Free the Breasts!

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Ty and Cecil, organizers of a kind of Breast-In in Portland, Maine today, rally the ladies to take off their tops. Photo by Eric Francis. Stay tuned for slide show -- Anatoly is in the kitchen cooking that up.

In Maine (as in New York, as of 1992), it’s legal for women to expose their breasts anywhere a man can take his shirt off — but it’s “frowned upon,” according to participants in the Breast March for Freedom (my descriptive term). About 50 women walked topless from Longfellow Square to Tommy’s Park on a beautiful spring day, followed by a small mob of supporters, onlookers, tons of photographers and a police escort. It started with an idea and a Facebook page, which apparently went viral on a local level. I didn’t see anyone frowning. I can confirm that the women actually were topless — it wasn’t an illusion created by nude lingerie or anything like that. Stay tuned for a slide show of the event, which I will link from this blog entry when it’s ready. Okay! Thank you Anatoly — here is the gallery.

Eric Francis

About Eric Francis

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36 Responses to Free the Breasts!

  1. HazelF says:

    Sarah – ‘The implication of this for me is that trying to change the world is doing things arse about face: the world changes as I do.’

    Thanks for responding.

    Re comment above, agreed. What I’m not clear about is where you see in the context of Erics article, or in anything else mentioned here, that someone is ‘trying to change the world.’

    My take on it so far has been that ideas are put forward for debate/discussion to a) raise awareness, b) to make it possible for others to see a different view, learn about something they had not previously considered c) change their view, and their world if they then choose to do so. The take on Taoist/Buddhist approach, for example, being one idea. This doesn’t feel like trying to change the world to me, but I am aware that within ideas put forward, there will be, as with my own, some value, some belief therein.

    ‘I’m not sure that we can ever be without an agenda.’ Again, from my point of view agreed. Even not having an agenda, is an agenda.

    Best, H.

  2. Sarah Taylor sarah taylor says:

    Half – yes, that’s essentially where I’m at with my devil’s advocacy.

    Really, I’m not sure where I stand in terms of politics, sociology, beliefs, movements. I am testing the ground in many areas, but I always seem to be drawn back to the philosophy that I believe lies at the heart of A Course In Miracles. Namely, that the world is an illusion – a projection of our unconscious mind; and anything that we see “out there” that we are at odds with is simply an aspect of ourselves that is disowned. The implication of this for me is that trying to change the world is doing things arse about face: the world changes as I do.

    Eric – I’m pretty sure that I comment here – and in many other places of the Web and areas of my life – because I don’t walk that path fully (hence playing advocate for something I don’t necessarily completely subscribe to). There is a part of me that still needs to be right, and that still needs to change things so that I can feel like I am controlling my experience of the world.

    And the question of why you should show up and edit this blog? In this context, it isn’t mine to answer.

    Hazel F – Again, in this particular context, I’m not sure that we can ever be without an agenda.

  3. Amanda Painter apainter26 says:

    i agree alex —
    thanks for making the connection to the 2 philosophical camps and translating this issues into contemporary context.

    and thanks to chlesea for giving a nursing mother perspective. it actually surprises me that’s the first comment about it in this conversation, but i guess that’s telling in itself.

    more than once i’ve found myself sitting next to/talking to/making eye contact with a nursing mother without realizing it because she was so subtle about what was going on. or maybe i’m just a little oblivious sometimes? then again, maybe my oversight speaks to the naturalness of it… though that may be giving my oblivious tendencies too much credit.

    😉 amanda

  4. HazelF says:

    Alex (evening!), that’s helpful re the Taoist/Buddhist slant. Thanks. H.

  5. Half De Witte says:

    Yay Chelsea! Thank you for chiming it – it was great that you did and some telling comment!

    For me, Sarah is citing Taoist philosophy. It has to be said that Taoist and Buddhism have always enjoyed a strained relationship with social action – they are highly individualistic philosophies of life that were rooted in developing personal mastery.

    Although they are among the most sophisticated historic spiritualities current today they may require updating or adapting because the world has changed and the strategies for managing certain aspects of modern experience either lacking or entirely lacking. That said, those wisdoms still retain some vital counsel. Action through letting go and non-action may sound like a contradiction. However, influence has been reduced in contemporary experience to action modality and has neglected the being modality.

