This week in Idiotic Things People Do In The Name Of Feminism: Boob parade!

Sunday was, apparently, “Go Topless Day.” According to media coverage of the event in Vancouver, the purpose of the march is to “stand up for women’s right to go topless in public.”

CBC’s headline read: “Topless women march in Vancouver for gender equality,” which naturally led me to wonder what, exactly, about fighting for our “right” to bare our breasts in public had to do with gender equality.

First things first. In Canada, women won the right to bare their breasts in public in 1996, so the claims that this march is about gaining rights is a little misleading. Spokesperson, Denise Belisle, said the women participating in the event in Vancouver were fighting for women in other places where going topless isn’t legal:  “For the women who do want to go topless, they should have that option. They do here in Vancouver, that’s great, but not everywhere.” How, exactly, women parading topless down Robson Street, in Vancouver, where it is already legal, impacts the law in other places is unclear.

Second, it seems relevant to mention that Go Topless Day is, as The National Post reported, “organized and promoted by the Raelians, a UFO cult founded by former French journalist Claude Vorlihan (i.e. a dude), author of ‘Extraterrestrials Took Me to Their Planet.'” The National Post seems to stand out as an exception, calling the event “a publicity stunt,” unlike the many other media outlets who placed it under the banner of “gender rights.” Though this information should be cause for skepticism, in terms of the credibility or relevance to feminism, the media seems to be taking it quite seriously. It’s no strange coincidence that news outlets seem most interested in covering “gender rights” when we’re dealing with either Slutwalk or female nudity.

It is true that there is a double-standard. Aside from the douche-factor, people tend not to pay much attention to men who go shirtless in public places. Women, on the other hand, are likely to be gawked at, harassed, cat-called, or treated as though they are doing something socially inappropriate.

Now, as far as “gender rights” go, near the bottom of the list of concerns I have about inequality is my “right” to go topless. There are very few moments in my life wherein I feel I would be freer or cooler if only I could bare my breasts. That said, the reasons behind the fact that women don’t go topless in public places as casually as men, do matter.

Breasts are sexualized in our culture. In general, women’s bodies and body parts are fetishized in a way that men’s are not. This is why people get so worked up when women breastfeed in public. Because breasts are, we’ve been made to believe, reserved for male sexual fantasies. Feeding babies with sexy sex toys doesn’t fit very well with that notion.

It is for this same reason that The Province covered Sunday’s march with the headline: “Everyone’s a photographer on Go Topless Day in Vancouver.” Because, obviously,  a bunch of disgusting pieces of shit felt that a march that (were we not so terribly simple-minded and misguided) could have been about women’s right not to be objectified should actually be about objectifying women.

The National Post reported that “at least one participant had to hold the crowds back shouting ‘You’re too close,'” because, of course, female nudity is an invitation to men to behave rapily. Men think they have the right to access women in public spaces regardless of how clothed we are, but they particularly believe that women’s naked bodies exist for them. What else could they possibly be for?

Of course, the message that this double-standard is sexist (I actually don’t think that was the message, or really that there was any message at all — but let’s pretend for argument’s sake) failed because those behind the march don’t quite get it. The chant, “free your breasts, free your mind,” tells me that the GoTopless folks have avoided looking at the root of the issue. There is little that can be changed at the surface, particularly when we we don’t understand why the inequality exists in the first place. There is also little that can be changed, with regard to the objectification of women, simply by “freeing one’s mind.”

Belisle, said: “It’s an education for men. Men are learning and they’re learning to be more respectful.” Of course, as demonstrated by the behaviour of the men witnessing the event, the exact opposite was achieved. Men did not learn to be more respectful, nor did they learn anything about women’s rights or “gender equality.” The march merely reinforced their belief that women’s naked bodies equate to pornography — they are to be looked at for the purposes of male pleasure.

I find it consistently sad and lazy (many days I simply don’t have the energy to feel angry and am certainly not surprised) that the media and the general public refuses to engage with feminism “gender rights” unless it can somehow be pornified.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

Like this article? Tip Feminist Current!

$
Personal Info

Donation Total: $1

  • MLM

    Great post, Meghan.

    I’ve forgotten when the next “Women’s right to see themselves more often portrayed in a humanised, non-pornified manner in advertising and media” march is happening?

