‘Bodies Are Bodies': Group Marches Through Boston For Topless Equality

Five people showed up without shirts on in the name of equal rights.

Photo by Steve Annear

Photo by Steve Annear

Some people clapped, others cheered, and a few snickered or pulled out their smartphones to grab a photo.

But almost every single person that a group of half-nude protesters passed on the streets of Boston turned their heads in bewilderment at the site of the bare-breasted individuals taking part in “Go Topless” day.

Stacey, the spokesperson for the Massachusetts chapter of ToplessEquality.com, who didn’t want to use her last name, lead the march that started at the corner of Boylston and Charles Streets on the Boston Common Sunday afternoon, mere steps away from a little league game, and continued on through Beacon Hill, passed the State House, and ended on the steps of City Hall plaza.

With four people beside her, Stacey protested state and local laws that prevent women from taking off their tops, and showing their breasts in public, the way men are allowed to, as part of a national movement held every year a day prior to Women’s Equality Day, which marks the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, allowing women to vote. “Everyone’s got nipples,” said Stacey, before the march was underway, as she waited for people to show up. “Women should be allowed to walk around without a shirt on, too.”

ToplessEquality.com, the group Stacey represents, and Go Topless are two separate organizations, but Stacey brought the two together to celebrate the annual day of protest, which is held in hundreds of cities across the country.

As Stacey, one other female, and three men, holding signs for equal rights, walked quietly through the city on a Sunday where the streets were packed with tourists, families, and residents, all enjoying the last of the summer weather, passerby stopped, stared, and started taking photos.

And although most people turned their heads to gawk—one mother covered her children’s eyes— at the five protesters, no one really seemed to mind for the most part. “My breasts are as big as hers,” said Todd Cooper, one of the protesters, pointing to Stacey’s chest. “I don’t see the problem. If a man can have his shirt off, women should be able to as well.”

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Under state law, which deems “uncovered or less than opaquely covered human genitals, pubic areas, [and] the human female breast below a point immediately above the top of the areola” illegal, the female participants risked arrest. But no police approached the marchers for the duration of their event, and one even pulled up alongside the group, looked over briefly, and drove away.

Neither the police, nor many people they walked by seemed to let the laws interfere with the skin-showing stroll. “I’m fine with it. I believe if they want to feel comfortable with their shirts off, then why not? Equal rights, right? I don’t think it’s something that will transition easily into [everyday society] but maybe it’ll be something that happens in the future,” said Susan Ruder, as she walked by the group on Charles Street.

Drivers honked their car horns, and people cheered from onboard the Duck Boats that drove around Boston Common, with some making quacking sounds from the tourist vehicles.

Daniel Green, of Boston, gave Stacey and her followers a thumbs up. “What’s fair is fair. And I think this is pretty fair, for me,” he said. “I think people are just uptight. I have nipples and I can show them. Why can’t they?”

Once at City Hall, where the march ended, and the group continued to hand out pamphlets to curious bystanders that wanted to know what the nudity was all about, interest picked up a little more, and others almost spontaneously disrobed in a show of support.

Ashley Malans and her friend Sophia Quazi didn’t participate, but they did take pamphlets and admit they would sign a petition to help forward the movement. “Honestly, it’s the same exact anatomy as a male’s body, except when you add a little fat and it suddenly becomes offensive and sexualized,” said Malans. “I think [topless equality] is definitely something people should support.”

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  • merckxgimondi

    I am a male who goes topless in public. I have no problem with women being topless in public. I think it would add beauty to our streets and to our society in general.

    • BostonSteve

      Have you seen some of the women out there? Might want to rethink that.

      • M. S.

        Fuck you asshole; “have you seen some of the” MEN? I probably want to see you topless as little as you’d like to see me topless, yet you have that right and I do not due to the fucking patriarchal bullshit that is society and is perpetuated by garbage like you.

  • Megan G

    It’s never the attractive people who want to be naked.

    • merckxgimondi

      I think Stacey’s female companion is very cute. She is an excellent spokesperson for the cause.

  • SpaaMetu

    @disqus_12ZRuz2uKf:disqus
    It’s rarely the attractive people who do anything of real merit.

    • miltoncy

      You’re right. All the “beautiful people” are usually far too shallow to care or too vacuous to understand issues such as gender equality and simple nudity.

  • mike

    Ok, I’m not sure how people can make an equivalence between male toplessness and female toplessness. These distinctions arise from basic biological differences between men and women; women have breasts that protrude, and are used to breast feed, but more importantly, they have always been a big attractor for men. On the other hand, a mans upper body projects far less sexuality than a females upper body. Hence, the worldwide ubiquity of women covering their upper body.

    So while there are definitely people out there who want “complete equality” – those same should try to understand that a pluralistic democracy is not identical with egalitarianism. There are conservatives – people who follow a more conservative metaphysics, who would undoubtedly oppose any legislation that legalized topless sunbathing for women at public beaches.

    Personally, I wouldn’t mind to see it; my biology WANTS to see naked women. I would greatly enjoy myself watching them – even though the “mature” part of me would be telling myself “no…don’t think that, women aren’t objects”….but, seeing a girl in the prime of her life, unveil her bazoongas right in front of me… I couldn’t, and I wouldn’t want to resist the urge to take a peak or two, or three, or 4,5,6,7… So really, the issue here is philosophical. The now-discredited nonsense that everything is due to nurture has been corrected by the biological sciences i.e. genomics, neuroscience, etc. We can only do so much. And what we can do is dependent on how self aware we are.

    In any case, politically, I am not in favor of a position that benefits only one – rather small – part of the electorate that wants to bare their breasts at the beach. Most women do not want to do that, either for personal reasons (common), religious reasons (most common), or philosophical reasons (least common). Society should not play favorites the way the media and Hollywood tends to favor extreme liberal views. Even if share many of those views, it’s important to appreciate the effect the right plays to moderate the views of the left; and vice versa.

  • Ed Gregory

    Wow, there are much greater equality challenges that arise on a daily basis, such as a woman being paid less for the same job as a man and vice verse. It’s so sad that these people are wasting a good public opportunity for this. FYI, at my college men weren’t allowed to be topless either.