Monday, June 4, 2012

Our right to bare boobs

Now that the weather is warming up, I have a burning issue on my mind. It concerns women and equal rights. Sounds pretty serious right? It definitely is:

Top That...Or Not: A Topless Woman Speaks Out

I guess I'm happy that someone is exercising a woman's right to bare breasts. I guess as far as equal rights goes, all rights must be equal, regardless of how they apply to me. Topfreedom on Wikipedia helps to explain the struggle for this right and to delineate where a gal can feel free to whip 'em out.

I can't understand why this issue gets such play in the popular press. The cynic in me (well, that's actually all of me) sees that it would provide an excellent opportunity place a picture of a half nekkid woman in your newspaper. I'm not trying to be obtuse but--is this a right women actually want? If the answer is, 'we want ALL the rights so we can decide for ourselves which to exercise'--that's fantastic.

I just feel like this is a bit of a bait and switch--'"You ladies want equal rights? Here's one for ya!" Except I know it didn't go down like that. A good friend of mine was arrested in Guelph Ontario in the 90s, supporting my right to bare boobs. To the extent that the issue is about equal rights and breastfeeding, I salute all the activists who fought for this right. For the right to strip off on a hot day, not so much.

And here's the rub: We have the right to go topless but not the culture that would support that right or keep us safe were we to exercise that right. For most of us, going topless would be a nightmare. Men still seem to find an exposed ankle to be stimulating on occasion, I cannot imagine the hell they would make life for bare breasted sunbathers. When we live in a culture that continues to debate the rights of women, the same culture that made Slutwalk necessary--how is legal support for toplessness a victory?

I understand the issue for breastfeeding moms, that makes perfect sense. I understand too that it's not up to me, the state, or anyone else to decide whether breasts should be bared, or for what purpose. Frankly if I needed to breastfeed in public, there is no way I would do so without a nursing blanket. Not because I need to shield people from the sight of an infant receiving nutrition in the best and healthiest manner, or because I need to shield anyone from the sight of a lactating breast--for a much better reason. I don't want the aggravation of people gawking at my boobs. I'm not saying I'm happy that women are relegated to breastfeeding or breastpumping in public toilets, or beneath huge "shame covers"---I"m just expressing an awareness of the actual culture in which I live, one in which I would simply not consider baring my breasts in public. Breast feeding has become a political issue, and quite right. Only recently Facebook censored photos of breastfeeding mothers on its site. It still gets people very upset. (In talking about this issue with a friend on the weekend, she clarified that when she was breastfeeding, she used a napkin to cover herself and the baby. "It's not the visuals," she told me, "it's the UNGODLY SLURPING that gets people staring!")

To the women who would be comfortable bra- and top-less, I say more power to them. Equality is equality after all, and I would never stand in the way of progress. But as a proud A-cup woman, I hate to go without a bra, never mind shirtless to boot. The thought of parading around a major North American city bare breasted fills me with anxiety.

Am I way out on a limb here? And if you intend to exercise your right will you please use extra SPF on those things?

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