Should Women Be Allowed To Go Topless In Public?

Hortense Smith — Determined to challenge society's double standards when it comes to going topless in public, Ty McDowell and roughly two dozen other women walked through the streets of Portland, Maine yesterday sans shirts. The protest had mixed results:

Though the Portland Press-Herald reports that the protest was peaceful and resulted in no arrests (it is only illegal to expose one's genitals in Portland, apparently), McDowell, who organized the event, told the paper that she was "enraged" by the amount of men who showed up to watch, essentially sexualizing an event that was meant to challenge society's instant sexualization of a woman's exposed chest.

McDowell's protest is not a new one; last summer, women in NYC gathered for a "Boobs in the Park" demonstration for similar reasons, citing a 1992 law that made going topless legal in the city. But the openness toward's women's bodies clearly hasn't come very far, as we saw just last week, with Erykah Badu being fined $500 after another woman complained that she was "offended to see Badu disrobe in public."

It appears, as both Badu and McDowell discovered, that even attempts to normalize women's nude bodies, or make a point about double standards or society's tendency to want to hide what they are uncomforable with, only seem to bring forth more misunderstandings and chances for people to misinterpret the message. The protests are a way of challenging a very set way of thinking, but I'm afraid it will take more than just exposure (in the most literal sense) to change the way society feels regarding the naked female form, and particularly a woman's right to appear topless in public without being objectified or shunned.

What do you think, commenters? Will women ever have the right to appear topless in public in the same way that men do? And if so, how will we eventually get there?

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