 12. Another woman has been walking topfree in New York City lately. And she knows what she's talking about.

It would also be good to hear of activity elsewhere!

 

2012 July 10. This woman was painted by the well-known artist Andy Golub today in Times Square, New York.

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2012 July 08. To mark yesterday's anniversary, Holly van Voast went topfree outside a Hooters restaurant in New York City. She was then detained by police, forced into an ambulance, and taken to a hospital "for mental evaluation."

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Holly van Voast, handcuffed, being forced into an ambulance
(photo by Gil Robichaud)

We know who needs mental evaluation, and it isn't Holly van Voast. We find what happened to her completely unacceptable, a serious abuse of power of the police.

Her impromptu statement is worth repeating:

I wanted to have a fun time eating chicken wings and honoring a day that is important to me. It wasn't even anything against Hooters for me. I just thought that it's funnier than doing a typical demonstration type event outside City Hall or something. I guess a lot of people would prefer me to be an activist, but so many activists and activist activities don't seem to have a sense of humor, and that is important to reach people, I feel.

 

2012 July 07. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the acquittal of the Rochester Topfree 7 in New York, the leading case in the USA on topfreedom to this day. Be sure to read excerpts of that famous court decision here.

A big thank you once more to these women and to all those who worked on this case with them!

It took six years for that acquittal in the highest New York court for this case, the Court of Appeals, after the initial arrest in 1986. Many people assume the case was won on the basis of equality under the Constitution. Unfortunately it was not, although that equality was mentioned by the judge who concurred in the decision but wrote his own (minority) opinion. TERA has presented those details.

 

2012 July 03. Two meta-news items today. First, this very good article about the Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society. It sure helps to have intelligent explanations, especially when they come from a group itself.

Second: someone posted a recent photo of Moira Johnston topfree on a New York City subway. In under 24 hours, the person noted "over 11,000 notes/reblogs and counting," with many favourable comments.

 

2012 June 28. Today we received a surprise: the logo for topfreedom that's below to the left. Although it doesn't express the equality idea, which is much of what TERA is about (as reflected in its logo, below right), we find it an imaginative graphic.

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Importantly, the Support Topfreedom logo (above left) is released into the public domain. Its creator does not want rights to it and has made its use easy: if you like it, use it. (TERA's logo must not be used without its permission.) As for who created it, we don't know.

There's also a derived breastfeeding symbol here.

 

2012 June 21. The annual Comfest in Goodale Park in Columbus, Ohio runs from noon tomorrow to 8 PM Sunday. Whereas organizers of most such events in America would decry topfree women or the attention given to their presence, volunteer Connie Everett has this to say about the subject:

I think if the parents make a big deal out of it, the kids will be freaked out. And if they don't, the kids might not even notice. I also would say that I don't think women's breasts are not family-friendly. I mean, they feed that family from the beginning.

We can't add anything to that!

 

2012 June 21. Although the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department still doesn't get it, it has reversed its bad decision on Jodi Jaecks. Do read what this woman has to say. Meanwhile, allowing or forbidding women to swim topfree on the basis of the size or condition of their breasts is beyond insulting, as is banishing Jodi Jaecks from children's swims.

 

2012 June 19. "Stupid" and "incredibly misguided" are words being applied to the recent action of Seattle Parks and Recreation. Jodi Jaecks wanted to swim topfree in a public pool after a double mastectomy but was told she couldn't. One point noted in this excellent report is that wearing a top is painful to her. Furthermore, the police there say that her swimming attire is lawful.

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(photo by Kelly O / The Stranger)

A Seattle Parks and Rec official has the vain ignorance to say that swimming attire must be acceptable to "people from different cultural backgrounds." If that had any merit, there would be no mixed-sex public swimming at all, and no Western swimsuits either. It's time to point out that excuse for the feeble manipulation it is.

 

2012 June 15. This just in: a sensible and important video interview with and about Moira Johnston. It's professionally made and not censored.

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Moira Johnston being interviewed for BreakThru Radio TV
(photo by permission of Lauren Hawker, host, interviewing Moira)

 

2012 June 10. In recent days and weeks, the longtime protests in Québec have involved more body exposure. Although protests are not our chief interest, some are notable, for how they proceed and what they mean. Exposure has several meanings, not merely defiance of a taboo.

In Montréal, although some women have been topfree, many have worn red patches over their nipples, a practice which is probably unnecessary and projects a mixed message, even if red has become a symbolic colour associated with the protests.

 

2012 June 07. Two similar, troubling events have been reported recently. They're described here and in the next item below.

First, an attempt to banish a statue in Overland Park, Kansas, because of its prominent female breasts. Of course, nude or partly clothed statues like this are situated all over America, until someone wants to make her or his problem everyone else's.

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This work, by Yu Chang, is called Accept or Reject. We find it a worthy creation, a vivid comment on "sexting" (or "naked selfies") and women's bodies in America. (That's a camera in the statue's left hand.) The complainant is certain, however, that this work of art will actually harm young people by making them imitate it. We'll ask: does the Statue of Liberty cause young people to go around holding up torches and books? (and wear spiky hats!)

The mayor of Overland Park has stated that the statue is staying, which doesn't satisfy the group taking on the complaint. That's the dishonestly misnamed "American Family Association" (whose acts of moral and spiritual degradation and destruction are rarely treated as such). Meanwhile, it demanded and received a sign placed in the park warning of the statue. All that does is create a problem that didn't exist.

The woman fomenting the problem, Joanne Hughes, says of the statue's obvious social point, "Why should we have to explain that to a 4- or 5-year-old?" To her we reply: "You don't."

 

2012 June 07. In Miami Beach, a woman has complained that women are topfree on South Beach, which they have been for as long as we can remember. Her point: topfree women are pornography and young boys are harmed by them. We've dealt with such comments many times. Here's our partial response:

The larger problem concerns the consequences in the society for the deplorable fetishization of women's breasts specifically and bodies generally. It's harmful to women and children. The young boy Ms. Azevedo is worried about will almost certainly have no problem until people like her tell him he must have one. Then he is taught the wrong attitudes that help to make women very second-class.

People like Ms. Azevedo usually don't know how to tell children how to deal with certain harmless situations like this, especially when they are outside their experience. That failing should not be the basis of taking away others' rights.

Predictably, a television station promoting this complaint tried to decide the issue for its viewers by mutilating the visual images accompanying its story. Below is a more appropriate image from South Beach, and typical:

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2012 June 07. A week from today TERA turns 15. More important is the 20th anniversary, on July 7, of the acquittal in New York of the Rochester Topfree 7!

 

2012 May 29. Yesterday, on the USA's Memorial Day, the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society was out in force in New York City, in Sheep Meadow in Central Park, near the John Lennon memorial area known as Strawberry Fields.

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From its site: ". . . we lounged and laughed and read, and even made a few converts---three young women a few yards away saw us and were bare-breasted themselves instants later. It's a movement! A revolution!"

That's very important: women who are topfree in situations like this provide terrific leadership. Then there's this: "It's legal for us too, and there is absolutely no reason you shouldn't do it anywhere a man can. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they're wrong. And the great thing about New York? Judging by our experience last Monday, no one will!"

Has anyone informed the New York Police Department? Repeatedly it needs a lesson in the law. And someone please tell the Huffington Post to stop labelling photos of topfree women "NSFW." That's presumptuous and patronizing, not to mention ridiculous.

There's no doubt that publicly reported topfree activities in New York are at a high level. Likely there are more that aren't reported. The unreported ones are just as good!

 

2012 May 26. Shortly after her arrest in New York, Moira Johnston was interviewed, many times, and her story went around the world. Here's one interview, an impromptu and slightly rough one, conducted by a lively guy who encounters objections in the form of "Jesus is coming" and "It's against God's law."

We have work to do. Incidentally, YouTube arbitrarily removes videos about Moira. Are we surprised? One such removal is here, another rough video notable for two things: the baseless "NSFW" warning, which completely contradicts the content of the video, and Moira's comment, "I feel great about it."

