Some of the more remarkable things I’ve ever heard people say about bare-chestedness and breasts:
- “Those are her genitals! She needs to put a shirt on, now,” by a Washington D.C. police officer, while wagging his finger back and forth at my nipples, but speaking to the man walking with me instead of to me, on my first ever bare-chested walk there. (His commander later issued a written apology to me.)
- “I’m teaching my daughter modesty, you whore.” From a mother in front of her four daughters, ages 16, 13, 11 and 4. No, you’re teaching them hate of women and themselves, actually.
- “Nobody wants to see that!” Spoken to me three separate times, all by African-American women. All I can think when I hear something like this is, if we could only stand together, instead of apart…how far we could go.
- “You’re walking past an all girls school!” Spoken by a National Cathedral police officer while scolding me for being “ridiculous.” My response, “Then they’ve seen breasts before.” They also got to see me continue on my way bare-chested…
- “There are children around.” Kids don’t care until their parents teach them to care. Hate begets hate. Fear begets fear. Don’t hide behind your children.
- “Breastfeeding is sexual.” To someone out there, everything is sexual. It is not a woman’s responsibility to control the thoughts of every person observing her. This is the definition of rape culture.
- “I work at a daycare. If a topless woman walks in what am I going to tell the children?” Out in Fort Collins, CO Brittany Hoagland and others have been trying to get the city council to repeal its gender-biased language regarding breast exposure. This sentence was spoken by a woman being interviewed by the local television station on the topic. This is an iteration of something I hear occasionally, the implication being not that bare breasts are necessarily bad or illegal, but that I am going to be uncomfortable talking about it and I don’t want to have this conversation with (fill in the blank, my husband, wife, children, parents, etc.)
- “Where’s your shirt?” Secret Service Police officer after driving against traffic and parking on the wrong side of Wisconsin Avenue in Washington D.C. (No hello?) My response, “Oh shucks… I knew I forgot something this morning…”
- “People can be treated differently by the law but still be equal.” Apparently not. Plessy vs. Ferguson, 1896. How has 119 years passed and we are still having this conversation? This was spoken by another woman in a television interview regarding the Fort Collins situation.
- “In Sao Paolo, Brazil you can see a lot of bare breasts in the streets. And it contributes to… the danger… and violence in that city.” Spoken by a white man in a city council meeting in Fort Collins, CO regarding the city’s ordinance banning female breast exposure. Facepalm. So that’s the explanation…finally! One of the most dangerous cities in the world can blame its spiraling murder, rape and poverty on women’s breasts, not drugs, corruption, predatory economic policy, racism, or gangs. Hand that man a Mentos!
- “It’s just the way it is.” I’ve heard this from men and women several times. My response, “And at one time only white men could vote and slavery was legal. And that’s just the way it was.”