    Or even the “Women’s right to be seen by men as actual human beings” march, (where women are plastered in the slogan “I am a person” instead of “I am a slut”).

    Why am I guessing that these marches would get almost zero media attention in comparison to an event where women’s bared bodies were on display?

    I’m also wondering how differently men might have demonstrated their interest for a “Women publicly expressing unpopular or challenging opinions without receiving violent harassment and rape/death threats in response” march?

    I really wish people would wake up. This, for me, is a pretty good illustration that striving for “equality” which basically amounts to pseudo male status for non-males, and pseudo white status for non-whites is a fight for pseudo equality. If nothing is done to confront and dismantle the systematic white male supremacist power structures inherent in the creation of such inequality, good luck changing the social effects in any meaningful way…

    • Meghan Murphy

      Or the “Men: Stop being lecherous, rapey, creeps” march? When is that one, again?

    • Naom

      “I am a person” instead of “I am a slut”

      This really stuck with me because I never had anything against slutwalk, until now. I am all about reclaiming your sexuality, and being free to engage in love making with multiple partners without being insulted and ostracized for it. I strongly agree with the notion that the way I dress is never an invitation to rape or harassment. I feel you should be allowed to express yourself through dress in the way you see fit; though now I see how regaining that power and agency is not about reclaiming a word. Its about telling the world yea I love sex, I have control over my body, I am never asking for it with my behavior or clothes and its not because I am slut and proud–it’s because I am a human being and proud.

  • Not all men are rapey creepy…good article about a very selective form of madness though… Were those shots of men taking photos of the march/parade? Or whatever the hell they called it?
    agree with answer statement too.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Not all men, no. But that is rapey creepy behaviour, imo. The leering – the getting too close…

  • sporenda

    It’s a perfect example of how patriarchy has turned mainstream feminism into an empty shell, a clawless toothless ally of male power.
    The strategy has been to redefine feminism as the very opposite of what is was meant to be initially and pretend that the male behaviors that second wave feminism deemed sexist, unfair and dangerous to women are in fact good for them and should be enthusiastically endorsed by them.

    Men gazing at nude female bodies: feminist.
    prostitution: empowering and feminist
    pornography: idem.
    BDSM: feminist

    This new, “fun” kind of feminism pretends that what pleases men is good for women as well; it’s titillating and phoney consensual, so it’s very popular with the media: tits and ass, no more war of the sexes, men get what they want, women are supposed to gain from it too, everybody is happy, and these pesky second wave feminists are out and passé.

    You notice though that the people who are behind all these “new feminist” actions, who conceive them and organize them are men (the Pussy Riots for instance): the new fun kind of feminimsm must not only receive men’s stamp of approval, it’s also led by them.

    The message is: old fashioned feminist have made a mess of feminism, because they pissed off everybody, they pissed off men in particular and nothing can ever succeed in this world if it pisses off men.
    And anyway, men are so much more efficient than women at achieving anything.

    Ten years ago, we used to joke with some of my feminist friends that feminism would be so much better and would go so much further if strong men took the lead.
    It looks like the time has come for a man pleasing, man approved and man led feminism.

  • vouchsafer

    Why am I thinking that the women that partook of this event are from the fun fem camp? And also that they have the type of body that is sexualized in the porn culture? This is not an effort to further gender equality. Its straight up performance for the male gaze.

  • lizor

    Sidebar:

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2013/08/26/Reporter-Goes-Topless-To-Prove-Point

    From the comments:

    “heshtesh libsRchildren • 13 hours ago
    My hometown is Windsor Ont., women have been roller bladeing and biking topless along Riverside Dr. for the last 10 years, I only go home to visit in the summer and I have’nt complained yet!:)
    24 •Reply•Share ›

    Snufy heshtesh • 12 hours ago
    I haven’t been n Windsor since my U.S. Air Force days. Maybe I should go back and see the sights. Canadian women are for the most part better looking than the fat girls south of the border.”

    “fmadsen • 19 hours ago
    From the picture, I thought she might have been Miss Moose Jaw 2001….Actually, O’Connor was wrong in the report…in bearing her breasts she made two points, but apparently they were not very good.

    onesybabble fmadsen • 18 hours ago −
    I knew Miss Moose Jaw 2001….she’s no Miss Moose Jaw.

    fmadsen jonesybabble • 18 hours ago
    I apologize profusely to the residents of Moose Jaw and all of the Miss Moose Jaw winners…”

    “GaryG fmadsen • 8 hours ago
    …cause they were in her shoes. Now if it had been one of the Fox News hotties, that would be a STORY. However, they would never do that. Sigh.”