 

2012 May 25. At a book signing by Jimmy Fallon (of NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon) in New York City yesterday, a topfree Holly van Voast was escorted out of the Barnes & Noble store by an officer about a minute after she appeared there. Fallon appeared a bit flummoxed and made some predictable jokes.

The incident begins here at about 10:35 in.

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Holly van Voast being escorted out of Barnes & Noble

 

2012 May 24. Today it was announced anonymously on Kickstarter that a photographer wants to collect money to produce a book and other objects about being topfree in New York. He doesn't seem to know Jordan Matter's stunning and important book, and he doesn't get quite right the circumstances that brought about the 1992 acquittal of the Rochester 7.

He makes his photographs slightly difficult to find, except for a few that hide breasts; and an animated video made about the campaign censors all the women's breasts. Still, there's plenty of room for more awareness of this subject, whether through books or something else.

 

2012 May 16. Arrest in New York City. We received a report that this afternoon a topfree woman was arrested in New York: Moira Johnston, whose previous activities are presented here. The police threatened her, threw her in jail for an hour, and released her with no charges. The excuse: there were children in the vicinity.

New York's law recognizes the assumption that children will be harmed by seeing breasts to be false. Clearly that doesn't stop the police from self-righteously threatening and arresting women when they know or ought to know that their harassment goes against the law. Many NYC police behave responsibly about this issue. Regrettably, many don't.

Meanwhile, a big bravo to Moira Johnston.

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A New York City police officer forcing a top on Moira Johnston, May 16, 2012
(photo by BH)

Moira Johnston explains her position in this interview. Or here, with some discussion from Tinu, the videographer. YouTube had this up for a month until it sanctimoniously and unreasonably removed it.

 

2012 May 13. A garrulous report of a topfree woman in New York today is here. At least the author writes, "Everyone around me just kept on moving. I saw preteen boys, kids, mothers and fathers, men, and other solo women shopping. Not one person turned to gawk at this woman's bare breasts."

 

2012 May 10. A new book about breasts by Florence Williams is discussed here. Although the interview is balanced, we doubt that her comment on the safety of infant formula is justified, and she doesn't acknowledge (in the interview, at least) that insidious opposition to breastfeeding is a major cause of whatever difficulty there is in it.

 

2012 April 25. A recent ad in South Korea that was intended for an advertising forum and not wide release hit the blogosphere immediately, with all the usual ignorable comments. The complaints should be about an infant implied to be ingesting an Oreo cookie, not the rest of the image.

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2012 April 20. Yesterday, a student at the University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras campus) was arrested for her recent action there for which she was topfree. Charlene Jane González de Jesús understands the issue of topfree equality. A video of her on YouTube by Ivania Zayas has her explaining a few things (in Spanish):

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(A week later, this report said she had been taken to a psychiatric hospital after a similar event, a common tactic of authorities all over the USA on encountering topfree women. Comprehensive analysis from Puerto Rico is here, noting that the university tried to suppress information about its incident.)

 

2012 April 06. This week, Moira Johnston sent us photos of her topfree visit to Union Square in New York City, on March 22 and 23, which were warm days there. Although that's the location of New York's ongoing Occupy protest, her presence wasn't connected to that.

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Photo top left by Cecil Sánchez

She has a serious message, which relates in her current undertaking to not being allowed to do yoga topfree at various yoga studios that have public access. She puts it very simply: "Practicing yoga topless is a sacred and healing act; it encourages people to overcome their fears about their sexuality and their bodies. It's also more comfortable." More specifically, we have this report:

"As of April 2, 2012, the New York State Division of Human Rights is taking action to correct a civil rights violation imposed upon Johnston. A total of 13 yoga studios unlawfully denied the student equal rights to men in a public accommodation. The yoga studios permit men to practice topfree but said women were required to wear a top. The studios are located in New York City, where all women have the right to be to-free anywhere people can be topfree.

"Johnston has filed a complaint against several yoga studios. The complaint addresses the issue of gender discrimination in a public accommodation. The studios will be required to prove that they allow equal privileges to all people, including the privilege to be topfree."

 

2012 March 31. Yesterday this notice appeared about Phoenix Feeley's continuing attempt to force the state of New Jersey to recognize topfree equality for women. Although New Jersey does not have a record that suggests it will rule in her favour, her position is irreproachable and should be supported. This is her e-mail address.

Her notice for an April Fool's party, "Fools for Freedom," to raise awareness and funds contained a variety of entertainment, some of which related to her struggle. Last year, this photo of Phoenix and a complaining woman, by Debbie Egan-Chin, won a photojournalism prize.

 

2012 March 24. This fine article by Orlagh McGlade about topfree equality appeared last week in the student newspaper of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

 

2012 March 18. The Ukrainian women's group Femen has continued its topfree protests in Ukraine and outside it, including in Turkey. (Unusually for the USA, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer carried uncensored photos of the Turkey event online.) Here's an article presenting both sides, for and against what Femen does.

 

2012 February 29. Holly van Voast was arrested last month for being topfree in a church in New York City. She faces multiple charges. Her attorney may be the justly famous Ron Kuby.

Her recent video on her activities is here. We find it clear and confusing at the same time. What does this person stand for? What are the reasons the media treat her unkindly?

 

2012 February 14. We haven't commented on Femen in a while. The group has been busy. Meanwhile, this photo of Femen's Inna Shevchenko won a World Press photo award recently. The photographer is Guillaume Herbaut.

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The article about the photo by Madeleine Corcoran is certainly worth reading. She explains clearly the implications of the Warrior Woman coming from this photo.

 

2012 February 13. The protest against Facebook came and went, with much notice around the world and no change from Facebook, which continues to delete breastfeeding photos as recklessly and egregiously as ever. Many reports quoted Facebook's "policy" as if it is believeable (see the next item below for why it is not). Most got details about the protest or TERA's photo collection substantially wrong.

One of the better pieces on this from last week is here.

The only thing Facebook understands is public or commercial pressure, or government or legal action. Private letters sent to Facebook about this are ignored. As for the many discussions on Facebook itself, Facebook can monitor them while laughing at them. Its format is designed to thwart both meaningful discussion and useful assembly of information.

We acknowledge with admiration and thanks the work of Emma Kwasnica, Jodine Chase, and many others in making the world more aware of both breastfeeding and Facebook's atrocious attitude towards it.

 

2012 February 05. We note that February 6 and 7 are days of protest (in North America-Europe and Australia-New Zealand respectively) against Facebook's continual large-scale removal of breastfeeding photos. Facebook is engaging in the biggest campaign of harassment against breastfeeding women on the Internet.

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Emma Kwasnica's daughter Sophie breastfeeding at the age of 1 day,
a photograph a nameless Facebook employee removed under
Facebook's claim that it is obscene or pornographic, and
harmful to children

None of Facebook's statements on this subject is true. The following is TERA's analysis of them:

1. Facebook: Our policy is: no photos of nudity.
Response: Breastfeeding is not nudity, regardless of how it’s done. Not in the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia, Latin American countries, or most others. Is Facebook based in a small country somewhere?

2. Facebook: We think breastfeeding is important and approve of it.
Response: No, you don’t. You’ve banned thousands of photos of it. And what about Mary and Jesus? Their breastfeeding is in many paintings in world-famous museums. You call those obscene and pornographic and ban them too.

3. Facebook: We remove photos only after careful review.
Response: Not true. You’ve banned photos of breastfeeding that include paintings, animals, women, men, people fully clothed, and much more that shows no review and no care.

4. Facebook: We remove photos that are obscene or pornographic.
Response: Really! See points 2 and 3. And who appointed you the world’s moralistic photo vigilantes? Especially since you show such poor judgement.

5. Facebook: We apologize when we remove a photo by mistake.
Response: You’re really apologizing to yourself for getting caught doing something wrong. You refuse to listen to users. You threaten them for beautiful, important, and lawful photos. You hide behind nonsense.

6. Facebook: Our policy protects children and our users’ diversity.
Response: Show us how photos of women breastfeeding harm children or anyone else. You protect only your deplorable attitude and behavior.