    There is something about personal mastery that remains attractive. One still needs to know when to let go and when not to waste your time with something that appears relevant but is perhaps less so than we imagine.

    Certainly, social action has been mutually exclusive to historical Buddhism and Taoism. I would like to think that both aspects are vitally important and we need to learn a new mastery of internalizing this dialectic. Social activists dismissing advocates of personal mastery as ineffectual is short sighted, frankly. And personal mastery advocates dismissing social activists as wasting their time are failing to recognize many contemporary challenges that these ancient strategies are not equipped to address.

    We need both and credibly integrated too – this is one of my core passions.

  6. Chelsea says:

    New mama chiming in here. As a breast-feeding mother who recently weaned my two-year-old son, I’ve noticed my entire perception of breasts has changed. We often forget that boobs are there to feed our babies.

    It becomes really obvious that people don’t generally view breasts that way when you sit down in a public place to nurse your child. I bought nursing bras, nursing tops and “hooter-hider” contraptions to make sure I didn’t accidentally expose myself when I was feeding my son in public. There was a mixed sense of shame and defiance that rose up in me when I needed to feed Eli in public…and sadness too.

    Some of the most beautiful, affirming, and connected moments of my life have happened while I was breastfeeding Eli.

    My friend Valentina calls breasts “the universal comforter”. Eli will still occasionally reach down my shirt (or the shirt of any familiar woman that may be holding him) for a little reassurance. I can’t count the number of times I ran to my mother and buried my face in her chest for comfort as a child.

    So I see breasts as an amazing source of nourishment for body and soul.

    I used to avoid eye contact with women who were nursing in public. I felt like I was invading a private moment. I now find myself trying to make eye contact…to smile and give my little nod of encouragement…to acknowledge that I see they are doing something simple and natural.

    Yay for boobs! We wouldn’t be here without them.

  7. HazelF says:

    Sarah – ‘Why can’t everybody simply do and believe exactly what they want to? Why does *anything* need to change?’

    So for example, if naked rambler walks naked through UK because he believes in it, are you saying in your view he should be allowed to?

    ‘When I choose to push my agenda – no matter how liberal and right I might believe or know it to be – then I am trying to control something that is ultimately irrelevant.’

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘push an agenda’ – are you seeing an agenda pushed here, is that what you mean? Or do you mean those who are wandering around naked asking us to see it differently, or do you mean Eric? Sorry, not trying to be obtuse, just trying to understand.


  8. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Sarah, if what you’re saying is true, then why even comment? Why should I show up and edit this blog every day?

  9. Morgana Silverseale says:

    I would propose that with this conditioning, the only way out is through.

    I remember the Compersion article you wrote, in which you said the same thing. “The Only Way Out Is In.” Those things we’re afraid of bellow and roar at us from the depths of the labyrinth. Theseus kills the Minotaur. Indeed.

  10. Half De Witte says:

    “How do we cross the distance between our current view and something more healthy and balanced? I think we have to experiment.” Exactly; on many levels – as many as we can influence.

    There is more: In tandem we must surely make a conscious yoga of decomposing the false binaries (culturally entrenched) that have a grip on our personal conceptuality and lived experience. We can start with mind/body and not just as some analysis of Descartes on a course in Philosophy of Mind.

    The ‘problem’ with a focus on self within our narcissistic culture is that although highly necessary it is subject to psychic assault on all levels. For me, this necessitates fostering a healthy inhabiting of self by having a bona fide curiosity in others. It means loving the other in a way that reflects what the other actually seems to present as – even if that other is one’s own body as defined from the dominant point of view of one’s mind.

    To boil it down, I think that these experiments are necessary when they feed consciousness in a discernible way that can promote human potential. And, more to the point, to fragment the debate or fixate it, might cause some legacy that is unbalanced.

    I will never forget my ex of several years ago telling me after 8 years together (and then our split) about how she used to enjoy baking. She wasn’t making a thorny point, just speaking with enthusiasm about her sense of self and what gave real satisfaction to her.

    I never knew about her love of baking (and maybe she didn’t either until after we split). Either way, I realised that in the humdrum I’d completely forgotten that she was ‘other’ in a way that was nothing to do with me!

