Peacefully Bare-Chested (Again) in Philadelphia

Philly Classic 1 FC
Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, Kelly Drive, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 5, 2016. Eventual race winner Megan Guarnier, the American leader of the Dutch powerhouse World Tour team, Boels-Dolmans, is pictured in the stars and stripes helmet and white jersey. She has six wins this year, including the U.S. National Championship, and is a favorite for a medal in the Rio Olympics.


We are avid fans of women’s professional cycling and took the opportunity to combine two of our favorite things on June 5.

This is my second time riding bare-chested in Philadelphia and my first impression of Philadelphia as a progressive and open-minded city was only strengthened from my experience at the race.

We both spent four hours bare-chested, riding all around the race course and stopping to watch the peloton pass every 15 minutes or so.  We parked on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania and rode across the city proper, using the green bike lanes on South Street, winding our way through neighborhoods, to find our way eventually to the Schuylkill River Trail which we used to ride all the way north to Manayunk neighborhood where the race finished.  We did not make it up the Manayunk Wall because of time, but we saw the bottom of it.

Point being, we were all over the city on a busy day and enjoyed a quiet, peaceful afternoon.  I received exactly zero negative comments.

Two separate college-aged women stopped me to chat and offer support, one said she was a rower and asked to pose for a photo.  (Bare-chested rowing team?  It’s all about the aerodynamics, my boy.  Aero-dy-namics.  ~ Tortoise, Bugs Bunny.)  Several gentleman stopped and asked questions about the legality of bare-chestedness and also gave their support.  One man asked what I was protesting.  I said, “Nothing.  It’s legal, there’s nothing to protest.”  And he laughed and answered, “Oh, I can think of a lot of things to protest.”  Which I thought was a great answer.  He hung out with us for about ten minutes until the race went by, said his goodbyes and good lucks and went on.

I did have one police officer stop and ask me where my shirt was, but when I asked gently if he was going around asking men where their shirts were, he held his hands up like, “Guilty as charged,” and laughed and pulled away.  It was funny more than anything, as you can tell from my reaction.

Philly Classic 5
Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 5, 2016. A police officer stopped to ask me where my shirt was, but only laughed when I asked him if he was driving around asking men where their shirts were. His reaction was funny more than anything. He laughed. I laughed. No worries.
Philly Classic 8
Philadelphia International Cycling Classic, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2016. Fun was had by all.

On the way back to Penn campus we also had a group of about ten teenage boys on bicycles, maybe 13-16 years old, join us in a swarming sort of curiosity for about two minutes, machine gunning questions and generally crowding around us.  They warned me I would be arrested and I assured them I would not be.  Jeff explained that Pennsylvania law treats men and women equally.  I imagine it was something to see for bystanders, but we both answered their questions calmly and asked them to be careful of other trail users, and one of the group spoke up and reminded his friends not to touch me, which none of them had shown any indication of trying to do, but I appreciated the maturity and said so.  Their curiosity satisfied, they slowed and went on their way, and left us to go on ours.

A funny moment came on South Street, when a car pulled over a little bit ahead of us and parked squarely in the bike lane. It was a new, white Mercedes and we had to ride out in a traffic lane to get around it. I slowed down and said into the open window (with a tone, I admit), “You’re parked in the bike lane.”  The driver glanced up with an attitude of his own, saw me there bare-chested and defiant, and was like, “Dafuq?”

I shook my head in indignant frustration and continued on, only realizing a beat later what that must have looked like to the driver.  With a grin cracking across my face I turned to Jeff who just shrugged and said, “Hey.  Right is right.”

22 thoughts on “Peacefully Bare-Chested (Again) in Philadelphia

  1. Another excellent article. I wish you well in your travels across the US (and elsewhere) to normalise women being barechested in public and hope every future city visit is as interesting, (largely) incident free and enjoyable as that one in Pittsburgh.