7. Facebook: Our policy is just like most newspapers’ policy.
Response: Is Facebook a small-town print newspaper? Isn’t it a large organization on the Internet---like Google, Vimeo, and Wikipedia? They don’t behave capriciously, which you do. They also show respect for users, allowing them to decide for themselves what to look at. What a concept!

Facebook, you owe your users honesty and sense. STOP BANNING PHOTOS OF BREASTFEEDING.

Note: one of the best articles on why this campaign against Facebook is important is by Ann Douglas, here.

 

2012 January 26. A woman was sunbathing topfree on a New Zealand beach recently. Police were called but said the behaviour was lawful. Our NZ correspondent singled this out of the news report: ". . . the middle-aged woman was not approaching anyone and was about 20 metres from the nearest group of sunbathers." She went on to write to TERA, ". . . as though being any nearer or, horror of horrors, walking toward others at some point, would have made being topless a threatening, indecent, illegal act."

 

2012 January 17. Last December, a few topfree women and others protested outside the house of a city councillor of Eugene, Oregon. Last week, the bill to keep them in check topped $13,000, for a fence and police patrols. Not exactly what we'd mean by topfree power, especially when the councillor called the protestors "terrorists."

 

2012 January 12. A few days ago, the American television actor AnnaLynne McCord posted this photo of herself on Twitter:

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The chattering blogosphere went wild, of course. America is so obsessed with nipples that even this photo, probably deliberately posted, was commented on endlessly by celebrity gossip fans.

 

2012 January 09. In New Orelans this week, a topfree fan of the University of Alabama team before its game with Louisiana State University:

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Body paint is common in New Orelans around Mardi gras as well as at other events such as Fantasy Fest in Key West (Florida) and the various naked bike rides around North America in the late spring.

 

2012 January 08. Recently, some people have suggested that Facebook's longstanding censorship of breastfeeding photos has eased. It has not. If anything, it is worse than ever. Facebook's continuing claim that such photos are harmful if it deems them to be is as close to culturally insane as one may get in this subject.

The latest banned photo that we know of was posted on Facebook by Emma Kwasnica, a well-known women's advocate. It is below. Our further comment and Emma's statement may be found with this photo towards the bottom of this page.

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Daughter Sophie and Emma Kwasnica, pregnant with her third child Chloë

There you will also learn of Facebook's inexcusable action against Emma's colleague Jodine Chase. Facebook's intimidation and bullying remind us of the lies and destruction of totalitarian states, even if they're "only" about photographs and not coming from a government.

 

2011 December 31. One of the best articles on the subject of topfree equality is recent and here. It mentions a few points that are rarely raised and discusses commoner ones well also.

 

2011 December 30. In one of the odder coincidences that the media love to pounce on, in the past week two topfree businesses were in the news. The coffee shop in Maine that burned down in 2009 was the subject of an arson trial, now concluded. In Québec, a restaurant was told to have its servers cover their breasts.

Neither place was interested in topfree equality but was more after the sexual lure of women's breasts (the restaurant in Montréal probably more than the shop in Vassalboro). But what about a topfree commercial enterprise, with both men and women servers? Do the multiple characteristics of breasts and men's heterosexual interests make that unlikely to succeed? Or is there a way? Or should all servers just remain fully dressed?

 

2011 December 09. It was 15 years ago today that Gwen Jacob was acquitted of indecency for her topfree walk in Guelph, Ontario. In a brave if bewildering act, on the hot July 18 and 19, 1991, she accepted the final prod (dare?) from a university friend, took off her top, and walked about Guelph. As a result of that simple but defiant and liberating step, not easy to take, the women of Ontario and probably all of Canada gained another important step in respect, equality, and freedom.

With my hands shaking furiously, I took my shirt off and jammed it down the back of my shorts . . . I was scared to death [but] nearly euphoric . . . Although it took five years to actually win the case in court, I won right then, and no---I was just waiting for the rest of them to catch up with me . . . I didn't really mean to start a movement. I was just trying to catch a breeze. I was 19 years old! I wasn't interested in becoming an international celebrity! . . . It was a basic issue, a basic issue of personal rights and freedoms, and the government doesn't have any right to go there.
--- Gwen Jacob in 2011, in the first substantial interview she had given in many years.

(The interview is here, from 36:14 to 54:28.)

 

2011 November 25. The best statement we've ever seen about Facebook's inept, immature disgust with and censorship of women's breasts is here. Please read it!

 

2011 November 15. In this video, presumably from a few days ago, a topfree Holly van Voast is escorted off a train in New York City by several police She declines their request to put on a top.

 

2011 November 12. GWEN JACOB RETURNS. The person who changed topfreedom in Canada 20 years ago has come out to voice her perspective and get things done.

On July 19, 1991, Gwen Jacob was arrested for indecency for her topfree walk in Guelph, Ontario. It took her five gruelling years to be acquitted. After that, she gave very few interviews, and none at all in recent years. But in August last year, she appeared at the Topfreedom Day of Pride in Guelph, and something clicked.

Today she appears in a major newspaper, as determined as ever. Topfreedom isn't the main issue, but if there's anyone who can connect that to other major issues, especially surrounding women, Gwen Jacob is the person. She is the most eloquent of all the spokespeople coming from this subject in its history in North America.

As today's article concludes: "Welcome back, Gwen Jacob."

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Gwen Jacob with her young daughter in the mid-1990s

 

2011 November 10. Yesterday a woman in Corpus Christi, Texas, was arrested for being topfree in a store. The reports on this vary; all we've seen are poor. A few say she was arrested on "suspicion of disorderly conduct."

Being topfree for a woman in Corpus Christi is legal.

 

2011 November 09. Yesterday in New York, Holly van Voast spent several hours waiting to "flash" Bill Clinton. As a photographer taking his picture, okay. In the body sense, she was not doing any flashing, because she remained topfree the whole time. However, Clinton saw her suddenly for an instant on leaving the Barnes & Noble bookstore. May we still say he was "flashed"? Interesting linguistic question.

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The last photo here gives a "Clinton's eye view" of Holly van Voast, essentially the moment above from the former President's perspective.

Another question: does the entire NYPD now understand that it's legal for women to be topfree in New York? We doubt it.

 

2011 November 07. The case against the topfree walker of the imaginary dog in New York City has been dismissed, according to the person herself. She adds: "The lawyer said she had a whole discourse ready about the nature and history of performance art, but we never got to hear it!"

 

2011 November 04. Holly van Voast, self-described "topless paparazzo," taking a photo of Bill Cosby in New York City.

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Photo by Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York

Here's another photo of her, next to a police officer.

 

2011 November 03. Janet Jackson's right nipple, seen on CBS for 9/16 of a second in the distance nearly eight years ago, was in court (so to speak) again this week. The federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia re-ruled that the FCC had no right to fine CBS for that incident.

The arguments are needlessly complicated, and the FCC has learned nothing. We repeat that the complaints to the FCC about the nipple exposure were almost all generated as form letters from one fanatically repressive and dishonest group, and were sent in mostly by people who probably didn't see the broadcast. We have no comment on the broadcast context of the incident, only the court case that goes on and on, wasting a lot of time and money in the interest of pedantic, obsessive, manipulative prudery . . . all for the star-spangled nipple that bombed bursting on air.

 

2011 October 30. A week ago, Holly van Voast was given a summons for breaking New York law for being topfree. We have no further comment, except to note that the court decision nearly 20 years ago acquitting the Rochester 7 (women) for being topfree was not "all-inclusive." Holly van Voast: "It is really hard for me to believe that what I am doing is bad for anyone . . . legally or otherwise."

 

2011 October 29. Women having had breast cancer are being photographed and exhibited in an art gallery by Michael Colanero of Fort Lauderdale, Florida in an ongoing project to assist them and others like them. The unique aspect is that he has had two artists, Keegan Hitchcock (mostly) and Luci Ungerbuehler, paint their bodies first.

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Two women in the project, painted as (l.) Bamboo & Butterflies and (r.) African Sun

More results, and testimonials from several women, may be seen in this video, from a WLRN broadcast. The project's website is here.