    Many of these marchers would probably feel just as liberated if the others (mainly men no doubt) in their significant relationships took a conscious interest in them as other, as separate, as somehow not defined relative to their significant other.

    One of the ways we can ‘liberate’ breasts is by putting them in the context of the lives/bodies/experiences of the particular women who possess them (or don’t).

    So for me this just confirms that self is mere ego when the focus upon other is instrumental/functional rather than genuine because diligently cultivated.

  11. Sarah Taylor sarah taylor says:

    Just to throw another point of view into the mix – devil’s advocacy, if you will:

    Why can’t everybody simply do and believe exactly what they want to? Why does *anything* need to change?

    In the words of a book that I tend to look up to in these matters:

    “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.”

    When I choose to push my agenda – no matter how liberal and right I might believe or know it to be – then I am trying to control something that is ultimately irrelevant.

  12. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    “I do think we are all very conditioned to feel shame about our bodies and that both genders are very conditioned to see breasts as sexual objects only.”

    I would propose that with this conditioning, the only way out is through. In other words if we have all sexualized breasts or submitted to their being sexual objects, and used them to gain entrance to the E Street Band at age 15, that’s where we’re at, and in order to return them to their wider potential, starting with basic biology, we have to go through that conditioning — which means experiencing it for what it is.

    When I was living in Munich in 1998, there was a place along the Isar River where women would sunbathe topless. Nobody would ever dare take their photograph. In the middle of a cosmopolitan city, during business hours, breasts are breasts — even in Deutchland. (Okay, at least in allegedly wacky Bavaria.)

    How do we cross the distance between our current view and something more healthy and balanced? I think we have to experiment. When we do, it’s going to seem like a spectacle some of the time. It’s going to seem like an invitation to be looked at. Removing the clothes reveals what is already there, in the sense of the body itself, and our values around it.

    I assure you it was extremely liberating for many of the women who stayed dressed to even see other women with their breasts exposed.

  13. Carrie says:

    When I first saw the photos, my first thought was how fun and freeing that must be to just let your breasts out there.

    The second thing I felt was how I would feel were it me; I would not be able to do that because having been the victim of male predatory molestation when I was a kid (twice) and after seeing the very anti-female video games the all-male developers create (and how they sexualize women to just willing body parts), I would feel a bit uncomfortable.

    My third thought was of how positively beautiful these women were; their breasts were so varied in size, shape, color and so on and yet they all were smiling and they looked beautiful to me.

    These three thoughts came at me very fast so I had mixed feelings about it. Were the guys that looked on supportive or just there to get a peek at some breasts? I couldn’t tell from the pictures but it tells me a lot about how I was raised (and conditioned ) that I even thought about that.

    I do think we are all very conditined to feel shame about our bodies and that both genders are very conditioned to see breasts as sexual objects only.

    When I showed my teen daughters the pictures, my fifteen year old (who has been studying the Vietnam war and how America dealt with all that) remarked, “Oh, instead of a sit-in, it is a tit-in to protest women having to cover up their breasts all the time.” Her sisters and I laughed at that wit and it makes me see that she sees it differently.

  14. Patty says:

    body shame…..on resurrection sunday my husband told the (adult) kids it was Erection Sunday, much to their delight. Try to imagine the public gales of laughter at such a spectacle of parading men, and the paddy wagons too.

    On the other hand, the natives didn’t know they were naked when the Spaniards and English landed at various ports around the south pacific and carribean. Paradise must be a four letter word to ye men who maketh all the rules.

  15. Jere says:

    As an amusing side,.. it’s funny how one can alter reality according to their actions. ..Anyone of us is a reflection, and action of the whole. We play out realities upon ourselves. The ripples which flow through us are the vibrations we ride.

    Yeah, I’ve trip vibes these days.. (I’m still tryin’ to put it together.)

    Smiles, Love,


  16. Jere says:

    Hazel, the dude the Gough, .. when one pours their heart and soul into their reality, that’s the only reality they see (which is kinda a conundrum, ’cause you have to see many realities too see only one.) ,..But it’s cool, (and this is me) “NAKEDNESS IS COOL!”. This dude sees reality in such a way that time is inconsequential, (or is that consequential!), so that he can “express” himself, “as himself”, and not stress his own existence.

