Why I Walk Bare-Chested (in Crowded Places)

Coney Island 4 (2)
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, NY Summer 2015. Nobody cares… as it should be.

 

I walk bare-chested because I enjoy the feeling of freedom it gives me.

After two years quietly doing so, I started a blog at the request of friends and family to share my experiences and lessons learned.

Through the blog I occasionally get this question, “If you want to normalize female bare-chestedness, why do you walk bare-chested in places men don’t appear bare-chested?”

So here’s my answer.

First, I only appear bare-chested where it is in fact legal for a man to appear bare-chested.  I do not enter private establishments, for example, if the proprietors ask that men also wear shirts.  I’m not out to challenge the owners of businesses trying to survive.

Second, with few exceptions, when I have appeared bare-chested I have seen at least one man bare-chested.  I make notes of it, in fact.  It’s just that people don’t see him.  We are so accustomed to it, he just goes right by unnoticed.  (As do I, mostly, for the record.)

Third, I anticipate bare-chestedness will first become normal at beaches, pools and parks.  Through my videos, I want to empower women who wish to go bare-chested in these places to feel comfortable doing so by showing them that women can walk safely, quietly and comfortably even in the most crowded places.  See?  I can do it here, you can do it there.

I also seek to normalize female bare-chestedness on an accelerated timeline.  Men first fought for the right to go bare-chested in the 1930’s.  That means we’ve had 85 years to normalize the sight of men’s chests.  We have only had about 5 years to normalize female chests. But with the power of social media, of course, we can accelerate that significantly.

My opinion is the more people who see women bare-chested and behaving conventionally the better, ideally in person.  You can only shock a person with the same thing once.

A woman should get to decide if, when and where she goes bare-chested, not have it dictated by what men do.  Saying there is something wrong with going bare-chested in a place where men may legally but don’t typically do so is reinforcing the idea that men get to decide what women get to do.  It’s saying women can do a thing only after men have approved that thing by doing it themselves first.

Imagine if a pool made a rule that said men can only enter the water if women do so first, and in greater numbers.  If the women choose to leave the water, the men must leave as well.

I say we establish equality under the law and let each individual decide when and where she or he will exercise those rights.

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28 thoughts on “Why I Walk Bare-Chested (in Crowded Places)

  1. First of all, I wanted to say that me and my wife are huge fans of both you personally, and what you are accomplishing. We are admins for a nudist group in our community, but we also have a major interest in the bare-chested movement here in our province. Would it be okay to discuss over e-mail about a few ideas/issues/questions that we have that might help our group out??

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The beach, it seems to me, is the setting where it’s the most natural for women to go bare-chested in public.
    Miami Beach has been the beachhead (pun intended) for female topfree beachgoing in the U.S. for about 25 years now, a practice imported by European vacationers and adopted by a small but growing percentage of American women as well. From my observations in four visits to Miami’s South Beach, it appears that American women in their 20s seem to be the freest and the most receptive to the idea of casting their bikini tops, and the taboo, to the wind.
    The thing that I continue to find most surprising about your videos is how little reaction you get in the way of double-takes, head-turning and stares.
    Your calm and rational but persistent approach appears to be achieving your intended goal of normalizing topfreedom.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. People really are normalizing and it’s exciting to feel the change. Not everywhere, and not everyone, but something has shifted in the last two years. I have not been to Miami Beach yet. I would like to go. It’s a big trip for me to get there. Thank you for visiting and commenting. Be well.

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      1. Curious as to what shift you’re referencing here, Ginger Bread: What shift and/or what might have caused it, in your opinion. I’ve seen numerous shifts over the years and they are so intriguing to me.