Facebook, of course, is removing the images from its site. Its claim that such photos are pornographic and harm children was a bigoted lie when it was first fabricated four years ago. Meanwhile, the images are being sold on various objects through Cafe Press.

 

2011 October 28. Today the Financial Times has carried an article by Gillian Tett, a British woman in the USA. Among other things, it describes how her daughter was forced by others to wear a top --- at the age of 5. (We haven't linked to the article, because it presents a pop-up requiring registration.) That's very similar to what happened to Anne Sabo's even younger daughter.

 

2011 October 27. A few weeks ago, Holly van Voast (sometimes known as Harvey van Toast) appeared in a court and exposed her breasts there. Although the court was not amused, no immediate penalty was applied. Van Voast often goes about New York City topfree. She notes, "I hate being an introvert and walking around New York City topless with a drawn on moustache for my branding image marketing work. I love my ideas but don’t look forward to executing them."

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On a bus in New York City

The news media suggest that she's a crank. Whatever she is, sending her to court for being topfree makes no sense. The media also still mislabel topfree women (but not men) as naked/nude. Holly van Voast's slogan, "tits for entertainment, not for protest," is also a problem.

 

2011 October 22. A week ago, a North Carolina newspaper printed this photo of women dressed as breasts, in reporting on a breast cancer fundraising event.

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A few days ago, a woman wrote in to the paper and complained about the photo, stating, "Lest you think I'm an old prude---well, I am."

 

2011 October 19. Campaigns about breast cancer in North America do not make use of breasts visually. They hide them, believing falsely that the false notions about women's breasts that rule this continent make anything else impossible. We think the media are protecting vested interests and are far behind what the populace would be in favour of.

Here's a campaign in France that does things differently. Yes, there are big commerical interests involved. And although the picture at the top at that link is poor, the one at the bottom is better, saying simply, "Last year this woman showed her breasts. She saved her life."

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Should the photo be of an older woman? One with cancer? Regardless, the notion is that various procedures involved in early detection save women's lives. Nothing makes that point visually more effectively than breasts, of some sort. When will North America get it?

 

2011 October 11. Here's a fine article on recent activities of New York's Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society. The OCTPFAS is well spoken. Warning: the article contains more evidence that a significant segment of the NYPD is clueless about the legality of topfreedom for women. One of the participants wrote the following for TERA:

I had a great time meeting the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society in Central Park for a topfree hang-out. A few cops gave us trouble at first and asked us to cover up. For OCTPFAS it was the first time they've ever been hassled by police (out of the eight times they've met up), but for me it reconfirmed that some cops just don't know the law!

The officers were calm and friendly in their approach and apologized . . . I just hope it didn't further intimidate the women who witnessed it. I hope also that OCTPFAS and YNA [Young Naturists America] can empower more women to take advantage of going topfree and be ready, if approached, to confidently inform police/people it's legal!

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Topfree reading in New York City on possibly the last really warm day of the year. The author of the words above is in both photos. She was arrested for being topfree in the same city in August.

 

2011 October 09. Recently the performance artist Sinéad O'Donnell and Paul Couillard walked topfree in Toronto for two hours. Here's a short clip of that with her brief comments.

 

2011 October 04. On October 1, New York City held its SlutWalk, to help end sexual and domestic violence. The walks started when a Toronto policeman advised women not to dress "like sluts" to avoid being assaulted. They have occurred on various dates in many cities worldwide and often have a few topfree women in them potentially making, we think, a good point about clothing and breasts. No police interference with anyone in the recent New York SlutWalk has been reported.

slutwalk.jpg
photo by Denise Ginley

One analysis of the SlutWalk phenomenon in New York is here.

 

2011 October 01. A fine recent article on the topfree situation in New York and New Jersey is here, written by Dr. David Bottger. We think his analysis repays close attention.

 

2011 September 30. The charges against the topfree protesters in Honolulu have been dropped.

 

2011 September 28. Last month, the artist Fideelia-Signe Roots decided to walk topfree more than 150 km from Tartu to Karepa, Estonia, as a five-day performance.

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Although there may be no law against this, police (reminding us of the American tendency) charged her with public disorder, before dropping the case. Claiming that forbidding women to be topfree would go against the country's equality law, Fideelia-Signe Roots has written to an equality commissioner for clarification.

We recommend her discussion of her journey and the video she made of it, which involved sore feet and some poor weather, plus comments, many of which are unfortunately what we'd expect from any Western country. (English is available throughout.) We might nonetheless hope that Estonia is small enough for people to be more readily educated about the issues Fideelia-Signe raises so well. We quote from her analysis:

Biologically men’s and women’s breasts are made of the same tissue and parts. All over the world, women want to decide by themselves what part of their body is sexual and what is not and when. As long as female breasts are sexual, capitalist society can sell them. Thus, barebreasted women work against the system and are seen as criminals. Police arrest them, fine them, and put them in jail even in New York City, where bare breasts are legal.

Here's her flag. Bravo to this enterprising and inspiring artist!

fideelia.jpg

 

2011 September 27. About 250 topfree women took part in a photo shoot in Kansas City recently. Reason: to raise breast cancer awareness.

In all the poses, the women were photographed with their backs to the camera. Result: body shame, body phobia, and defeating the message.

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One Kansas City TV station falsely said the women were "baring it all" and "naked." Result: more ignorance, more superficiality, more trivialization of a disease.

 

2011 September 27. For the past ten days or so, a small, largely unorganized protest has taken place on New York's Wall Street that went unreported in mainstream media for several days. Some topfree women have been mistreated by police, some have been left alone. Some police, it appears, wrongly told women they had to wear tops.

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On Wall Street in September 2011
photo on left by Stephanie Keith, on right by Desiree Arroyo

A video from September 21 is here. There are many others, including of indiscriminate use of blinding spray and of mass arrests that occurred on the 24th.

 

2011 September 22. A statue probably of a goddess of abundance in England has been restored to its rightful topfree state. It was probably covered up nearly 300 years ago.

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Left: before; right: after --- actually the other way around!

 

2011 September 21. In Honolulu at Gotopless.org's rally on August 21, Tess and Jamie Meier, a topfree wife and husband, were cited for not having a permit. The local ACLU took on their case and has asked that it be dismissed, for more than one reason. "The police," said Tess Meier, "basically didn't like what we had to say, didn't like the way we were doing it, and just found whatever they could to get us off the street." At least seven police officers were sent to the scene: is that a waste of money or what?

Certainly the First Amendment protects things like Gotopless.org's rallies/protests, including this one. But we must ask: are women allowed to be topfree only when they are protesting or advocating something? Topfree equality is not equality if it is limited to that.

 

2011 September 15. The Gotopless.org's Asheville event, referred to a few times below, had an organizer who wrote this response to the opportunistic politicians who have complained about it.

 

2011 September 14. Phoenix Feeley's right to sunbathe topfree in New Jersey in 2008 was rejected today when an appeals court ruled against her, citing the usefulness of the law to protect "the public's moral sensibilities." Other courts have rejected that as a basis for decisions in similar matters. The New Jersey decision continues America's well-known body phobia and treatment of women as unequal to men.

Phoenix explains her position in this video. Note the words of someone from the preposterously and insidiously misnamed American Family Association who says she is "evil." (The American Family Association is a far-right Christianist group known for its massive intolerance.)

Here's a photo of Phoenix being yelled at by a woman at Coney Island, New York.

 

2011 September 08. We have two exclusive photos of women who were, shall we say, anti-anti-topfreedom on August 28 in Asheville, North Carolina. Thanks go to the photographer, who took many photos on both August 28 and August 21. (His statement that one of the complainants in Asheville is correct about North Carolina law is, however, incorrect. The complainant remains a political opportunist who is misusing language grotesquely to try to get himself into the media.)

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The topfree woman in the left photo (and on the right in the right photo) was arrested, for taking off all her clothes. (Given the situation, we don't think that arrest makes sense, although that subject goes beyond the scope of TERA.) In trying to force clothing on her (left photo), the person to her right is probably committing an assault.

