“A woman’s body is just as decent as a man’s.” This is one of the governing tenets of the Topfreedom movement, which uses women’s public toplessness as a form of political protest. Helese Smauldon, a singer, model, and writer in New York, is singlehandedly taking on the cause there, going topless in Union Square and near the Brooklyn Heights promenade. By her own account, it’s an exercise that has led to open communication about women’s rights and personal freedom, as well as a run-in or two with the NYPD. Though she’s never been arrested for going topless in public squares, the police have asserted that her bared breasts are harming children.

In a blog entry at her site, Helese Talks, she addresses the intent of her mission:

This one is about my breasts and my right the bare them, and what it means for my personal liberation at this time in my life. One of my purposes for the movement is to bring up a few points: I think it says a lot about our society and culture when we:

  1. shun the sight of the human body in its natural form
  2. allow our children to view violence but we are afraid to be naked in front of them
  3. spend more time trying make a woman put her shirt back on rather than helping people who truly need help
  4. are openly sexist, and have no problem with a man baring his chest, when the breasts of a woman are nurturing and generally fare better when they are not strapped down, pushed up and out or otherwise covered where the skin can’t breathe and the lymph isn’t free to move around. (I wear push up bras, but they don’t feel like I’m wearing anything. I’ve gone back to wearing no bra most of the time, it makes it easier to go topfree, and also I have some pretty nasty scars underneath my breasts from wearing them in the heat where the combination of the sweat, fabric, and friction caused a pretty serious rash. Now there’s hyperpigmentation in that area. Battle scars.)

Commenters have shown support for her cause, citing that sexual repression is more harmful to children than exposure to nudity and that public toplessness demystifies the naked female form and undermines the sex industry.

Though topfreedom is rather uncommon in the States, it has its own support organization in Canada (which extends its support to individuals who take up the cause in the U.S.). The Topfree Equal Rights Association provides an online gathering space for women to share their stories and challenges concerning their public toplessness.

What do you think? Bold and brave or perhaps too extreme? Would you ever consider joining the Topfreedom movement?

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108 Comments

  1. LMAO @ this whole thread, I thought talking about black women checking for white men was fun. This is way more entertaining

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  2. simplyme

    To each their own. If you don’t think her purpose is the most important thing in the world thats fine but not everyone is meant to be advocating for the poor etc. I can understand her goal and although i personally wouldn’t do it myself I see where she’s coming from. Everyone has their calling.

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  3. Lady Red

    I’m still curious as to why it is so unatural for a child to see a topless woman in public when most children will find internet pirn or their mom and dads collection before by the age of twelve… same thing porn more damaging… and babys are birnand the first thing they experience is breast … it is not shamefull in africa… clothing is something man made… didn’t come out of the womb with you… you are teaching your children to be ashamed of the human body not desensitiZing them by showing it… maybe if they see people who aren’t ashamed of their bodies we won’t have so many children distraught about their bodily image when they get older… it is people who made the body something to be shamed of…. a form of mind control if you will its just like saying you aren’t what’s happening if you don’t have straight hair or lighter skin… they tell you its wrong not to show your body and then have naked women portrayed in a negative whorelike demeanor in media… i dont hide myself from my children and havent since they were born so they are unaffected by it… they see my confidence and therefore have their own… they will learn to appreciate the body and not lust for only its parts… you all who have a problem with nudity ANYWHERE have been brainwashed to feel how you feel wheter its from religion parents or media… and you are instillingbit into your children… does a child think sexually when encountered with nudity… no… when they get older and its been pounded into their minds then yes… you are to blame not a bare breasted woman… you shoild know better… take back control of your own minds and stop letting the world tell you what to think… i say that this movement is beautiful and people need to embrace it and their own nudity…

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  4. sisterdeie

    Hi, Helese. I’m going to start with this. People are crazy. And since people are crazy and violent, how do you go about assess safety. How do you decide when to go topfree and when not to. We all have rights but we are not all protected. I hate that. So I’m wondering if you would address the how in terms of safety and safe space assessment. I am just thinking about a young girl trying it and getting hurt. People are crazy and they always blame the girl.

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  5. Lady Red

    I think most of the people who commented are clueless… like sincerely ignorant… omg I’m so appalled at breast… not the war… not bush blowing upbtowers, not obama inflicting marshall law “under the radar”, not taxes rising, not man generated weather, not the tearing down of communitues, not schools being closed, not people losing jobs, but SOME BREASTS WHEN HALF OF YALL ARE SOME FREAKS WITH HUGE PORN COLLECTIONS, SECRET DOMINATRIC OR BONDAGE ADDICTIONS WEIRD FETISHES AND AO ON AND SO FOURTH… IF THIS HAS HAPPENED TO PEOPLE WHO WERE CLOSED OFF AND TOLD NOT TO THINK ABOUT SEX AVOID NUDITY AND STUFF LIKE THAT MAYBE SEEING A DAMN BREAST WOULD NOT HURT OUR FUTURE YOUTH!

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