    If you have been thinking and planning, where do you plan to go next?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think this is a great initiative you have taken. Best is, you do not force anyone into it but do it with the intention of creating and empowering self freedom. Even Being a guy I used to feel shy to go bare chested in front of women. After seeing your initiative this is surely going to help me keep my shirt off. Thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s awesome. Body positivity and self-love are incredible feelings. I would love to hear from a man how it feels to grow more confident bare-chested and how it translates into other aspects of life. Let me know please? Thank you. Be well.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll be honest, I have a similar testimony about body image and your blog. As I told you before, I’m an aspiring naturist (I read your last post about naturist men and barechested equality, hopefully you understand that’s not where I’m coming from here! 😂). But quite frankly, for a long time I’ve had a negative body image. Other than in a school lockerroom, I as a young male (just turned 18) have never gone publicly barechested, much less naked among even friends as I hope to at some point. I was that kid who wrote an undershirt in the pool. XD I’ve always been that kid who always wears polo shirts and khakis everywhere, and while I plan to continue sometimes I’ve wished I could have the confidence to just go barechested on a hot day. I started reading your blog and it helped me truly come to realize that I have nothing to be ashamed of. If you and your friends and colleagues, as females, can happily and proudly go barechested, even with the occasional opposition, how much more can I as a male go barechested, unashamed, when I know it’s legal? You have helped give me the confidence I need to make a stand myself, for my own body image. And now when I start over at college I’ll have the confidence to go barechested whenever I need to or even just want to (within reason XD) Maybe at some point I’ll meet a woman who wants to go barechested, and I’ll actually be confident enough to go barechested with her, further helping to show the normality and naturalness of barechestedness. 😃 Your blog has helped me not only have a stronger passion for and understanding of barechested equality, but of body image as a whole, for men as well as women, and I’ve actually been able to help others with their body image too. Many a post of yours has inspired me, educated me, and even convicted me when I needed to be to become a better person and a better advocate. I want to say thank you again. I have a high level of respect for you, I love your blog and I support you one thousand percent. Which is mathmatically impossible, 😂 but it’s how I feel. 😃 God bless you.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. And I love this post a thousand percent 🙂 Thank you for continuing to share your journey with me, and us. I don’t know if you read my last article, but I shared a conversation with the 15-year old son of a friend of mine who had gone bare-chested on the beach for the first time with her children present, and I asked how the son felt about this, and he said all these wonderful things about her strength and confidence and character. It was breathtaking, and then even more so, he shared with me that her act had encouraged him to go bare-chested for the first time in his life, and to begin addressing his own negative body image and to overcome his experiences with body shaming and bullying. This really is an issue for all genders to overcome. I love hearing from you. Thank you again 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I did, actually! That was a wonderful and very encouraging testimony. 🙂 That story was actually what encouraged me to share my story here in the comments. And no problem! It’s great to be able to share the progress in my own life with others, and to offer a couple encouraging words of support (You’ve encouraged me so much, I can’t help but want to show my support and offer the occasional encouraging words 😀 ) And it’s always great to know that someone cares enough to listen. There aren’t many places I can go with my testimony about things like this and get a positive response like I do here. 🙂
            I love your blog, I read every article, and I’m always encouraged. I also want you to know I really appreciate your replies! It becomes so clear that you really care, because you take the time to read and answer everyone’s comments. And your way of handling yourself, even in the face of the occasional rude encounter, truly show your character. There are very few people I’ve come to respect the same way I’ve come to respect you. Thank you, and keep up the amazing work. 😃

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Well likewise. I have come to respect you as well. You show great courage to share your vulnerabilities and your victories. It’s encouraging to know there are people like you of any gender, but young people coming up now, who can speak to equality and bullying and shaming. Much of this is still a new conversation for our society but the fact that so many young people are pushing this conversation forward fills me with hope. We will get there.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. I bet your encounter with the teenage boys is still reverberating in their heads and rippling out through friend groups. Really positive! Asked questions, got the equality message, learned the etiquette. All that in an otherwise unremarkable everyday context. A learning moment likely to spread and have good little impacts long into the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve just learned of this blog (and activity) in The Week.


    While the US isn’t the worst place in the world for cultural craziness about the human body, we can certainly do better.

    Liked by 1 person


        it’s a weekly summary of national and international news. Quite good, actually.

        We get the print version at my home.


        On Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 8:13 PM, breastsarehealthy wrote:

        > breastsarehealthy commented: “Thanks for visiting. Welcome. What is “The > Week?” I had another commenter mention it but I can’t find it. I think the > name is so common Google just turns up a billion search results.” >


        1. Thank you. Did they run photos in the print version perchance? And were they uncensored? It will be a landmark when a print media outlet runs uncensored photos of female bare-chestedness. I’m trying!


          1. No pictures as I recall.

            There has been some useful NYTimes and other coverage (sic) of “free the nipple” recently; I thought it was nicely done, if not particularly revealing.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rashaad: Thank you for visiting the blog and commenting. No, I am not nervous encountering the police… and it is important that I acknowledge the privilege in this. Part of my confidence speaking to the police is within me, of course, and also that I am confident the law is on my side. But I also recognize that my ability to feel comfortable speaking to police, even those who aren’t particularly pleased with me, is that I am a white female and at the very least they might perceive me as a non-physical threat and/or that white women aren’t often involved in physical altercations with police. Promoting and inviting racial diversity in the topfreedom movement is a particular passion of mine, and I think it is important for me to openly acknowledge the privileges my gender and race provide me in police interactions. I very much respect good police and the work they do. It is a difficult and often thankless job. I have had many respectful and professional interactions with competent and mature police officers. I have also had several interactions that frankly made me question the officer’s mental stability. I’ve never been arrested, but those interactions have given me plenty to ponder when thinking how they might have gone had I not been a white female. The very first interaction I ever had with police in D.C. started quite negatively, with two angry police officers giving me the impression they were going to throw me on the ground and arrest me. This was years ago, now. Even though they acknowledged the legality of female bare-chestedness, they still held me for 45 minutes trying to shame me into covering my chest. Yet in all of this, my main reaction internally was one of defiance. And this has come back to me in the last year, watching and talking to Black Lives Matter activists, I realize how much of my ability to be defiant (and not scared for my life) in the face of two enraged police officers taking it upon themselves to dictate their values on me is because people who look like me don’t really have to feel scared for our lives in those situations. It was deeply offensive and unjust, but I wasn’t scared for my life. I’ve not been conditioned to fear police by watching people who look like me in physical altercations with police, or by enduring physical altercations myself. I’m aware of the privilege and I’m trying very hard to use that privilege to establish civil liberty, freedom and equality for all. I can’t change my race, but I must be aware of its dynamics. I don’t know if this was the direction of your question, but I’ve been wanting to say this for awhile and took your question as the opportunity to do so. Thank you again. Be well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s