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April 05, 2010


Headless Unicorn Guy

I am male.
Of a species whose primary sense is sight.
I see boobage, I'm going to home in on it.

In this culture, for this visually-oriented primate species, showing boobage is a MATING DISPLAY. Female of visually-oriented species makes a full-honk mating display in public, males in line-of-sight WILL take notice. Is this "Ty McDowell" so off on a tangent in Activist Intellectual La-La-Land that he/she/it never realized that?


Well I think it does have some relevance to the dilemma of breastfeeding. If that double standard didn't exist and people didn't care about women going topless in public, no one would be uncomfortable with women breastfeeding in public. And I think that would be a desirable result.

I agree that the organizer of this march should not have been surprised at attracting a crowd, isn't that what marches are supposed to do? If we want female toplessness to become acceptable, we should just start doing it as if it is and not calling attention to it. I personally like wearing shirts and bras, however.

Melissa May

Sorry to disappoint, Erica, since I certainly don't share the same belief as Ms. McDowell. My husband mentioned this story to me yesterday and I was going to look up the particulars since I hadn't heard the full story.
In truth, I find it quite sad that there are well-meaning women who are this naive. It seems to me that there is more shame expressed in the attempt to equalize men and women by denying their respective differences than there is in simply acknowledging those differences and embracing their respective strengths.
This was not an act of female empowerment, but female bamboozlement, if you ask me. The women lost footing big time in this engagment.

Dan Horwitz

The argument is that women have historically been subjugated, and one of the ways in which that has happened has been by their hyper-sexualization, often expressed in the context of men not being able to control themselves. We are all created in the image of God, and as expressed in Genesis 1, "man and woman he created them." As expressed in Genesis 2, "and they shall bind together and be as one flesh." If man and woman were created as equals, and their flesh is the same, why is the top half of the woman's flesh any more provocative than the top half of the man's?

One of your previous posts suggests that women are settling for far-from-perfect guys, largely due to their own insecurities and senses of self-worth. Perhaps this is the to the hypersexualization women face in today's world? And perhaps it could be addressed with a reworking of cultural norms to actually view women as equals, and thus, to strive to live in a world where they are just as free to walk around topless as their male counterparts?

In the future, rather than laughing at those whose points of view are clearly different than yours, it'd be nice to see you struggle a bit with contemporary feminism from an intellectual perspective and to see how it differs from your own point of view, why, and if there are places where it can be reconciled.

Erica Z

To Dan:

"If man and woman were created as equals, and their flesh is the same, why is the top half of the woman's flesh any more provocative than the top half of the man's?"

As long as we're getting intellectual...

1. None of the sources you provided--if you read them more carefully-- actually support your conclusion that man and woman were created as "equals" (at least in the way the word is used today). The Torah (a.k.a. Old Testement), both in Genesis and as a whole, views men and women as having different natures and, accordingly, different--but equally valuable--roles in society.

2. Perhaps the fact that man was created in the image of G-d simply implies that the Divine "image" is a synthesis of masculine and feminine (a concept which happens to be a foundation of Jewish Kabbalistic tradition)?

3. The verse stating that man and woman "should bind together and be as one flesh" proves exactly the opposite point that you are trying to make - why all this fuss about "binding together" if they are exactly the same to begin with?

... and let's be honest. Women trying to behave like men = oppression, not equality.


I disagree with Dan. I thought it was pretty openminded of Erica to ask for the the other side to state their case...never seen that on the blogosphere before!

Tom Babcock

I don't know if Ty was truly naive and therefore enraged at the response to her march, or held the march to provoke the oogling which could then justify her rage. Rocky is correct that unless walking about topless becomes the norm, then as with the unusual anywhere people are going to look, and men are going to look twice


As a straight female, even I like looking at boobs. They're fun, usually bouncy and curvey. That said, I also learned it's not polite to stare. I don't think American society will ever view boobs as anything besides sexual, which sells them and the women who posses them short. Obviously breasts are sexual, but they also provide sustenance and life for babies. I am of the belief that women should be able to breast-feed in public without being harassed or stared at. I don't think it's practical for women to walk around topless in public, since our culture seems unwilling to separate boobs from sexuality. Personally, I think men could stand to learn a little subtlety. A quick glance or two hurts no one, following around town? Thats just creepy.


Oh goodness. Okay well I agree with Rocky about the breastfeeding. I also agree with Erica on the idea that women becoming more men like is oppressive. To me, it seems as though that type of feminism puts men on a pedestal and that women should strive to be more like that. AWKWARD!

As for the story - I had heard of this thing before. I believed that refered to it as "top free" because they felt "topless" had a sexual tone to it. You think? I am a researcher but I think that men like to see things whereas women like to think about things. I mean breasts are essentially sacks of fat. but they are also life giving. its quite the connundrum - ok it is time to stop because i'm talking in circles.


The same thing happened at Princeton University during their "Nude Olympics," when some of the female students were groped, and the response is always the same: "Just because I'm running around naked does NOT give you the right to touch me, or even to look at me!" How do such intelligent women come to this absurd position?