    In essence, he’s giving all of us the right to be ourselves.

    Love ya, (just because I can! 😉 )


  17. Half De Witte says:

    There is a sense that when you begin to dismantle the fetters of our moral cages we have a fear of where this will lead.

    In all reconstruction projects, after the cage has been lifted, there is a necessary transitional disorientation – Durkheim talked of ‘anomie’.

    We might speak of a nakedness of ideas/strategies (because we ‘hid’ behind our moralities of black/white and didn’t develop experiential sophistication to manage greys) which encourages us to reach again for the ‘comfort’ of fixed, behavioural ‘clothing’; clothing which disguises a part of us (largely our vulnerability).

    We have to be willing to deal with a certain epoch of awkward transition. Our communication has been suppressed for generations; it is almost encoded in our DNA. We need to unlearn before we can relearn and relearning will be a process of experimentation – like being collectively newborn again.

    The point is to speak, I think. This largely means risking and then learning to say ‘I feel…’ and then letting other people insert their authentic response.. and it either works its alchemy upon us or else we work whatever alchemy is required upon it/them.

  18. Jere says:

    ..before I read further, I want to address Amanda’s comment,.. “Right on, man!” “way to be honest.” “That’s bad-ass, man!”

    (Dude, I know it’s bullshit but, we can all be cool when we take control (horrible words for me) of our expressions.)

    That was a cool account.

    Street of storms, “..a right..”, abso-fucking-lutely! The insanity of propaganda is a divisive tool. We are beyond. It’s all laughs from here on out.

    Love, J

  19. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Let’s consider some new context, a wider context — in any conversation about, or demonstration of, sex, sexuality, the body, eroticism, etc., in our culture — there will likely be a sense of one or more of the following:

    1. Pushing the envelope

    2. Dealing with gawkers/lurkers/trolls and people who try to stoke fear, guilt and shame

    3. The possibility of repercussions

    4. Potential sense of discomfort and fear on the part of the one making the presentation

    5. The accusation that it’s inappropriate or out of context

    6. The accusation of exhibitionism

    Why women need to march around a progressive, tolerant city topless is the same reason we need an “astrology website” that is willing to sponsor a discussion about sexuality. It is very specifically to shift the context of the conversation, bring the issue into focused awareness, and eventually return it to the normal flow of human discourse.

    In some recent conversations I have revealed my distaste for some of the issues I state above, and I set some boundaries; I learned to use the “moderate” button on my blog control panel.

    Generally I am willing to proceed despite the potential problems involved in doing so. I am aware that for every person who comments here, there are hundreds or thousands of people who benefit from the existence of the conversation; and who do so as if they are peering into an alternate universe outside their marriage, their family life, their community.

    Many, many people are reading who don’t say anything, and who have an opportunity to consider and/or adjust their perspective, viewpoint or boundaries as a result of the encounter.

  20. Pingback: Audio Astrology Update | Daily Astrology & Adventure by Eric Francis

  21. Amanda Painter apainter26 says:

    hazel —
    thank you for your reflections, and i think i can understand that sense of sadness you mention. i’d just keep in mind my experience of the event was only mine; i have no idea if anyone else felt the mix that i did. by all means, there were a number of the topless women who seemed unfettered in their enjoyment of the experience (the photo of the woman on the motorcycle is a prime example). of course, we have no way of knowing what was going on in their heads. but i know i have a long history of swinging back and forth between feeling free and worrying what people think; bold vs. contained. i’m a performer, but this event wasn’t my show, if that makes any sense. and i wonder a bit if the parameters of when & where i feel comfortable being pubicly nude point to some sort of internal hypocrisy; certainly a struggle, at least.

    anyway, thank you for posting the bit about the british nude-walker! yes, i wonder when he’ll feel like his mission has been accomplished, and wish him well. i love scotland and the scottish, but clearly the culture could stand to loosen up a bit…

    — amanda

  22. HazelF says:

    Stormi – ‘what a privilege the moment is within a society, when it should be a right in our world.’