    “Marie Greggs • 16 hours ago −
    LOL, yeah right. It’s liberals who like fat beasts like the “journalist” above.”

    …and so on.

  • Ash

    so. fucking. depressing.

    ugh, look at all those dudes taking photos that they will now circulate online forever and wank to. so much for “feminism” hey? fuck.

  • sporenda

    “You are right that there is nothing toxic about courage, hard work and self-sacrifice. This is why today we hail the Wehrmacht and suicide bombers as shining examples of masculine enterprise, and… hang on. Breaking news, I’ve just been told that you’re a fucking idiot. Yes, it’s confirmed, you are a fucking idiot. ”
    .
    Indeed, hard work, courage and self sacrifice are hardly specifically male.
    Regarding hard work, women work longer hours than men, since on top of working at regular jobs, they still have to provide free domestic work and free child care.
    In a growing number of households, they are also sole financial providers for children.
    Regarding self sacrifice, obviously women are doing lots more of it than men by the single fact they are still the ones giving birth to kids and raising them. And in this regard, men have still a long way to go since, in a number of western countries, around 50% of child support goes unpaid.

    But the biggest myth of all is the courage of men, since most of the courageous actions men brag about are about preying on the weak(er) or the defenseless: raping and beating women, raping children, beating up (and raping) weaker males and –cherry on the cake–attacking smaller countries, thus being free to kill and rape on an industrial scale.
    In fact, most of what is presented by men as heroic boils down to bullying.

    I have never met a man who sacrificed his life to save other people or his country -Vietnam, Iraq and Afghan do not qualify; but I have met quite a few men who don’t pay child support, quite a few men who are rapists and quite a few who beat their wife.

    Your view of men as heroes is a myth: the harm caused by traditional masculinity is infinitely more frequent and damaging than the occurences of so called “protective masculinity’ which are quite rare and mostly used a smokescreen to hide male massive violence and abuse.

    • TrishDish

      You haven’t met such a man? Goodness, that’s sad. I’ve met maybe a dozen: ordinary guys. One rushed in to a burning house to save a child who isn’t his own. He wasn’t a firefighter, he was a farmer.

      The bus driver who stopped the addict from pulling a knife on me in the women’s room at the bus station in Wichita.

      The guy who stared down the cop.

      The three guys who jumped into the subway track to pull someone unconscious out.

      The guy who saved my cat from the coyotes.

      I know that it’s not fun to think of guys as heroes, and just dismissing these acts does help to keep the rage going. And keeping the rage going is quite addictive; anger releases endorphins.

      • joy

        Yes. what a SHAME that you don’t know enough MEN.

        Maybe you should stop being so ANGRY while you’re at it.

        Geez. We’ve only been telling feminists this forever, you’d think they’d listen eventually.

        • lizor

          @ joy.

          Yes exactly.

          And don’t forget exceptionalism!! Just because men turn out in droves to ogle women everyday, everywhere in both public and private spaces, we ladies must never forget that Blahblah’s dad was a really good guy and stuff, and therefore we must never EVER draw negative conclusions about masculine entitlement, predatory behaviour, violence, etc.

          • TrishDish

            You know that’s nothing even remotely like what I said, right? I simply thought it was exceptional that she never has met a male hero.

          • Lela

            What Trish, you don’t think all these “heroes” do things like consume porn, which is a major cause of the sexual exploitation of women worldwide? Which apparently doesn’t count, because it’s just “fantasy”…..

        • TrishDish

          I also tell this to environmentalists, Linux users, paleo-Catholics and Red Sox fans.

    • You posted this in the wrong entry.

      • TrishDish

        Did I? I had a 500 error the first time I tried.

  • Missfit

    If you are genuinely concerned about gender equality, this should be the last thing on your list. They are marching for women elsewhere to have the right to go topless. Where? Are there women complaining in significant numbers that they feel oppressed due to not being able to go out topless? Are there studies to that effect? Of the consequences on women’s wellbeing for not being able to do so?