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        1. You know how gay marriage was struggling there from say 2005-2013 and then in the course of about six months state after state started allowing gay marriage? I haven’t really read much on the sociology of that shift, but it was plainly evident. I have felt that either happening or getting ready to happen in regards to normalized female bare-chestedness. If you look at how New York City has changed its policing of bare-chestedness for example, D.C., Philadelphia, these are agencies that respond to their perception of public sentiment. Even though it was legal in all these places, police still for years would stop and arrest because they felt at the street level, the patrol officers and their operational officers, that it was too unusual and odd to be legal. Moira Johnston and Holly Van Voast did their big efforts in New York City in the 2010-2012 range and in 2013 they finally forced NYPD to formally train all their officers not to stop bare-chested women. The Co-Ed Pulp Fiction folks started their normalization efforts and so on, rallies and parades have been a part of it too. I started appearing bare-chested in 2013, mostly at Maryland beaches. In 2014 I started walking publicly and in 2015 I started walking in really super public places like the National Mall. I have had interactions with people since I started, and I have documented a lot of my outings in journals and photos, for myself at the time, and later for the blog. So I remember the reactions of people two years ago, and compared to what I experience now, it’s significantly more normal feeling for me to walk bare-chested or spend a day bare-chested at the beach. It’s not all the way there yet of course, but I feel like something has clicked, like those other social movements that were stalled for so long only to emerge quickly. It’s like that scene in The Holy Grail where the horsemen are approaching the castle guards. Slow, slow, slow, suddenly there. What caused it? Women going out and appearing bare-chested. People talking about it on social media and among their friends and family. Court cases. Media coverage (albeit universally poor) and I think the publicity efforts of the Free the Nipple movie certainly probably brought the topic to popular culture. I’ve shared this before, but one of my favorite moments in all my walks happened in DC when a mother and her 15 year old daughter passed me and the mother rolled her eyes and said, “You can’t walk around like that in public” and her daughter rolled her eyes right back at her and said, “Free the Nipple, mom.” Like, oh my God, do NOT embarrass me like this. That was this summer. I thought, wow, if it’s embarrassing to a teenager that her mom thinks women should wear a shirt, and tells her so, something has definitely shifted.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. That’s amazing, the daughter correcting her mom. Love it! My kids kept me clued in to current trends when they were teens, for sure. In ’98 or so, my ten year old daughter showed me how to set up something called an email account, for example.
            Media coverage (yes, poor as it is) tends to run bare-chested women as scandal but it seems that controversy inspired debate, which inspired otherwise-silent masses to speak up and act out in defense of the cause.
            The Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction society arrived in perfect timing. Not sure of the exact timing, but I think the Duke University ‘Who Needs Feminism?’ events of 2012 were wake up calls that shook the Earth, and maybe the Co-Ed group was catalysed or was a catalyst in and of itself.
            Overall, I appreciate you taking the time to share your insights as to the cause of this shift. I’ve read your comments several times, and still re-reading because you connect dots that I am so delighted to see finally occuring.
            My memories of the civil rights movements of the ’60s are vague, but I know for certain a spark being lit inside me based on Free Love, equality, human rights, and women’s rights shifted my ways of thinking, yeah.

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            1. Tera.ca, the website of the Topfree Equal Rights Assoc in Canada stopped making regular updates on its main page last year but they indicated they were working on a timeline of the topfreedom movement. It’s so hard to know what the waypoints are in this situation because as I have learned over the last few months, there are women doing this work all over the country and across the globe. Many, most I suspect, don’t blog or post FB updates, but they go out bare-chested at the beach or in the backyard with their kids or at a festival somewhere and I think it must be that enough of it is happening and enough conversation is happening that change is happening. My benchmark for this mission is when women feel comfortable bare-chested at a family gathering or pool party, the ways fathers just remove their shirts in a kids swim class, that kind of thing. We are quite a distance from that I suspect, some places are closer than others, but if we can develop this conversation as we have been, a critical mass of people will understand and normalize to the idea. It will be interesting to watch what spins off that normalization, will we begin to speak maturely about gender, race, sex, death, religion… Some people will never mature but it would be nice if enough of us did to make a community of level-headed, calm, open minded adults seeking happiness together.

              Liked by 2 people

      2. What beaches do you normally go to them, other than any nude beaches, which have you noticed to be the most accepting of ‘equal opportunity sunbathing’ in the US?

