Another question I receive frequently, mostly from my concerned friends and family, is if I am putting myself in danger by appearing bare-chested in public.
I will leave the lecture on rape culture to other sources. My blog is to share my actual experiences and lessons learned, more than to lecture on whose responsibility it is to prevent sexual assault. (Not hers!)
While I have certainly had some negative interactions with people, it has never escalated beyond their strongly worded opinions and I have never been touched inappropriately. Only one time have I thought I might be headed for an altercation, in Brooklyn, where a tall man across a grassy meadow called out across the distance to tell me to cover up because children were present. He never got closer than 50 yards but his demeanor got my attention. He appeared either intoxicated or mentally ill, and thus unpredictable. In the end he just walked away muttering.
With that said, my fiance is a 6-foot-tall burly he-man. (He made me write that.) But seriously, most of the time I walk with my fiance either by my side or somewhere close. This is not so much for physical protection as for the extra set of eyes and ears and because I enjoy walking with him. Moira Johnston, a true warrior, does this work alone. I hope to meet her soon, actually.
My fiance and I are both aware that his presence can change people’s behaviors, good and bad, so sometimes we walk separately so observers simply see me walking alone. I also make trips entirely by myself sometimes. Either way I have never had anyone truly scare me or attempt to touch me. The vast majority of people, even the ones who have been offended or upset, have been respectful and appropriate.
With that said, despite my carefree appearance and attitude, I am always aware of my surroundings, I don’t escalate conversations, I allow people to finish their sentences without interrupting and I try to present a neutral, non-threatening energy while remaining confident and unapologetic.
Sexual predators seek weakness and fear. Like all bullies, they are cowards. They look for targets who will remain silent. And because bullies are scared little souls, and fear will always exist, bullies will always exist.
One of the constant responses we hear is that the “cause” of topfreedom is stupid or trivial. See if you feel the same way after you walk through a group of people, bare-chested, head held high, watching people react to a confident, happy, healthy woman in full glory. Bullies are everywhere, often hiding in plain view. When confronted with a strong and confident demeanor, like dogs, they feel exposed and usually back down.
Bullies only understand power. Humanity does not exist in their sad worlds. And if suddenly their victims have strength and power, who else will be left for the world to victimize but the bullies themselves? This is their deepest fear. This is why I present a non-threatening energy. Just like with fear-biting dogs, I seek non-verbal ways of saying to them it’s okay, I present no threat unless you threaten me.
In which case, you will regret your decision.