What to expect when walking bare-chested (Part 2, questions, questions, questions)

National Mall, Washington D.C. Summer 2015.  I spent five hours walking between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument.
National Mall, Washington D.C. Summer 2015. I spent five hours walking between the Capitol building and the Washington Monument.

6. Male misogynists.  A misogynist is “a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.”  Misogyny during a bare-chested walk can be blatant (“Titties!”) or subtle (walking around the corner and calling 911).  The subtleties have been fascinating to expose.  Walking bare-chested in crowded public places forces people to encounter my femaleness unexpectedly.  Their first reactions are telling.  Some people smile, giggle uncomfortably, look away like they’ve walked in on me in a bathroom (one woman actually said, “Oops!”).  That’s all part of the learning curve.  But there are some who show me, in that first moment, why it is important for women to do this.  There is a particular look I see occasionally that is a combination of judgment (silly girl), calculation (this feels dangerous on a deep level, power shift threat) and hate.  The existence of this attitude is no great discovery.  Seeing it in the faces of fathers, husbands, police officers, businessmen, that has been eye-opening.  Powerful men can say they support gender equality all they want.  Their first reaction betrays their true feelings.

7. Female misogynists.  Male misogynists are hard for me to take, I admit, but I manage.  Female misogynists exhaust me to the core.  Women who hate women (including their own femaleness), who fight against equality, who fear the responsibilities of equality, who bully or demean other women for being women, etc, really disturb me deeply.  This is a danger spot for me because bullies enrage me.  Seeing someone who has clearly been the victim of bullying turn into a bully herself as a protective mechanism can incite my own mid-brain response.  I have to be careful and regulate my energy when confronted with this particular fearful and angry personality.  These women, when unexpectedly confronted with my bare breasts, often spike straight to a panic, my boldness being nothing but an anxiety trigger from worlds that predate my arrival.  The panic reaction is frustrating, but if it stopped there I could deal.  It’s the words that come out of their mouths that really wear on me, when they say things that imply women should be ashamed of themselves as a matter of being, that we should be modest, silent, meek, submissive.  (“Nobody wants to see that mess!”)  I have worked on my reaction to their reaction to me because it is vitally important that I navigate these situations with firm but quiet grace.  Women could go so far if we could just get out of our own ways.  How have we not elected a female president yet? There are more women then men.  And many men would vote for a capable woman.  Their is still something deep within us that tells us we are not the equals of men.  Male misogynists, I believe, are acutely in-tune, at a mid-brain level, to women who have liberated themselves from that belief.  Misogynists are bullies.  Bullies are afraid of losing power and control.  Imagine what happens if women in large numbers come to understand we are truly powerful, not just in words but in actions.

8. Children. One of the main objections to public bare-chestedness is that children can see.  Children, of course, couldn’t care less if they see bare breasts.  It is their adult care-takers reactions that have the potential to upset them.

9. Cameras.  You’re going to have your picture taken.  And it will be posted somewhere, you have to at least accept that possibility.  If you don’t want your mother or employer to see you, try a hat and sunglasses.

10. Traffic slowing down.  I haven’t caused an accident yet.

11. Ridicule.  Some people don’t know what to do except be negative and mean.  If it’s not this it would be that.  Be prepared.  They will pick something about your body or demeanor and make fun of it.  This is rare but it has happened.  Like all bully behavior it emboldens me.  If they see they have hurt you, they will continue to hurt you.  But with that said, like Eminem in the last scene of Eight Mile, it is a beautiful feeling to meet a bully with acceptance and impassivity and self-love.  You can’t get to me.  I’ve done my work.

12. Demeaning comments. Sometimes I hear people mutter, “Why?”  I don’t answer.  That is for them to answer according to their own code.  The fact that they have asked the question is a monumental victory for me.

13. Neutrality. A lot of people won’t look up from their phones.  Many will show no reaction to you.  Isn’t that the point?

14. Cat-calls.  Rare, actually.  I ignore them.  This week I had a man leaning out of a car trying to take my picture from behind.  To get me to turn around he whistled at me like a dog.  I walked on.  I’m doing my work to change the world.  I don’t need him to have my photograph.

15. Questions, questions, questions.  People are really curious about what this all means.  I answer their questions.  I have also prepared answers to the most common questions, know the law and prepare myself to answer the same questions many times.  I don’t want anyone to see impatience in my eyes.  I’m glad they stopped me to talk to me.  This is how it happens.

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14 thoughts on “What to expect when walking bare-chested (Part 2, questions, questions, questions)

  1. First, an introduction and a thank-you. Your blog is the best analysis I’ve seen on this subject or any subject. Kudos for breaking down the topic so well and explaining each bit so well. As for myself, I’m a man in my 50s who wholeheartedly supports the idea, but have found it difficult to discuss this with nearly anyone, any age, either gender. I’ve pointed a couple of people to this blog so as to provide some useful background info to support intelligent conversations.