    I understand the principle, the double standard behind allowing men to go shirtless but not women. However, men’s breasts and women’s breasts are not equal in our society to begin with. The consequences for going out topless are not the same for both. Most women like to go around their business without being pointed at, photographed, stalked, harassed, and I wonder how many individual women would avail themselves of walking the streets ‘topfree’ on their own, which is different than doing so in a parade which seems to me to be more about exhibitionism/voyeurism than liberating women. Women’s breasts signify sex in our society. If there is an advantage to be allowed to go topfree for weather or comfort reasons, why not go all the way and claim for the right to go out naked; a pussy has to breathe you know. ‘Free your pussy/dick! Free your mind!’

    There is a petition to be presented to the US Government on their website. From what I’ve seen, the signatories are mostly men (thank you for being at the forefront in the fight against our oppression!).

    • Meghan Murphy

      “If you are genuinely concerned about gender equality, this should be the last thing on your list. They are marching for women elsewhere to have the right to go topless. Where? Are there women complaining in significant numbers that they feel oppressed due to not being able to go out topless? Are there studies to that effect? Of the consequences on women’s wellbeing for not being able to do so?”

      YES. Exactly.

  • Is that really the best we can do, pass laws that let women walk around topless? And then making parades about it so all the pervs can get their fill? Is it too male-centric for me to argue that we should just make toplessness illegal for everyone and be done with it?

  • sporenda

    “You haven’t met such a man? Goodness, that’s sad. I’ve met maybe a dozen: ordinary guys. One rushed in to a burning house to save a child who isn’t his own. He wasn’t a firefighter, he was a farmer.”

    You must be confusing “reading stories in the newspaper” and “meeting face to face”.
    What I was trying to say is: for one man who goes into a building on fire to save a child, there are hundreds who rape and beat up beat women and children, evade their fatherly responsabilities, consume violent pornography and abuse prostitutes, let alone start wars, enslave whole people etc.
    And the mostly mythical notion of “man the protector ” is the alibi and excuse for this huge amount of male violence in the world.

    • TrishDish

      No, not at all, I’ve met these guys. The farmer is a friend of my dad’s. The guys who jumped in the subway – one of them worked for the agency I worked at. He was embarrassed by the attention, and I don’t blame him.

      I’m not counting ordinary ‘supportive in the face of desperate adversity’ stuff that I also consider heroic.

      There’s a ton of bad out there; don’t get me wrong. There is a ton of good that does not make great copy.

      • Lela

        Sure, but that isn’t at all relevant to this discussion.

    • vouchsafer

      “hundreds who rape and beat up women and children, evade their fatherly duties, consume violent pornography and abuse prostitutes, let alone start wars and enslave whole people”—-all of which comes to us courtesy of that raging testosterone fest we call global free market capitalism.

      How about we backtrack to the point in history where women were excluded from policy making conversations to the point where these kinds of shenanigans have been permitted to go on?

      When you look at it that way, it makes sense why this massive effort on the part of the capitalist elite to pornify the image of women and make a mockery of everything intelligent that we have to say. If we had intellectual credibility, we might just point out the obvious flaws in the system and demand revolutionary measures to protect our children and our climate. After all, we can’t expect men to object to this culture. They’re too busy staring at boobies to care.
      to bring it back to the boob freedom march, dollars to donuts they got their support from the capitalists, who are laughing all the way to the bank because once again women have acted in a manner that corroborates their hypersexualized, brainless portrayals of us.

      • lizor

        “If we had intellectual credibility, we might just point out the obvious flaws in the system and demand revolutionary measures to protect our children and our climate. After all, we can’t expect men to object to this culture. They’re too busy staring at boobies to care.
        to bring it back to the boob freedom march, dollars to donuts they got their support from the capitalists, who are laughing all the way to the bank because once again women have acted in a manner that corroborates their hypersexualized, brainless portrayals of us.”

        Lovely, concise quote. Thanks vouchsafer!

        • vouchsafer

          Thanks lizor!
          Glad to hear I’m not the only one that feels that way 🙂

  • Red Ipson

    Perhaps these women are simply exhibitionists…..One excuse to go topless is as good as another!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well, if they’re exhibitionists, that’s their own prerogative, but then they shouldn’t pretend as though the event is about “gender equality.”