    You might be interested in this champion of nakedness…

    The Naked Rambler

    Since his first attempt in June 2003, Stephen Gough has tried to walk the length of Britain, approx 874 miles, in nothing but a pair of stout hiking boots. Averaging 20 miles a day, from Land’s End at the southernmost point of England to the top right hand corner of Scotland at John O’Groats, it should only have taken him about 40 days. However, that original journey lasted almost 7 months, due to a few diversions at her Majesty’s pleasure on the way.

    It seems that the sight of a man’s John Thomas is not problem in England; however the Scots see it somewhat differently, for as soon as he crosses the border it’s straight to jail. Scottish law has no tolerance for a naked body in a public place it would seem – in fact it’s a crime.

    I’ve been following the tale of ex-Royal Marine, Stephen ever since he first made the local news. Living in the Highlands of Scotland at the time, I was in a place where shame and disapproval are never far away and this was a huge scandal. I loved that he was challenging the National mindset never mind that of the locals; I loved that he cared less. Full of admiration, I kept looking out for him on my drive to work along the country roads, wondering how I might react if I did catch sight of him in his birthday suit; would I be shocked, delighted, amused, unfazed? As a rule, we don’t see a lot of naked men round these parts – not that it was on my particular wish list – but I remember I was curious. Anyway, I never did see him. Turned out he was in prison for weeks and weeks.

    The discussions we have on PW had me thinking about him once again and as if by magic, a story then appeared on BBC News site. This was back in Feb. Turned out that he’d just been sentenced again in Perth, Scotland; this time 21 months for committing a ‘breach of the peace. This is the longest term he’s had yet and must be costing Scotland a pretty penny. Can’t begin to imagine how it is affecting him emotionally and mentally, not to mention his family. Of course, one of his difficulties is that he insists on attending trial without a stitch on, which puts him in contempt of court, which increases his sentence. Then when he is released from prison, naked once more, the police are waiting to re-arrest him, so it’s back to court and back to prison!

    Why does he put himself through this certitude year on year? I’m not sure. Apart from being a campaign to raise awareness with the world about the human right to be naked, he claims it is also about his real love for walking and the freedom of not having to wear clothes. He talks of earlier times in his life when he first noticed how free he felt when swimming and sunbathing nude on a beach in summer, and about how extreme the reactions were by others to his nakedness. It struck him then as continues to now, the madness that we are taught, from young, to feel shame and disgust at something as natural as our naked selves.

    21 months is a long time to be tucked away – I wonder if it is it really worth it? The likelihood of this law changing is remote; meanwhile Stephen will have spent a good part of his precious life incarcerated. He is a Taurean after all. Maybe that determination, that stubbornness, knows no bounds when attached to a personal mission like this one. Or maybe, the point has already been made and it’s time to hang up his boots. Somehow, I doubt he’ll be quitting anytime soon.

    If you ‘google’ his name, you can find out plenty more, if you’re interested.

  23. HazelF says:

    Amanda – and you didn’t think you had much to say…

    Incredible, for me at least, to read your take on the event. It has changed my view, or rather, helped me find another one. From the photographs and paragraph posted by E, to your summary – it’s a huge leap. And your reflections on the event filled much of that gap. Not just because you were another person who was there, but also because you are female and you will have seen/felt that event through your female lens.

    I am not seeing it as positively as my first take, but that is not a bad thing. I think your view has helped me see it in more realistic terms. I felt some sadness about it, though I’m at a loss currently to explain why that is.

    I am encouraged by the connections you made on the day.

    Only connect.

    Love H.

  24. Amanda Painter apainter26 says:

    hmm… well… i’ve been invited to comment, but find myself in that odd position of not feeling like i have a lot to say. so i guess i’ll simply start with a description of the event & see where that leads.

    i’d heard the event mentioned on the radio by a friend who’s a local dj and a dancer, so i figured she and others i know from the dance community might be involved. that was pretty encouraging to me, as many of the people i know from that circle attend an annual dance camp which used to have a clothing-optional waterfront. i’ve gone swimming nude there myself and found the experience to be completely liberating.