 

2011 September 06. This interview appeared today with an organizer of the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society in New York City. Among other things, she says: "Despite female toplessness being legal, there are very few who take advantage of it. We are hoping to go from this being something taboo to something of social inconsequence."

 

2011 September 05. At the Gotopless.org rally in Honolulu last month, a woman was stopped because she had no permit. We heard that the police changed the citation to "disorderly conduct," although that was incorrect.

honolulu.jpg

The bottom sign is notable for its reference to the closest thing the USA has to an equal rights amendment in its constitution: the 14th Amendment. The two signs in the upper left, which have appeared in other places, are especially appropriate to this subject. (This photo is probably from a similar event that day, not in Honolulu.)

The word censored in conjunction with the tape over nipples seems equally appropriate here.

 

2011 September 04. A few days ago, a woman protested topfree at the Ottawa Sun against its policy of censoring women's nipples in the newspaper.

 

2011 September 02. On August 31 in Paris, France, six fully dressed women who were to take part in a topfree event were detained by police until the time for the event had passed. (The report on this contains much unverified material.)

 

2011 September 01. A letter from TERA's Co-ordinator about the Toronto topfree event August 28 is here.

 

2011 August 29. Yesterday the two failed politicians in Asheville, North Carolina who unilaterally declared exposed female breasts to be "child sexual abuse" staged an anti-topfree demonstration there. It was sparsely attended. Two women who showed up took their tops off, thus repeating and prolonging the topfree action that the complainants supposedly want to prevent.

One of the complainants says he will provide photos of child sexual abuse from the August 21 topfree rally. If he believes his own pompous, egregious nonsense, then he should turn himself in for possession of child pornography.

 

2011 August 28. On August 21, the "other" topfree New York City protest we referred to in our August 25 report took place in Central Park. A colourful, personable account is here. There were yoga, various games, and hoola hooping. In contrast to what went on in Columbus Circle the same day, "we chose to go the more laid-back route, quietly making topfreedom look more normal and fun." Note also: "a big family had a picnic right next to us, and they hardly batted an eye."

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In Central Park, New York, August 21, 2011. The woman at the bottom left
was falsely arrested in the same city for the same thing only a few weeks earlier!

 

2011 August 28. A new venture has arisen in New York, a different sort of outing, which lasts between one and three hours:

In New York State it's been legal since 1992 for women to go topfree in public anywhere a man can, but how many women actually do? Very few. And often it's not because they wouldn't like to, it's because they're scared to do it by themselves. That led a couple of us to create what we call the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, a sort of book club that meets up in parks and other public spaces in New York City to read cool, fun books, only without shirts or bikini tops on. At a typical meeting we have 3-8 people, mostly women, though usually also a guy or two. We bring towels, sunscreen, water, sunglasses for a bit of anonymity, and books, and have a great time. We've met at 8 locations so far, and not heard a single negative comment at any of them. (A few annoying gawkers have asked for photos, but that's been the worst of it. And even they have been polite about it.)

New York weather being what it is, we're coming up on the end of the outdoor topfree reading season, but we hope to start it up again in the spring. In the meantime, here are some photos from our events; you can find more at our blog.

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Above left: Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. Above right: Sheep Meadow, Central Park. Below: Battery Park (the male friend then joined in topfree)

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2011 August 28. Today topfree protests, arranged by Gotopless.org, were held in Canada in two cities. Brief reports from Toronto are here and here. The event there was festive but not untroubled. The Toronto Department of Parks, Forestry, and Recreation had denied the organizers a permit, which one well-known lawyer says they did not need in the first place. The protesters decided not to use park land and to create a petition to ask city officials to recognize their rights.

The women had the right to be topfree because of the Gwen Jacob ruling of 1996 from the Ontario Court of Appeal. The Parks Department was completely out of line in not recognizing that. That calls not for a petition but for action against the Department.

We remain puzzled by the angel wings some women wore. (The Italian captions in that set of photos are incorrect.)

 

2011 August 25. The annual "Go Topless Day" on August 21, sponsored by the American website Gotopless.org, gained much publicity. There were rallies of varying size in cities in Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, California, Hawaii, New York, Florida, Oregon, D. C., and possibly elsewhere. In some locations, it is already legal for women to be topfree; the rallies were held to demonstrate the social point of it as well as the need to stop harassing or arresting topfree women, regardless of what the laws are.

Gotopless.org is to be congratulated for organizing these events. The misunderstanding and conflicts surrounding this issue remain, because progress has been slow. But there are more positive things being said about topfree equality these days than ever before.

This photo is from New York City, where there was more than one event. (The second event is mentioned in one of the August 28 posts, above.)

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Photo by Paul Katcher

Note the sign for "equal topless rights for all or none." TERA does not suggest that choice: see comments below.

The event in Washingon, D. C. had only five participants but still made its point. A similar number gathered in San Francisco. There were even fewer in Honolulu, where participants were cited for not having a permit. Since when does freedom of assembly, speech, and expression require a permit?

This video is from Asheville, North Carolina. YouTube took down one video from Asheville but (as of today) left this one in place.

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As in other cities, the event in Asheville involved elements of celebration, circus, and expression of rights. In Santa Cruz, California, women were topfree in a demonstration for breast cancer awareness.

Some people explained the day well, and some said things that were unhelpful. There were far more media reports, photos, and videos of the various rallies than we can discuss, many falsely proclaiming "nudity." Some noted Gotopless's connection to Raëlians and disparaged or dismissed the demonstrations or topfree equality for that reason.

Men wearing bras make a humorous point about equality but also suggest making the two sexes equal by repressing both. ("Yeah! Men are ugly! Let's make everyone wear tops!") Equality is better demonstrated by women and men both being topfree, for legal and social purposes alike.

Another photo from Asheville.

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Photo by Clark

The sign held aloft reads "Respect our freedom & beauty." However, if this is about beauty, it opens the way for rights to be based on a person's appearance.

Far worse than that is a complaint launched claiming that Gotopless.org, the city of Asheville, its police, its main newspaper, and (get this) the parents of children at the event are all guilty of "conspiring to support child sexual abuse." The two complainants are failed local politicians looking for cheap and easy publicity by telling lies about the event.

A further, unrelated take on the Asheville demonstration is here. In Venice, California, a protestor against topfreedom and some unrelated concepts was removed by police. Also in Venice, some women wore nipple covers.

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Photo by Tom Andrews

The amusing covers show the absurdity of this censorship. Although they also hint at protection against arrest, they acquiesce to the wrong attitudes that make topfree demonstrations necessary. We note that women without those or other covers were not arrested in Venice. However, the possibility to use covers may have brought more women to participate, and one woman's tape across her breasts that read "censored" made a good point.

 

2011 August 21. Yesterday two women walked on the same streets in Guelph, Ontario as Gwen Jacob when she was arrested there 20 years ago. They encountered very few problems, although this article makes it clear the issue is still ambiguous to some, if not conflicted.

 

2011 August 19. Today Andy Golub was back in Times Square painting bodies. Too many reports were less than serious and claimed that topfree models are "nude." That error frames everything wrongly. (Equal sloppiness may be observed in the headline "Nude painter back in Times Square.") The following photo from the event is from an uncommonly uncensored frame in this YouTube video.

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At one point the police came around and told the model, Marla Mera, to put on a top. They were wrong to do so. If the crowd was too thick, the police had other ways to thin it than to blame someone who was engaged in a legal activity.

 

2011 August 18. Here's a professionally made video about Femen's protest on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Much of the video doesn't use words. Russian is spoken, and a little English.

 

2011 August 11. Although aspects of it are problematic, this is a fun little video made for gotopless.org, in advance of its annual day for topfreedom, August 21, 2011.

 

2011 August 10. Andy Golub may be one of the world's finest body painters. Recently, he's been painting bodies (women and men, although more women) in Times Square in New York City. Few problems arose, until he and two of his models were arrested on July 30. The models may have been nude (not topfree), but even that should not bring arrest, because Spencer Tunick posed many nude models in New York five times and definitively won a court case allowing him to continue his by now world-famous photographic performances.