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        1. My local beach is Ocean City Maryland. Maryland law is clearly gender equal but I’m struggling to get an authority willing to confirm this in writing. Still I’ve been barechested in Ocean City and Assateague many times without police interaction of any kind. I’ve gone to several New York Beaches where I felt pretty ignored (A+). My favorite beaches are little local things along the Chesapeake Bay. The people are so chill and friendly and I’ve had great experiences there. I’m hoping to secure some legal confirmations in Maryland this year. The challenge is that Maryland language is so vague that police feel like they have to make a decision on their own because bare-chestedness can’t possibly be legal but then eventually they accept it is, they just then feel the need to check with a higher authority and no one yet has been brave enough to just make a decision. I may end up fighting a citation eventually. I’m resigned to it. The law is clear. It will be a pain and there are no guarantees but I feel confident Maryland protects gender equality at a high level.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. I am told by those who’ve been there that Myrtle Beach SC will be the least receptive place for bare-chested women. And you know what? I’m OK with that. If they want to tout themselves as the one place where you can expect never to see a nipple, that will make it that much easier for it to be accepted everywhere else.

    Their refusal to progress will give visibility to the cause, and once the topic is out there for discussion in polite company, things will happen in a hurry, I think. Like the movement to restrict indoor smoking, it went from a few vocal opponents in the late 1970s to almost universal acceptance by the mid 1990s, once the idea got any traction at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree Once it is normal in many places it will look odd and backward where it doesn’t exist. Imagine if Myrtle Beach bragged about not seeing male chests. They would be considered laughably antiquated. So it will be with gender equality someday.

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  4. Hi,Breastsarehealthy.Won’t you like to make a Facebook page about the cause of female nude breasts?I think if man’s nipples aren’t genital or sexual organs,why female nipples woul’d be?

    I’m your fan and some brazillian women fight for this right too.

    Ps.:ask to join the page I took below

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    1. Hello. Thank you. Facebook does not allow photographs of female nipples, only male nipples. Facebook is a private company and can make whatever rules it wants, but because of their rule I do not use Facebook. People have shared my blog articles in Facebook though and they have circulated in large numbers and I can see in my analytics that people come to my blog from Facebook everyday. So Facebook users must still be sharing my articles. Thank you for looking for ways to support my blog and topfreedom and gender equality in general. Brazil is having an exciting conversation about topfreedom. I enjoy hearing updates from Brazilians.

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  5. Julio,
    What I did was to create a “secret” Facebook group, then hand picked the people I wanted to be in it. That ended up being only about 75 of my roughly 300 Facebook friends. The other 200+ people I know are some combination of openly hostile to the idea, inconsiderate, immature, cannot understand why anyone would want to do that, or are co-workers or others who I would rather not have to explain my involvement. Those who did make the list had discussed the topic openly with me, some of them face to face, or I know their feelings on feminism or social change. Since my Facebook profile is generally open, I also know there are people who follow me but are not Facebook friends. (Example: Potential employers.) By limiting visibility, and not actually linking the articles but telling people how to get to them, I reduce the level of annoyance I have to deal with, and also stay under Facebook’s radar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I am certainly not opposed to having the blog and message be shared on Facebook! There are people who have shared actual blog posts, including the picture, as well and it takes awhile for the robots to catch it. I’m glad people are doing so, and I think the fact that I don’t have a FB account helps those posts stay under the radar longer. I don’t think the bots are attuned to the term “bare-chested/ness” either, so it doesn’t cause any red flags right away and by the time they figure out the hole in the net it’s been shared again and again. It’s awesome. Kinda feels like we are sticking it to the man in regards to Facebook’s ridiculous anti female nipple policy. Bwahahahaha