I think people are rightly concerned about not 'blaming the victim' of sex crimes, and I personally agree that men should bear responsibility for their behavior, crimes, and poor choices in general--as should women. But then we really go overboard when we pretend that it's normal--and ideologically praiseworthy--to run around naked. It's not, and it certainly does nothing to 'empower' women. To me, the salient line from the piece is the following one:

"However, McDowell said she plans to organize similar demonstrations in the future and said she would be more 'aggressive' in discouraging oglers."

Really the most aggressive way to discourage oglers would be to walk around clothed, wouldn't it?

About nursing, whenever I have seen women nursing in public, the baby is usually wrapped in a blanket or under a shawl--no breast is visible unless you really crane your neck to look--so I don't see why people get so worked up over nursing to the degree where they'll complain: "I know what's going on under there! You're not allowed to do that here!" Etc.

I think that this response has less to do with modesty than its opposite--the real objection seems to be that the breast is serving a utilitarian and not a sexual function. I say this because the very same people will not object when much more of the breast is visible--under the guise of 'fashion.'

So it's a bit of a contradiction.

Headless Unicorn Guy

Given the subject matter, here's a little classic from Dr Demento.

Jeanne Buckley

It is interesting to note that there were 2 dozen women and several hundred men in the crowd around them. It seems that "topfree" women seem to attract men. Perhaps it is because women's breasts do have a fundamental difference from men's. They ARE sexual organs. (but if you want to argue that men's are as well, I would probably agree with that).

When we look scientifically at the issue, we see that at puberty, men's chests do not fundamentally change from those of boys. However, women's breasts do change from those of girls. This is because developing breasts is a sexual characteristic. It does make us different from men.

However, I don't think it justifies a double standard -- just that the remedy I would suggest is different. Instead of uncovering women, cover men. Frankly, I don't think it is appropriate or sanitary for men to be walking around town on a hot summer day without a top. Who wants to brush up against a sweaty naked stranger on a crowded street. The beach -- maybe, and frankly, if a woman was topless at the beach, it probably wouldn't attract as much attention as it did when these women walked through town. Town is not the place for female OR male topelessness.


@Wendy Re-reading your comment, I'm kinda confused. You think nudity invites groping? There's a big difference between looking and groping, and I'd hope you'd realize that groping without consent is assault. Being naked does not equal consent.
Also I've always felt the mentality that men can't control themselves in front of naked or scantily clad women sells men short. They might not be able to control an erection, but they can and should know to keep their hands to themselves. (Unless consent is established otherwise, preferably verbal consent.)


I thought she was saying just because nudity does not mean it's ok to grope, that doesn't mean nudity is therefore a good idea.

Pamela Tougher

Are men REALLY more visually-oriented as a gender and compared to the other senses? I'd like to see the facts on that premise and not just studies that show men are visually-oriented. I say this because it seems to me that a claim that says a man is visually-oriented is be a good excuse for being superficially indulgent and/or objectifying women. Women have eyes too. Let's be real.

Erica Z

@Pamela Tougher: I think you can figure this out just by observing men. Men are much more easily sexually aroused by visual stimuli than women are. Putting studies aside, you can see that pretty easily (i.e. pornography is one extreme example), even with men's natural behavior in general towards/regarding women.


@Ezviklin Yeah, but a lot of women are still aroused by visual stimuli. I mean, seeing a good looking man in a three-piece suit is enough to get me started. And plenty of women watch porn and are aroused by it. I'm not saying men aren't visually stimulated, I just think that it's played down by women, whether it's because we're told to behave a different way or because we're encouraged to use other senses more in depth then men are.

I don't quite see how being visually stimulated should affect how men treat women though. I think that's just a lack of manners.


@Ezviklin and @Shanna. Pornography isn't necessarily an effect proving men have a stronger tendency toward visual stimulation. What about brothels? Gloria Steinam put it best, "A women reading playboy, feels like a Jew reading a Nazi manual." There is something twisted about it and yet perhaps sexually arousing for women too, but in a similar way (brace yourself) women who are sexual prisoners can develop an affection for their captor. That affection does not mean it's okay, nor does female acceptance of pornography mean it's okay to be objectified when we are all human beings with dignity. Men get more than sexual stimualation from porn, but a power trip. A few studies in adolescence education show that in moral situations girls tended toward a "caring" solution, whereas boys tended toward a "justice" solution. Just throwing it out there, but maybe the march proved affective and the error is in pointing attention to what the oogly eyed boys have to say/gesture about it.

Back to the point, there is no excuse, biological or otherwise, to objectify people and especially women who have a unique history of oppression and care about their oppressors.

I think the march was good because it said, "I have boobs and they are mine to do whatever I want with even if it means disillusioning the male gender by exposing them for everyone to see in a nonsexual manner."

Brian Jones

I just wanted to add this to the discussion, I don't think anyone has really mentioned it.

In other cultures it is normal for women to be topless and have breasts exposed. Borneo is a place that comes to mind. My understanding, and maybe I'm wrong, but these woman usually don't attract abnormal attention from males. They also live in tropical climates that are very humide, so going topless may be done for more practical reasons. It's normal.

Also, from what I heard, in a lot of european countries, I think Finland might be an example, but it's normal for males and females to be nude in certain situations.. i.e. having a sauna. And women tend not to be as self conscious about changing their clothes in public.

Just a few quick thoughts, but I think there are a lot of cultural examples to look at too when thinking about this topic.


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