Meanwhile, one of Andy's topfree models in a striking photo by asterix611:

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2011 August 09. At a beer festival in Toronto on August 7, Jeanette Martin was told by a security guard to put her top back on. This is how she looked with it off:

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Photo by Andrea Houston

This article dredges up the old notion that the way a woman dresses makes her responsible for others' behaviour. More than that, it implies that women without a top (or in a bra), including at a festival of this sort, are inciting others to assault them. Even though the security supervisor apologized to Jeanette Martin, she should apologize to all women for her unwarranted assumptions.

 

2011 August 08. The Topfreedom Day of Pride scheduled for Guelph, Ontario on August 20, 2011 has been cancelled for lack of funding. (The announced national go topless day for later in the month has nothing to do with TERA.)

 

2011 August 05. We've been informed that a year and a half struggle is over. John Martzouco wanted to register a name for a club dealing with convertible cars: Topless Montreal. In January 2010, he was informed that the name could not be registered in Québec because it represented something "immoral, obscene, or scandalous." Appeals and ombuds intervention finally got through to the Registrar of Businesses in Québec City. On July 7, 2011 it relented, with no apology for its initial stupidity and its clinging to it. Probably the refusal had its source in one ignorant bureaucrat, although the office itself behaved unprofessionally.

John's log of this sorry saga is here. (Note some of the names the Registrar had permitted while refusing Topless Montreal.) We praise his research, diligence, expression, and persistence!

 

2011 August 01. Mistreatment by NYPD on Wall Street. At 07:00 today, art devised by Zefrey Throwell called Ocularpation was produced on Wall Street. It involved 50 volunteers enacting typical tasks of people on the street, including those of a janitor and a dog walker. The actors eventually removed their clothes, to indicate the vulnerability and loss continuing from 2008 as a result of actions of Wall Street institutions that are allegedly unchanged three years later. Then the performers got dressed. The whole thing was over in five minutes.

Regardless of political or financial opinion, it makes sense to us as art. Most people on the street loved it, whether or not they understood it. But the pretend dog walker, a woman, was arrested for being topfree. The police officer who arrested her insulted her and ordered her to put her top on. Read her calm but colourful account here.

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Above left: the topfree woman walks her imaginary dog on Wall Street. Above right: Fully dressed, she is handcuffed and and waits with a police officer.

Memo to NYPD: it's been legal for 19 years for women to be topfree in New York State. In 2007, Phoenix Feeley won her suit against you after you had the brazen ignorance to arrest and mistreat her in 2005 for being topfree. And you know, the police are not appointed to be critics of art, morals, mental condition, or anything else --- only to uphold the law, which you did not do.

The topfree woman on Wall Street and others informed the police that what she was doing was legal. They neither respected that nor checked it. We sense false arrest and other abuses.

(Two men were also arrested but in our view should not have been.)

 

2011 August 01. In our second story from today, Linda Meyer, the most successful topfree activist in North America, was stopped for walking topfree on the Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. She has often walked topfree there. This time she was followed and harrassed by a police officer who then "had to" call for "help" in the form of two more police cars. All three cars proceeded to stop in the middle of the highway.

It's amazing how much tax money has to be wasted to annoy a woman who has done nothing wrong. Linda told the police that. No bystander had even complained (not that that should matter). The police did not even ask her to put on her top. Good thing they didn't --- Linda is a fiery one when mistreated.

After a long phone conversation, a police sergeant apologized. But Linda is looking for a bit more than that. She's right that it isn't her job to educate the police repeatedly.

 

2011 August 01. It's been a bizarre day for North American topfree rights (see the above two items). The better, "normal" news is next.

In pursuing her points in Northfield, Minnesota, Quizzical Mama found that a pool supervisor was "open to my request that 'proper swimwear' not be further defined beyond safety, which would include swim diapers for diapered babies; no street wear whose fibers can clog the pool filters; and no loose strings or other that could be a safety hazard."

This is all to be discussed at an official meeting in Northfield in September. For now, this is an admission of sense, and therefore a victory for a girl aged 3, who should not be ordered to wear a top. What will happen in September? Stay tuned.

 

2011 July 31. Today's anatomy lesson.

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2011 July 30. After a World Cup quarter-final soccer game between Brazil and the USA on July 10, ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) uploaded the picture below, left of the Americans' Abby Wambach and Hope Solo. Compare it to the original photo below, right. Besides brightening the photo too much, ESPN censored Hope Solo's left nipple.

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The arrow on the photo on the left represents the animated .gif of both, to be found here. What would ESPN do with a photo like the one below of Hope Solo, which is clearly twice as immoral?

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Thanks to Kate Hansen for bringing this nonsense to our attention. (Anyone remember Brandi Chastain from 1999?)

 

2011 July 29. A few days ago, a fine article by "Quizzical Mama" appeared about her 3-year-old daughter being required to wear a top at a swimming pool in Northfield, Minnesota.

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Mom with topfree daughter in June 2011, on a beach in Norway.
Obscene, isn't it!

One standard line often dragged out about swimming is wearing "proper attire." This always seems enforced by the person with the least understanding or the most problems.

We have news about this. "Proper attire" almost always means you can't swim in street clothes, because their fibres would clog pool filters. It has nothing to do with how little you may wear. As the author suggests, if you sexualize little girls by absurd clothing rules, you create the exact opposite situation to what you want.

America's misplaced, aggrandized prudery is harmful to children.

 

2011 July 28. Many articles appeared about the 20th anniversary of Gwen Jacob's arrest in Guelph, Ontario. Few are any good. Most say little or repeat assumptions that were never correct. Three of the better articles are here, here, and here, although they contain errors. (It would be nice too if all reporters could just get the name Jacob right.)

Another article that deals with the general subject of breasts among several related others is here. It's by a lawyer in Santa Monica, California.

 

2011 July 26. About a month ago, in late June, at the Pride Parade in NewYork City, this woman came running towards someone's cellphone camera.

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Police and others scarcely seemed to notice. That should be the result at all other times as well.

 

2011 July 16. In three days will be the 20th anniversary of the arrest of Gwen Jacob in Guelph, Ontario, for walking topfree. Although articles about this have already appeared, we'll wait to comment until we see what else develops.

Everyone should know that Gwen's persistence and vision saw her through to being acquitted of a charge of indecency some five years later, on December 9, 1996. (That's not a great time in much of North America to celebrate anything outdoors topfree.) Hers is one of two major acquittals in the past 20 years that set the precedent and the tone for the issue behind this association's existence. As we've said before, she remains the most eloquent person (even if speaking infrequently) on the subject of women's topfreedom and the wide range of issues it pertains to.

Here's to Gwen Jacob!

 

2011 July 09. The Madison, Wisconsin women charged last year for being topfree in a World Nake Bike Ride appear to have won, finally. Madison has adopted an indecency ordinance that clearly allows what went on in that ride (and this year's). Restarting the prosecution against the women is almost impossible. Politically it really is impossible.

Bravo to all the women who persisted against those charges. Meanwhile, this, from an enlightened Madison alderperson: "We have to be very careful when we start legislating around our own personal morality. It is not illegal to make people uncomfortable."

Whether women may be topfree in Madison under conditions not involving obvious protest or expression is now an important question. Women's breasts should not have to be making a statement to be visible legally, using the First Amendment. Men's don't.

 

2011 July 06. A fine article in the Guelph Mercury (Ontario, Canada) posted today presents a preview of this year's Topfreedom Day of Pride in the same city. From the Facebook page for the event:

This year the festival will be incorporating more aspects than last year; such as a larger stage on which musicians and bands will play, a spoken word stage that will host local spoken word artists and a couple DJs at night, a family learning area where everyone is welcome to learn some art and dance from members of the community, an artist village where local artists will be showing and selling their work, and hopefully a food vendor who will be selling delicious homemade local food. This will all be done with the vision of social acceptance and comfort for the right of all of us to be topfree if we so wish.

 

2011 June 30. A little while ago, this photo appeared with a listing for the sale of a townhouse in Chamblee, Georgia.

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Bloggies pounced on it as "tasteless" and "porn" because of the "naked" woman. Although we doubt that a person visibly taking a photo helps to sell a place, the inane comments top any such question.