    alas, there were no familiar faces when eric and i arrived at the meeting place, and only about 4 women planning to take off their tops. that was the first knock to my sense of adventure. in fact, as the crowd grew and seemed to start closing in on the gals waiting for the organizers, i started feeling downright uncomfortable. i’m not claustrophobic, but there was this distinct sense of “closing in.” it didn’t feel completely friendly to me.

    i actually started to feel a little guilty about not feeling like taking off my top — as though to be there among these women without showing some solidarity was some sort of betrayal of them.

    i made my way out of the throng, looking around to see if there was someplace where i could rearrange my clothing (it occurred to me that if i could remove my shirt and bra but leave my zippered sweater on, i’d have more accessible options; it might seem silly not to simply change right there given the event, but as i said, i wasn’t feeling comfortable at that point). i ran into a couple friends on the periphery before i could spot a suitable nook, and settled for chatting with them instead.

    eventually i made my way back into the middle to find eric. the number of half-naked women had grown, but was still much smaller than i’d hoped and none of them were people i knew. finally the march started at a pretty brisk pace (go figure) along a predictably well-populated congress street. also predictably, there were *lots* of people with cameras and camera phones, both men and women. somehow, that still managed to feel surprising; maybe because i haven’t seen that many people taking photos down congress st since the red sox won the series in ’04 and sent a few of their “lesser” stars to a late-fall parade.

    but i digress.

    i would have loved to read the thoughts, reactions, motivations of every person we passed by; as has been mentioned in the comments, there surely were many. i’d love to know how many of the female spectators wished they had the guts to do it; how many just thought it was funny; how many were mean-spirited enough simply to criticize bodies they deemed “unfit” for public appearance; how many were grateful or aroused or whatever… and the men, too. i didn’t notice any of them turning away, but as one commenter mentioned, it seems many have chimed in on the PPH site, critical of the bodies they saw.

    so, there’s a double standard, but it’s nothing new: “i’ll watch you make a spectacle of yourself, give you the attention, egg you on, but then i’ll tear you down for it.” we live in a very cruel world, but i guess this is not news.

    anyway… once we were moving briskly down the street, the world felt a little safer. i hate feeling like a sitting duck; more women had joined in. a couple gals hopped on the backs of motorcycles baring their breasts; some were holding really fun signs. the movement was warming me up (the air was a bit chilly, despite the sun). eric and i caught up with each other, and as we entered monument square, i confessed my thought of how much easier things would be if i’d ducked back into the restaurant where we’d brunched before the march to remove my shirt & bra, leaving the zippered sweater option. as one might guess, he encouraged me to seize the moment before it passed by and just go for it. i weighed this for a moment, and let the encouragement and the momentum of the march itself nudge me into giving him my purse momentarily while i went for it.

    it was an interesting moment. it’s one thing to be half (or fully) naked in a community of like-minded (and unclothed) people; quite another (at least for me) to try it in my home town, during a focused “event,” with a distinct line between “participants” and “spectators,” and a tv news crew roaming about. it’s less about being welcomed into a “tribe” and more about making a “statement.”

    and i guess that’s partly why i did it: there shouldn’t need to be this distinction; topless women shouldn’t be such an over-sexualized anomaly. after all, there are plenty of cultures around the world where it’s normal. i’m not saying breasts in those cultures aren’t sexualized at all (i have no idea); they just don’t become an “event” in and of themselves. “western” and “advanced” cultures (i used both terms loosely and with reservations) seem to be most of the ones with breast issues. when did we become so ungrounded? was it around the same time we literally lost our connection to the earth, or does it predate that? (incidentally, the court case addressing the topless issue in maine a few years ago did in fact come from a woman mowing her lawn topless and her neighbor complaining…)

    i have to admit, my full toplessness was brief. we arrived at tommy’s park (our designated endpoint) in a couple more blocks. the “throng effect” set in again. between the chill and the returning sense of being a sitting duck, i put on my sweater but left the zipper open and just surveyed the scene as eric kept photographing.

    we decided we were done, and as we moved toward the periphery, i noticed i man getting his picture taken with a topless gal. i recognized him as someone i rather dislike salsa dancing with (he tries to overreach his abilities) and was about to hurry past when i realized i recognized the woman he’d had his picture taken with: another salsa acquaintance named jen. i turned back to say hello to her and gave her an enthusiastic hug for both our benefit: she looked alone (i won’t presume to say she felt that way — she was smiling), and i’d felt a bit alone in terms of familiar female company. she remarked that the men were really happy we were smooshing our breasts together. i’m sure they were, but i didn’t really care. i was happier about connecting.

