I walk bare-chested primarily because I enjoy feeling free. My strong secondary reason for walking bare-chested is to normalize female bare-chestedness, so that other women may feel the same way.
The only way to normalize anything is to do it with so much regularity and normality that people stop being afraid of it and start seeing it as conventional behavior. This is my motivation for posting photos and videos of my walks. I want people to see and hear for themselves the reactions (and more importantly the non-reactions) of the public as I walk by.
There exists this misconception that going bare-chested is some disruptive act of revolution and that traffic will stop and babies will cry. Perhaps it was at one time, and in some places may still be, but in many places that’s just not true any more. People look, yes. People will occasionally comment negatively. But the vast, vast majority of people react neutrally (ignore me completely) or positively (smile, nod, thumbs up.)
This is why I don’t yell at people, shout slogans or argue. Those are scary behaviors in any setting, and people being yelled at will hear only volume, not words. They will also associate female bare-chestedness with anger and threat. I want them to associate it with health and normality.
It takes a lot of processing for a person to change a strongly held opinion. When I walk bare-chested, I let people do that processing without judgment. I don’t give them dirty looks. I don’t stare them down. I don’t even watch their reactions. It is ultimately a private conversation they must have with themselves, and it will probably happen hours, days or weeks after seeing me on the street. It may never happen. I can’t control that. All I can do is present the thing.
So here is a video of me walking M Street in Georgetown, Washington D.C. yesterday. My fiance held the camera discreetly in his hand and walked a bit in front of me. We wanted to record people’s real reactions.
Somewhere in the first few minutes a man tells me to put something on. I look at him. Physical threat? No. He repeats his request. “Put something on.” I smile and say a gentle word. He watches me walk by then says to my back, “I love you. You look nice!” Just like that. Much more importantly, everyone who witnessed that saw me stay confident, calm, strong and non-confrontational.
The second highlight is just incredible, though very hard to pick up on the audio. I am walking in front of a ten year-old boy and he looks at his mom (I assume his mom) and goes, “Whoa!” Later, barely, you can hear her behind the camera explaining to him that bodies are just bodies. They walked along with us awhile, following their original path without adjusting to mine, and later yet we heard her discussing body image and gender equality with him. She was calm and positive and let him process. I wanted so badly to hug her or acknowledge the awesome job in some way, but I didn’t want her to feel observed. At any rate, that was their moment, not mine. I’m just so happy I was able to observe it.
Here’s the video. I have to say, it felt pretty darn normal.