 

2011 June 28. Recently a woman decided to take up where the recent Bowery woman left off. Jamie Peck went about parts of New York City topfree, doing various things like talking to people, petting a dog and a horse, buying a few eats, and rebuffing in her own nice way a park employee and a policeman. Her account is very well written, a lively, major description of a topfree experience in a place where it is and ought to be known as completely legal, without interference from anyone. (It should be that everywhere, of course.)

What an appropriate article, less than a month before the 20th anniversary of the arrest of Gwen Jacob in neighbouring Ontario!

By contrast, USA Today ran an article with the headline, "Do you think women should go topless at the beach?" For being inane and misleading, that's hard to beat. All its vignette suggests is that USA Today doesn't understand this topic at all.

 

2011 June 27. The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the long drawn out case of the Federal Communications Commission versus various broadcasters for showing various body parts (including women's breasts) and other "obscenities." Lower courts have ruled that the FCC was wrong to fine the stations or networks. The USSC will hear the case some time in the next four to eight months.

Notably, the Court just ruled that California can't ban the sale of violent video games to minors. Any bets on whether it shows itself to be blatantly hypocritical when it comes to the FCC case? This article indicates our opinion eloquently.

 

2011 June 21. A little over a week ago, a topfree woman was riding a bicycle near Jefferson, Iowa. Police accosted her and ordered her to put a top on. Why do they persist in interfering with women?

More details here, although we object to the editor's belief that wearing a top is modest. Let's drop the disparaging assumptions about women.

 

2011 June 19. In Bedford, England, a Tesco supermarket has banned shirtless customers. The good news is that the notice does not mention women or men. The bad news is that the concern is exaggerated. Hair, sweat, and whatever else is a concern for the food don't come solely or even primarily from chests. Consider Cap d'Agde in France, where people may shop in grocery stores wearing nothing at all. As for "customers who are offended," should they be allowed to impose their views on others?

 

2011 June 18. The Northern Star, campus newspaper of Northern Illinois University (Dekalb), printed this piece on women going topfree. We're glad to see more and more opinions like this coming out. (Note, however, that breasts are not organs, and it's impossible to list cursorily states where women may be topfree, for several reasons.)

 

2011 June 09. (This story originated with Bowery Boogie.) Three days ago a woman walked topfree in New York City:

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There are conflicting reports as to whether she was charged with an offence. It is clear, however, that police intercepted her. They should absolutely not have done so. Why are they interfering with a legal right?

This month is the 25th anniversary of the arrest of women in Rochester NY for being topfree, a case they eventually won in 1992, in the most significant decision for women's topfreedom in the country's history. It seems that still, 19 years after the case was decided in the women's favour, too many police do not know or do not uphold the law on women's topfreedom in New York State. That problem notwithstanding, a police spokesperson did recognize the law on this subject and say that "the woman's lack of certain attire in this instance does not appear to be a police matter."

 

2011 June 04. Although we don't often mention breast flashing and the person in the story may not be protected by the law as it stands, this report of a rock concert a few days ago reveals, among other things, a thin line between flashing and just being topfree.

 

2011 May 31. Amongst many protests this spring over women being ordered illegally and immorally not to breastfeed in public, this well-considered report stands out, of a protest held in Trumbull, Connecticut.

 

2011 May 17. Recently a magazine cover with a topfree man was censored by the USA's two largest bookstore chains. This article doesn't go into the problem much, although it tells the story. We offer no comment, exasperated.

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A good analysis that almost gets it is here.

 

2011 May 09. A careful reading of this item suggests that much is omitted. Nonetheless, there is enough to indicate that topfreedom intolerance has played a major role in what happened. Yes, it affects men also.

 

2011 April 28. The case against Cesilee Dean is over. Although she was interested in having her case won on the issue of being topfree in public, she has won on a technicality. The city of Madison, Wisconsin will not appeal that further. Good city.

The city of Madison intends to prosecute the other eight people arrested in the same incident last June. Bad city. Wasteful city. Dead wrong city.

 

2011 April 27. Two months ago, a podcast about breasts appeared in a long-running series. It contains useful observations in a popular mode from host Stéphane Deschênes. We note his guests on this program: two women who ran a topfreedom day of pride in August 2010; Emma Kwasnica, who has created a global network to facilitate sharing of human milk; and Gwen Jacob, who impelled one of North America's most important legal precedents for topfree equality. (In the link, scroll down to February 27, 2011.)

This is the first time Gwen Jacob has spoken publicly on this topic in a long time. She is important not just as a courageous person in a legal case but as a very insightful thinker and speaker on topfreedom and related issues. Many people who know of her arrest 20 years ago and acquittal 15 years ago on a charge of indecency may now hear, from the source herself, the most lively imaginable reflection on those major events.

A photo from 2010 of Gwen Jacob with the two topfreedom day women is here. Here is a photo of Emma Kwasnica (well, part of her) with one of her children, and another:

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2011 April 24. Although we rarely report on events outside North America and Europe, this one is worth mentioning. On April 14, in BangKok's Songkran fesitval, three young women danced topfree for a few minutes. A national uproar ensued when the video of their dancing went onto the Internet.

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The glistening is from water, which is often spouted at festival revellers. The women are said to be under 17, although there is no verification of that. Regardless, that brought worldwide remarks based on some of America's widespread assumptions (mistaken, in our view) about child pornography. Thai commentators are calling the police action hypocritical, given their capital city's notorious involvement in the sex trade and the government's cry that the three women are hurting Thailand's fine reputation.

Traditional Thai dances have sometimes included topfreee women. We note the following painting on the website of the Thai Ministry of Culture:

Thai2.jpg

The Culture Minister ordered the painting removed. The live dancers were reported fined about US$17, but the person who uploaded the video may face much bigger fines and years in jail. This whole episode strikes us as an example of how importing Western ideas (notably American) may seriously muddle other societies, especially when those very ideas are muddled or hypocritical.

Although we can't answer the question of whether the women should have done what they did, surely three minutes of weak topfree dancing at Songkran aren't criminal.

 

2011 April 19. The appeal of the city of Madison, Wisconsin against the favourable decision in the case of Cesilee Dean being topfree during the 2010 World Naked Bike Ride there has apparently failed. Cesilee will have prevailed once again; bravo to her for persevering against the wrong position of the city.

This latest round was won on a legal technicality. It ought to mean the end of the whole thing, but will it?

 

2011 April 08. On April 1, a woman tried unsuccessfully to damage or remove a famous painting, Two Tahitian Women, by Paul Gaugin, in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

gauguin.jpg
Deux Tahitiennes (1899) by Paul Gauguin

The court documents quote her as saying, "I feel that Gaugin is evil. He has nudity and is bad for the children. He has two women in the painting and it's very homosexual. I was trying to remove it. I think it should be burned." Other reports quote words that make even less sense.

Although some television news reports showed the whole painting, others censored it by cropping, blurring, or obstructing. That affirmed the woman's general point and falsified the painting in notable condescension towards viewers. Such is the effect of the Federal Communications Commission's having tried to censor television in the USA, which it has no mandate to do.

 

2011 April 04. Recently in Ukraine, the increasingly well-known protest group Femen interrupted a meeting of the Internet domain registrar with signs, including this one, which says "Internet without censorship":

femen2011-1.jpg

Meanwhile, YouTube and other Internet giants have banned Femen materials. Facebook, notorious for its authoritarian censorship, took down Femen's pages. Hence this representation by Femen of "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," with Femen's symbol in the Facebook logo:

femen2011-2.jpg

We've always thought Femen should use some older women in its campaigns. Although its protesters are almost always young, here's a 63-year-old grandmother protesting pension changes in Ukraine:

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Meaning "A difficult age," her sign emphasizes the Russian word for work or labour.

Lastly, four women protest in three languages, with the first three signs from left to right in Ukrainian, Russian, and Ukrainian: "Ukraine is not a brothel," "Secret dirty deals," and "Ukrainian women are not prostitutes."