    i was also happy to see a number of men marching topless along with the women. i’ve heard a few people say it’s no big deal since they can do it anytime. true, they can. also true, i don’t necessarily want to see all of them. but i appreciated that not every man there was strictly a spectator with an iphone. i appreciated the gesture of solidarity, the attempt to put the focus on “all of us together,” rather than “us vs. them.”

    really… i think we need as much “all of us together” as we can get these days. not because i’m dying to walk downtown topless; we just plain need it. we have all of these little wedges driving men and women apart, especially when it comes to sex and how we view each others’ bodies. hell, there are cultural wedges driving us apart from our *own* bodies.

    … i guess that’s my two cents’ worth for now.

    — amanda painter

  25. stormilarue stormilarue says:

    to me, the significance of the event is contextual – much like “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder. while it may seem of little outside significance to some, it may have huge inner significance to others. yet socialized expectations still seem to dominate the conversation considering the comments regarding how much Eros was felt or if the breasts presented were appreciated because they do not fit some idealistic version jaded “normal” or publicly “acceptable”. personally i find the event significant for two reasons because not all boobs are created equal and it’s empowering to me to see women embracing their bodies and more so in a public form. what a privilege the moment is within a society, when it should be a right in our world.

  26. Jere says:

    This is so incredibly cool!.. (There are things in this universe that make no logical sense, have at it.)

    ..I’m still waiting for the day when all feel comfortable in their own skin (read: I’m still waiting for the day when I feel comfortable in my own skin.)

    ..Welcome to my world, signs, signs, everywhere signs..

    Love, and Peace, (hope those are cool signs!?..)

    Love me (you),


  27. peacelynn says:

    As a participant, I have to say that it was very freeing! I would be lying to say that I didnt expect to be gawked at, if no one showed up, it wouldnt bring any attention at all to the matter! I really enjoyed walking around topless. I felt bad when I saw Mom’s rushing their children away. I understand both sides and respect both arguments! I live in NH and have not been able to go topless here yet! I had a wonderful day. Walking back to my car, alone after the March I got alot more negative commets, from women by the way!

  28. victorialynn says:

    The significance of the event is that it is (one of the?) first of its kind. It needs to happen more and more for it to become the norm. As a woman I do not feel inclined to walk downtown topless, just like I don’t want to see men walking around topless. Beaches, yes; pools, yes; mowing your lawn, yes. If you drive by a man mowing the lawn you mostly expect him to be topless. It would be nice to have it be “normal” for a woman to be topless while mowing if she wants. Look if you want, but don’t look because it’s some kind of “porn” just because it is a female. These are just my personal preferences. I could be wrong, but I don’t think these women are trying to make it the norm for all women to walk down Congress Ave. topless. I think they’re just provoking people to start thinking about why it is ok for a male (and not a sexual act) but for a woman she is trying to cause some sort of SEXUAL commotion. As a quick aside: I checked out the Portland Press Herald blog and many of the comments were about how overweight the women were and how their breasts weren’t anything to look at! EXCUSE ME!

  29. Half De Witte says:

    I’m certainly agreeing with you on the compassion point, Eric. This is why I believe this whole area is complex and ramified. It is also why I believe that your reporting this event is more significant than the event itself – because it is a mirror to every spectator.. IF we are honest about our gut reactions. Maybe we should just say how the pictures made us feel/respond? There was some Eros for me..

    I don’t believe that male gaze invalidates anything unless it is entirely dominant. My feeling is that ‘many perspectives’ complements the normative one – I too welcome Amanda’s input if she’s around and willing.

    No matter how much compassion we invest though and no matter how aware and alternative in our own male identity construction, Eric – you and I remain male, and from the POV of perspectivalism I think intelligent views of women are necessary for balance.

    When I speak of tokenism my intention is not to be dismissive but to highlight that not much is actually accomplished by such events. They are both interesting and useful in general terms but largely provoke debate/reaction that is tired and tail-chasing (unless there is some specific lobby or ongoing movement that develops so as to evolve consciousness and/or social change as a definite goal).

