This is a touchy topic, pun intended.
When men openly support topfreedom, they make themselves vulnerable to criticism that they only want to see women’s breasts, implying their motives are impure.
I believe the vast majority of men who support gender equality are genuine. I also believe they enjoy seeing bare breasts. I also believe, most fundamentally, that they hope to see, support and be in relationship with women who are healthy, confident and happy.
After all, what is more beautiful than a contented woman?
I see this entire movement as a collective challenge in which men and women together become normalized to the idea of bare breasts, as part of the ongoing movement toward gender equality and harmony. Men are vitally important to this aspiration because mature men, who know how to behave, can model healthy and appropriate attitudes toward women and women’s bodies.
Sons will follow their fathers. Immature men can be molded by observing mature men.
So, reactions men have made to seeing me bare-chested and how they landed.
- Thumbs up. This is a beautiful, simple little gesture of support that really goes a long way. No leering, no winking suggestively, just a simple meeting of eyes, a smile, head nod, wave, whatever, to say I get and support what you are doing. Bravo. Observers see this and lose fear. That’s why this simple acknowledgement is so important.
- Shouting from a distance. Crying, “Titties!” from a passing car does not offend me, but it is bully behavior and it certainly confuses the people around me who hear it, and it most certainly discourages some women from venturing forth bare-chested. Personally I conclude the shouter has yet to reach emotional pubescence and walk on. The interesting thing is that this is exactly the person we need to move, so all I can do is continue walking unaffected. In a way I thank you for giving me the opportunity to model for my observers how to ignore you.
- Rolling your eyes and saying, “Really?” This almost always comes from a man pushing a stroller or trying to herd a rambunctious group of children, and I interpret it to say, “Really? Because I don’t have my hands full enough? Now I have to explain this to my children and assure my wife that I still love her?” I can’t tell you how to navigate your marriage or parenting philosophy, but I do appreciate the men who can collect themselves, ponder how their response will look to their children and wives, and show them that in his mind, women and men can absolutely be equals. Those initial responses are telling because they sometimes betray our real thoughts. If you say you believe women and men are equal, but then roll your eyes in the face of it, it resonates. If your wife does get upset in your direction, be patient with her. She is processing all of this too. She may just want to know that you still love her and value her, even in the presence of another woman’s bare breasts. Which shouldn’t be hard if you actually feel that way.
- Defending me. Sometimes people will voice criticism with my bare-chestedness. On several occasions, I have had men quietly defend my right to do so, either by pointing out that it is legal wherever we are, or if it’s not legal, by asserting that men can be bare-chested and women should have the same right. A hearty thank you to those who voice support in a non-escalating manner.
- Asking to take a photo. Personally, I don’t care if people take pictures of me. In fact I have relied on the fact that everyone has phones and people will take photos and videos and share them. The whole idea is to make bare breasts normal. The more people who see what I am doing, the better. With that said, it certainly goes a long way when a person approaches me and asks permission to take my photograph and/or post it to social media. I know it doesn’t matter in the end, but it’s polite and a gesture of support to ask. It also gives me a chance to meet you, which is my favorite part of my walks.
- Asking to pose together for a photo. Better than just taking a photo of me, I really appreciate it when people ask to pose together for a photo. I consider this an endorsement because you are placing yourself in the image and your friends and family will feel more comfortable with it because you are in it. I also appreciate it when men in particular ask me how or where they should stand for a photo, being careful to check in with me before putting an arm around me. Some men will even say, “I won’t touch you, but can I take a photo with you?” That’s a nice reassurance to say, “I’m not a physical threat to you.”