    I want to offer one dissenting opinion on one specific item, #10 above. “I haven’t caused an accident.” No, you strolling topfree would not cause an accident, any more than you walking down the street carrying a St. Bernard would cause an accident. Someone not paying attention to their driving is what caused someone to crash. If someone thinks it more important to stare out the window at things on the sidewalk than the objects in front of the car s/he is piloting, then that person needs not to be driving. Not your fault.

    I tackled the general topic of topfreedom in a couple of blog posts I wrote over five years ago, and mentioned distraction. Here’s the post; the distraction bit begins after the photo of an old car a few paragraphs in. http://unicycleintransit.blogspot.com/2011/12/non-sexual-appearance-of-breasts-mar-7.html

    But again, thank you for explaining this topic so carefully. You are providing a needed service. Keep on writing!

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    1. Wow. I just read your blog post. That’s amazing. You touched on so many of the same things I find important… high five. I know it can be hard for men to be taken seriously when arguing that women should feel free baring their breasts, but I would like you and all men to know that I personally value your support. It’s important that men be involved in this growth. We won’t get anywhere without both genders. I appreciate that you are sharing my blog with others. Thank you for posting the link to your article here. Where are you from? Do you have any suggestions for future blog posts? Any questions you would like me to answer?
      Also, your point about distraction is absolutely valid. For the record I was being facetious 🙂 but people have asked me about traffic. There have been times when traffic has literally stopped while someone hangs out the window taking a picture. But I don’t consider myself responsible either for that congestion or their immaturity. It’s all part of the growth we must go through together. We are getting there…I truly believe that. Thank you for your comment. Be well.

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  2. I left a suggestion for a post in a different comment a bit ago. Or, try this: Maybe have a post in which you stimulate the audience to ask questions? If they are simple or trifling, just answer them in comments. If they are deeper, they may stimulate your creative process to write a whole post.

    As for myself, I live in suburban Pittsburgh (as you might guess by the zip code in my moniker). Growing up, there were stacks of Playboy magazines around, but unlike my drooling friends, I actually did read the magazine cover to cover, trying to understand the deeper meanings of masculinity and femininity. Also unlike many of the young adults I went through life with, from college onward, I developed a serious distaste for the varied ways women were put down, not only then (1980s to now), but far in the past. I studied the stories of Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 1700s to the mid-1800s pioneers for equality like Elizabeth Cady Stanton to early 20th century strong women like Frances Perkins, to the Genesee Seven who achieved the NY ruling in 1992. With that under my belt, when I found the T.E.R.A. website in about 2007, I began following its weekly posts, and adopted the cause as worthy of my attention. As I said in one blog post, this is not the first social movement where I’ve been way ahead of the curve.

    To reiterate, there are so few people with whom I can talk about this intelligently. About the best I can hope to do is raise the topic if it seems appropriate (it rarely is), and try to be supportive without appearing to “mansplain” or come off as a creeper. In any event, I hope this dialog helps.

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  3. I’ve always found it odd that newborns can handle breasts fine, but after we’re weaned, the sight of them is considered harmful.

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    1. I’ve been reading a lot about the history of modesty lately. It’s learned behavior, of course, but the reasons we force it on people are fascinating. I’m going to probably write an article about how it relates to bare-chestedness eventually.

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            1. Wait, were you asking me what I was reading regarding my current interest in modesty or in general or as a joke about the title of the article you commented under, “questions, questions, questions?” Lol. Sorry, I may be confused. Sun Tzu is pretty common sense, I agree, though I remind myself often of the passage never interrupt an enemy when he is making a mistake. I also prefer Chuang Tzu (Zhuangzi) to Sun Tzu, and even the Dao De Jing. Chuang Tzu is funnier. Am I Chuang Tzu dreaming I am a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming I am Chuang Tzu? I’ve never read Clausewitz.

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                1. Ha, sorry. The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray is one of my favorites, her female protagonist is great. As far as modesty goes, I’ve been cruising around the Internet reading articles expousing modesty. I have cited a couple times some articles from 2012 on a blog called The Young Wife’s Guide, which urges women to be modest to avoid pride and also to avoid “tripping up men” who are trying to focus on Jesus but get distracted by a woman’s attire and appearance, particularly in Bible study or in the case of the minister, in the pulpit itself. Fascinating stuff. I will embark on a research journey on this topic soon enough. If you have any good books to recommend on this topic, fire away.

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            2. However I did have this thought this morning about that first passage in the Dao De Jing warning us not to confuse knowledge with vocabulary, that just because we have a word for something doesn’t mean we know or understand that thing. But it crossed my mind walking to the grocery store how comfortable we feel when we know the definition of a word, as if that somehow means we have a piece of knowledge. I think it was because I had a song running through my head and I realized so much of human existence is this endless string of words, and without words we could barely function, but with words we are stuck under a ceiling of understanding.

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