    When we debate it on here there can be definite value – but the event itself has little significance; apart from perhaps a nice day out for some people who enjoy the catharsis of breaking norms.

  30. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Half, why was the Woolworth lunch counter protest anything other than tokenism…or Rosa Parks…or the guys standing up to the cops at Stonewall? To me this is a form of civil disobedience, despite the fact that the gesture itself is legal. It is CD against social mores, which are stronger than any law.

    Vis a vis Male Gaze, the flaw in that theory is that it doesn’t include all the women who are gazing, taking photos, making movies, etc. So we would need to change the name to have a valid beginning to that theory. I have found that whole proposal to be untenable because it lacks a biological and spiritual basis; it is basically strict intellectual deconstructionism. It lacks any compassion whatsoever. At no point does the Male Gaze theory admit that humans are curious, that we are often pansexual, that women as gestators and the ones who nurse have a special role in the lives of all people, and so on.

    Contrast with Adrienne Rich, “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” a truly compassionate intellectual work (an essay) that advocates for the existence of women and admits the complexity of their experiences of one another, rather than accusing someone of eye-rape. Everyone who was there looking and/or in support and/or taking photos did so with different motivation as well.

    If Amanda is reading I would invite her response – as a woman who was there.

    For those who have never heard of the Male Gaze theory, here is the Wiki page, which I think is a fairly balanced if incomplete essay on the topic:

  31. Half De Witte says:

    Well, the legal aspect seems to be about giving women the same rights as men – this does have a bearing on the debate about the sexualisation of breasts in relation to public interpretations of decency e.g. What is decency?

    However, making the salient issue one of body shame, while viable, can surely only be meaningful in terms of the specific intentions of any given woman in choosing to expose her upper torso. Each woman present may have any of a range of motivations for such expression. There is also something here about the male gaze and it is not an elementary question. I would be inclined to ask why exposing the top half of women’s bodies is anything other than tokenism? It would be nice if men could be afforded opportunity to show collective vulnerability and give back some power (maybe with female photographers and reporters?)

    We can ask the precise same questions of power from the perspective of viewers of this spectacle as well as participants. Healthy people may cheer and repressed people might sneer, while people with boundary issues might not be much helped.

    These things are always a mirror. One’s gut reaction tells a story and we should be vigilant about that personal notation.

    Public decency regulations are about containing libido in terms of fears about public order more than relaxing them is about women’s body image. This parade can be likened to an inversion of Muslim dress codes in terms of modesty and securing sexual propriety. I wonder how this exhibition amounts to much other than a refreshing and interesting example of how to avail of laws pro-actively rather than reactively. Mind you, most laws are framed in terms of what you are not allowed to do rather than what you are allowed to do!

  32. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:

    Body shame is a huge issue in our society. It was great to see these women show up and reveal that they are willing to let that go, and to encourage other women to do the same.

    Mim commented on Facebook before I pulled this link down so we don’t lose our account due to breasts — you can see why we need a Boob March everywhere — that a lot of men I depict in my photos of this event act like they hadn’t seen breasts before.

    We could have a really great conversation about why this is; about the power issues involved, and the tease-withhold game played with breasts. Who, after all, sexualizes them? For how many women are breasts the free passport into clubs, bars and parties at age 15?

    So here we have some women throwing off not just clothing but also any pretense of using breasts as currency.

  33. chamirose says:

    well, just because a man wants to flaunt his plumber’s crack or jog without his shirt, doesnt mean everyone should go around flaunting their [blanks]. You wanna live in a nudist colony great. But there are more important issues here. You want to address REAL “female” beauty. I just dont see this doing it. If you have to do this shit, you aint got the strength inside, where it counts. just my stupid opinion. thanks Planet Waves for me letting me say it.

  34. victorialynn says:

    After a long, cold winter it must have felt awesome to let the sun and fresh air seep unimpeded through to the heart chakra. Makes me want to throw off all the “debris” and feel the freedom :)

  35. Half De Witte says:

    … women get all the best jobs …

  36. Carrie says:

    I LOVE the “Free titties for everyone” sign in the slide show!

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