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Maybe, maybe not. In this age of social media, ideas fly around the globe so fast now. I have been receiving a lot of correspondence from Brazilians who are interested in this issue, to the point of taking real action. Indians have also been writing and commenting here and on YouTube. In fact, India was one of the top 5 nations visiting my blog today and yesterday. So the conversation is happening at least a little bit. And as another commenter pointed out, in India, just two generations ago some women still walked around their villages bare-chested, tattooed and empowered. So it’s not such a foreign idea there as it is here in the U.S. to some degree. But I hear what you’re saying. It’s a challenge anywhere to change long held beliefs. But maybe it will be a snowball, and the progress made in some places will accelerate the progress in others. Thank you. be well.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s not the exact state in India. Frankly speaking, bare chested women are just a arousing object in India for the time being. The women you spoke about, belong to the ancient tribes living in Jungle areas. They don’t have enough money to cover them or their children. The urban state here is quite sad. People have adapted the western lifestyle but never adapted their way of thinking. Majority of crowd here is still same old narrow minded men. Let’s see how things roll out in the coming years. Hope for the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. First let me say thank you so much for having the courage to stand up for change, but I can’t help but wonder what’s taking so long? The New York State top-freedom case was won 23 years ago in 1992: http://gotopless.org/news.php?extend.3 Sandy Hook has a clothing-optional section, but why don’t groups of women use other local beaches or parks top-free more often?
    Again I applaud you immensely for your courage, but for top-free equality to really “take off” (please pardon the pun), it must be shown to be popular; not just one individual expressing individual rights. I would encourage you to start a group of top-free supporters and have meet-ups at the beach or parks or walking about town or whatever you choose, but this really needs to develop into a popular movement to reach popular acceptance and become a popular activity.
    Bravo! Good luck! And carry on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. I absolutely agree that this whole effort must extend beyond a few intrepid souls. However we must do some groundwork before masses of women will feel comfortable. We must establish legality, police cooperation, social neutrality at least and general awareness. We also need to show the world what a mature conversation on this topic looks and sounds like, which we are doing. Exciting stuff, all. My mission currently is to confirm legality with police departments and then confirm that understanding by appearing bare-chested in those places, and posting photos and videos of me in these places to prove it. So this is where I am in that process. There is still a lot of work to be done in this regard. As to why I don’t form groups, please read my article Why I Don’t Ask Other Women to Join Me (But Would Love Them To). But yes, progress. (New Jersey law does not allow public bare-chestedness by the way.) Thanks for your time and support. Be well.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Your videos are intriguing from a sociological perspective. As I said before, I’m always surprised by how little reaction you get from those you pass by; virtually no head-turning, no staring, no finger-wagging, no mouths agape, almost like there’s nothing out of the ordinary in what you’re doing at Brighton Beach and Ocean City.
    (In fact, just the opposite, based on your account of the teenage girl who told her mom to chill out when they encountered you. Which of your videos is that on, btw?)
    Why do you think the reaction is so nonchalant? Is it in part, maybe, movies with topless scenes (since about 1970) have taken much of the novelty and “shock” value out of seeing bared female breasts?

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    1. Hey Joseph: Thank you. I think there’s a couple things going on that make my walks peaceful. Some of it is how I approach my walks. Some of it is societal change, especially in the last two years. As I’ve written in my articles, I believe you get back what you put into the world, energetically speaking. So much non-verbal information passes between people in the first moments of an interaction. I have spent a lot of effort developing the ability to be neither threatened nor threatening, in life, not just these bare-chested walks. I understand that walking bare-chested is going to scare some people on very deep levels, far deeper than has anything to do with seeing breasts. So I really work hard in myself to understand their fears and meet them with compassion. When any of us are having a fear reaction, we need at least a moment to process. I give people the space to have that moment without passing judgment on them, no matter what they decide. That removes a significant amount of the scariness for most people, because they aren’t afraid of the breasts, they are afraid of the social issues, interacting with me, my anger and judgment and fear, the anger and judgment and fear of the other people around us, etc. Sometimes it feels a bit like I imagine surfing might feel, staying just ahead of the energy and using it to propel you. But if you get behind, it can knock you down. As far as social change, something has happened in the last two years. I think part of it stems from the work of the women who have been going out bare-chested for the last two decades, finally just wearing the rock down from a legal perspective, winning court cases, making the legal environment, and then going out and doing it. But the high profile celebrity endorsements of Free the Nipple have certainly had an effect with younger people, I think. Social media has also accelerated the cause wildly. The teenage girl you refer to is not in any of my videos. I really only started making videos a couple months ago and that was to show people what I’ve been trying to say all along, is that it really can feel normal, it need not be this sign waving, slogan shouting drama that topfreedom events sometimes become. I think those protests can help where law treats genders unequally, but for where laws already protect bare-chestedness, the only thing left to do is go out and normalize it by acting otherwise conventionally, quietly, peacefully, pushing back only hard enough to neutralize and only when confronted, not before. I always assume people mean me no harm. It goes a long way. If I go out paranoid that people are going to harass me or be mean to me, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because my energy will be fearful and defensive, and people will sense that and get afraid of my fear, and react accordingly. Thank you for your question and continued support.

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