How can feminist ideas and leisure come perfectly together? In New York, a group of women found a way to enjoy themselves while promoting a right that brings equality between men and women in yet another aspect: the right to be topless in public spaces.
Their activity involves no press-conferences, no protests, no banners or petitions. Instead, they indulge themselves with sun, good reads, good laughs, photography and a sexy spice on top by doing all this while enjoying the same privilege as men in being bare chested.
Without giving me her name, a member of The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society agreed to answer some of my questions:
1. Who are the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society?
We're a group of women in New York who have decided to take advantage of the legal ruling that says women in New York have the same right to go topless in public that men do. Anywhere a man is permitted to do it, a woman can — but women rarely do, either because they don't know they have the right or because they're afraid of the consequences. We want to combat both the ignorance and the fear.
2. What does Co-ed stand for?
We have the word "co-ed" in our name because we have both women and men at our events. This is a women's issue, but our group is both for women and for the men who support us. That said, we take care that the number of men at any of our events is small and the number of women large, since if it were a lot of men and very few women the atmosphere would be very different.
3. Why pulp fiction?
Mostly because it's fun, and sexy, and slightly scandalous, and the covers often feature women wearing as little clothing as we are. It just felt like a good match for a group of women who go topless in public.
4. Is reading sexy because it's done by topless women?
Reading can be sexy regardless of who is doing it — but everything is sexier if done by topless women. :)
5. Did you have any fears before going out topless on the part of by passers and the police?
We had concerns, certainly; we didn't know what to expect. But the fears have not been born out. We've had almost no negative reactions at all, and none at all from police. The police have been unfailingly polite and supportive. We weren't sure they would be, but they have been.
6. Does your initiative have any roots in feminist ideas, or it's all about having a good time?
It's mostly about having a good time, but any group whose goal is to demonstrate that women have the same rights as men is inherently a feminist organization. One of our goals is to make the female body more a normal sight and less and object of fear and scandal and censoriousness. That doesn't mean making it less sexy. A man's bare chest can be sexy; a woman's neck or hair or lips or legs can be sexy; we don't ban the display of those body parts or act like the world is coming to an end if one of them is shown in public. It's outrageous that men can take their shirts off in the park when it's 90 degrees outside but women cannot. Fortunately, in New York, women can, and we do.
7. Do you think that you actions have any chances of being accused of objectifying women even more?
We strongly disagree. Women's breasts have been objectified for centuries. There is literally no possible way they could be more objectified than they are now, when they're rarely seen OTHER than as objects, on magazine covers or posters or being used to sell movie tickets or clothing or beer. What we're doing is showing people that women's breasts are just part of a woman's body, like her neck or shoulders or hands or feet. They move when we move; they sweat when we sweat; they're part of us. If people see us topless in public, just reading and chatting and laughing and being natural, normal people, they might lose the sense that breasts are some sort of magical object that exists for the sexual gratification of males.
8. How do you think women in New York feel about being topless in public and how long will it take for them to enjoy the sun semi-naked?
More and more are doing it. Every time we go to the park and take our tops off we see some of the women around us look briefly surprised and then join us once they realize it's not forbidden. We're not saying everyone will do it, but we don't think it will take long for women who are inclined to try it to do so.
9. Will you continue to search for new ways for encouraging women to go topless?
Absolutely! We're not proselytizers — if a woman doesn't want to do it, she's free not to and no one should bother her about that choice any more than they should bother us about ours. But if a woman is at all curious or tempted or inclined to do it, we will find as many ways as possible to encourage her.
The Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society is open to everyone who want to participate. For more on what they do, visit the Society’s blog.