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We don't get the impression that Femen is taken seriously by Ukrainian officials.

 

2011 March 09. A group of topfree women marched in Medellin, Colombia yesterday in honour of International Women's Day. Supportive men wore red bras.

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The signs read "For equality of the breast" (left) and "Woman: live without guilt; demand your equal rights" (right). The march was organized by Raelians.

 

2011 February 22. On Valentine's Day last week, two women in Femen protested topfree at the Italian embassy in Kyïv. They ended up with jail sentences of one and two days.

The women were protesting alleged sexual misbehaviour by the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

 

2011 February 14. Earlier this month, rapper Jim Jones was sued by two women because he used video of them topfree without their permission in his brief Summer Time. The women were on South Beach in Miami Beach, Florida, one of the few public places where women may be without tops in all of the USA --- not counting bars and clubs, of course.

Even though the women were not engaging in sexual behaviour on the beach, the video itself has sexuality as a theme. YouTube had it posted for a while but took it down.

This shows one way in which women's breasts may have ambiguous, multiple, or changed meanings depending on how an image is used. In this case, viewers are led to believe the images are sexual in nature.

If more women could be topfree when and how they wanted, would problems like this often arise? Doesn't commodification of women's bodies depend on their control by men?

 

2011 February 04. Recently this article appeared, analyzing the American prohibition against female breast exposure. It's fairly good. Shockingly, it first appeared nearly 30 years ago --- and almost nothing has changed.

 

2011 February 02. Yesterday the Ukrainian women's group Femen protested on a balcony in Kyïv. They disagree with an order that during next year's soccer tournament, people must not appear on balconies without tops.

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The signs, all in Russian, say: (bottom left, upside down) "Rebellious balcony," (top left) "Balconies are for people," (top right) "Spit from the balcony," and (just below that) "Private property." For our position on women's breasts used in protests, go here.

 

2011 January 23. A few days ago, a woman playing the video game Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 found that her avatar was topfree. The manufacturer of the game, Electronic Arts, says that that copy of it was hacked, although such hacks are known in many video games at the factory level. Photos and video here.

 

2011 January 21. CNN has posted a video about the women who protest topfree in Ukraine. Obviously CNN doesn't see the deplorable irony in censoring the whole video. A French video, uncensored, has less staged footage and only a little in common with the CNN video. When the police move in, one of the women shouts, "Get your filthy paws off me, you bastard!"

 

2011 January 13. Recently the company American Apparel created the print ad below.

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The reactions to it recall the ads from some years ago by Abercrombie & Fitch which showed models of both sexes topfree in the company's catalogues. There were complaints because the catalogues and clothing were marketed to teenagers. Does that matter?

 

2011 January 12. Seven sort-of topfree women shovelled snow off a sidewalk today in New York City. They wore coats that were open and no tops under them.

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photos by Andy Kropa

As a test of New York State's law allowing topfreedom, this was unusual: how common is topfree snow shovelling? Does that matter? The women were from a nearby strip club; does that matter? New York permits topfreedom for women that is not for a commercial or sexual purpose. Two different statements from the event illustrate the question:

1. "Wednesday's stunt was a way to let people know that the spot was still open for business, said a dancer, who referred to herself as Zsa Zsa."
2. "'We're helping the mayor clean the city up,' said a dancer, who called herself Giselle." (There had been reports in New York of snow removal that took too long.)

If men had shovelled snow similarly clothed, what would the result be? Does that matter?

Passersby took photos, and the police came and told the women to go inside. There were no arrests.

The report says that this was deemed a problem because of the "family neighbourhood." That has nothing to do with legality in New York.

========

Earlier topfreedom news is here (April 2001 to December 2006) and here (January 2007 to December 2010).


 

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Thanks to a generous donor, TERA was a sponsor of an important calendar: Breast of Canada 2003 to 2007. The calendars dealt with total breast health, from prevention of disease to topfreedom!

 

NEW ON THIS SITE
  • See above news items.

 

 STATEMENT OF PURPOSE AND PRINCIPLES

The Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA) helps women who encounter difficulty going without tops in public places in Canada and the USA, and informs the public on this issue.

This website is intended as an information resource. It should interest women (and men) who understand --- or want to understand --- that women's breasts are just fine, and in no way indecent, obscene, dangerous, or some other version of bad, any more than men's are.

In most jurisdictions in North America, explicit sexual activity in public view is illegal. That is not involved here! If men may decide to have exposed breasts without it, so may women.

If women act on this understanding by innocuously having uncovered breasts in public, they are usually criticized, ridiculed, and hassled, and may be fined or jailed. Their experiences tell quite the story, which is gradually unfolding on this site and similar ones.

Our basic claim is that women deserve equal rights. We do not suggest that women or men should go about with bare breasts. That is every individual's decision. We do believe that since men may choose to do so in many situations, women must also be able to at least in the same situations. Without penalty of any kind.

Women pay severely for North America's leering punishment of their breasts. Many find themselves the object of unwanted and unwarranted attention from men in positions of power over them. Many have debilitating body image problems, hating the breasts on their own, unique bodies. Many undergo hazardous cosmetic surgery to conform to some non-existent standard. To please others, many wear bras that confine and hurt and may be harmful. Many are afraid to breastfeed, especially with others present.

Why do many women want to let their breasts out of the prison our society has put them in? They want to be comfortable. They want the convenience. They want to further their well-being. They want ownership and control of their own breasts.

They deserve equal treatment under the law.

If you think that the issue of exposed breasts is trivial, or you disagree with the above, have a look around this site. You may change your mind.

(More about TERA's purpose with reference to feminist theory is contained here.)

From time to time, people ask whether there is any place on this site to post messages and discuss issues. There isn't. However, we are willing to mention sites that enable that, without comment about them. You will find them on our links page. Those wanting to be linked in that way should notify us.

TERA does not often post to these sites because, quite honestly, we are busy! That does not preclude involvement; and as always, TERA welcomes items (positive, negative, or other) to post on this site on our articles, comments, and quotes pages, not to mention photos!

We are willing to establish a separate area about breastfeeding in public, if the material relates to topfreedom. (There are other sites for this topic which handle it very well.)

If you like what you find on this site, please go here.

 

CONTENTS OF THIS SITE
(a work in progress)
Items and areas you may visit on this site
Why TERA?
What does TERA do?
Misunderstandings about women and bare breasts
Frequently asked questions

Photos, page 1
Photos, page 2
Photos, page 3
Photos, page 4
Photos, page 5
Photos, page 6: banned by Facebook!

Articles, talks, and the like
not as boring as you think

A "topfree herstory"
the start of something ...

Judicial opinions (and more)
the decisions that have made history

Visitors' comments
from light to really lively

Inspiring quotations
from all over the place

Older news
funny, ridiculous, sad, uplifting,
or some combination

News releases
a sampling

Links
to others promoting topfree equal rights

New on this site
Coming soon

What you can do to help


We acknowledge with thanks the continual assistance of Artie Bigley of Columbus, Ohio
in the preparation of some of the news stories on this page.

 


ALL MATERIAL ON THIS SITE IS COPYRIGHT 1997-2014 BY THE TOPFREE EQUAL RIGHTS ASSOCIATION. Material may not be printed or posted elsewhere except by explicit permission of TERA. However, links to this site and material on it are encouraged, if the aim is consistent with TERA's.

NOTE: TERA strives for the highest level of accuracy and credibility in its site, its other messages, and its actions. However, no comments, statements, opinions, suggestions, admonitions, or other communications on this site or in any messages from TERA are intended or are to be construed as legal advice. Neither TERA nor any of its board members, affiliates, or associates is in any way responsible for direct or indirect, immediate or delayed consequences of acceptance, srejection, interpretation, or indeed any use whatever of material found on this site or on any site linked from or to it, or of material in TERA's messages or any proper or improper transmission or retransmission of them.

TERA needs donations to support women. If you like what you find on this site, please go here.

Latest update: 2014 December 20, 16:45 EST (2014 December 21, 08:45 AEDT)

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CONTENTS OF THIS SITE