Topfreedom and the Right to Bare Breasts

by Stacia L. Brown

“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?

  • Kacey

    These are privileged women with nothing else to do or think about.

  • Catherine Imani Cosby

    I agree with them. It’s ridiculous, and unfair. It’s not an issue of privilege, but a symptom of sexist society. Kudos to her and women like her who aren’t afraid to go topless. :).

  • Sasha A.

    I don’t get this for several reasons.

    a) The chest of a man and a woman are not equal and that has nothing to do with the perceived “sexism” reason but instead because they serve different functions. Men (most anyways) do not lactate, women do, the purpose of a woman’s breasts are to nurture and feed a child. I do however think its stupid when people freak out when seeing a woman breastfeed but have no problem seeing Lil’ Kim step out with little stars covering only her nipples.

    b) Those scars she got and other issues as a result of the wearing of bras were self inflicted. Wearing a bra shouldn’t and doesn’t cause these things in most women, likely she was wearing the wrong size or bras made of cheap material.

    c) Its legal to walk around topless in NY. If she’d like to do that then just do it, don’t make some movement around it about sexual liberation and other nonsense. The rapture really is upon us….

  • Smilez_920

    I guess. But lets remember how many perverts roam the streets of NYC. Not saying you should be harassed but it could possibly happen.

    I think there are more important women rights issues thy need to be address other than walking outside wih your breast out. But if this is important to her, I wish her the beg of luck .

    No offense but I don’t like seeing men with hairy ugly beer stomachs walking around NYC topless, so I don’t think I’ll be enthused to see women with less than cute breast swinging around NYC.

    But to each it’s own. I’m sure men won’t have a problem with women roaming topless :)

  • Yb

    Wow. Good for her. I seen white women protest and exercise their rights with toplessness but never thought I’d see a woman of color be able to do the same and remain relatively unharmed.

    Props to Helese. Get rid of the double standard.

  • my_reply


  • JN

    LOL! precisely! they need more (real) problems.

  • my_reply

    This is stupid. Sorry. There are differences between the sexes no matter how much people like her wish there weren’t. Men are very visual creatures. When they see a woman’s chest, they will have a different reaction from when a woman sees a man’s chest. There are way more important things to fight for than the right to walk down the street with no top on just because men get to do it, and it’s a double standard. So what??!! There are lots of double standards. Get over it.

    Why the heck would you want to be naked in front of your children anyway? People keep trying to run these social experiments on children.

  • Sasha A.

    Hahaha men would love this!! They’re saying their message is to fight sexism by baring their bare breasts but the same people who would take the most pleasure in this are the same people they’re claiming are oppressing them. So as they march down the street and men ogle them what are they going to say, “stop objectifying me” or “our chests are created equal”? This is the kinda stuff that makes me roll my eyes or in this case close my eyes because I’m sure as soon as this movement gets kicked off, there will be women out their baring breasts that shouldn’t see the light of day.

  • Ryan

    I agree. If you go to her blog, she’s “protesting” by a playground, which I find inappropriate. As a parent, I would feel very uncomfortable, if not enraged, that an adult is pushing her over-analyzed-feminist-agenda on my 4-year-old child. Her reasoning is that we expose our children to violence so we should equally expose them to natural nudity so they can be de-sensitized about breasts too.

    What if, as a parent, I am trying to protect my children from violence in the media? I think her logic and actions are twisted, arrogant, and inappropriate. She can “protest” with adults. Fine. But let children be kids.

    I certainly hope a grown man doesn’t “protest” his buttocks at a playground in front of my son or daughter.

    Yes, parents and educators MUST have continuous comprehensive sex, health, and sexual abuse education starting from elementary school. If her aim is to get parents to have “tough talks” with their child, she’s going about it the wrong way.

    Breasts aren’t indecent. However, they are a sexualized body part that elicits erections and wetness, which is a good, natural thing. That’s the practical reason why we cover them, or seductively expose and enhance them, depending on the context. Personally, I don’t want breasts to have the same social and visceral connotations as an elbow.

  • CurlySue

    A woman’s breasts have long served dual functions. They are functional and sexual. Men’s breasts are neither. Quite frankly, no part of me would be more comfortable having my tender breasts bared to the gaze of every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the street. Also, continuously going about with no bra/topless leads to some undesirable and saggy consequences.

  • PJ

    And we think texting and driving/walking is a problem?!! Breasts are natural and men are naturally visual. I think it would cause waaaaayyyyy too many distractions and heap of commotion.

  • Ryan

    This is an argument against some feminist initiatives – they hold men as THE standard. Rather than striving to be topless like a man, why don’t women campaign for men to be covered up like women? It would be a city citation/fine for a man to be outside shirt-less.

  • Sasha A.

    ARROGANT!! Thank you- I was trying to find the words to describe her (actions) and it was escaping me. And on top of that she chooses a playgorund of all place to protest near… comment.

  • Courtney**

    I, too, would like double-standards to restrict what women can do based on what arouses heterosexual men.

    I am an A cup and I venture to say that if most of America is overweight (which I am not), then many men have larger breasts than I have. But apparently having breasts and a penis = okay, having breasts and a vagina = OMG THE HUMANITY. This cannot make sense to any rational mind.

  • Courtney**

    Additionally, your assertion that “they are a sexualized body part that elicits erections and wetness” is not 100% factually accurate. There are several places in the world where women live with little clothing and the women are topless all the time. The men don’t go around sporting wood 24/7 – gee I wonder why that is? Could that be because the “sexualization” of the breasts is 100% SOCIETY-CREATED and not based on any biological rationale? The body has many erogenous zones but there’s really only one part – the one between our legs – that is 100% sexual.

  • Courtney**

    Wow. Body-policing, victim-blaming and male-identified misogyny neatly wrapped into one comment. Kudos.

  • Courtney**

    Alright. I see a lot of the same misinformation being repeated across various comments.

    1) Male breasts are no more or less sexual than female breasts. Both men and women have varying degrees of sexual pleasure from breasts, and yes, I can verify this from personal experience as well. And you know what? Same goes for earlobes, but we don’t mandate covering them them. Or buttocks, as you can still wear string bikinis or see such attire on basic television.

    2) The purpose of female breasts are not sexual as in “for arousal.” Period, point blank. The breasts are one of many POSSIBLE erogenous zones on the body, but their primary function is to provide milk to offspring. Not to mention, men can lactate as well.

    3) Any sexualization (for purpose of arousal instead, not reproduction-based) of female breasts are 100% based on societal conditioning and not based on any biology-based rationale. If men become aroused by seeing breasts, it is because our asinine society arbitrarily declared female breasts as obscene. There are societies where women are topless without issue, and this is only because the female breasts are seen – as they should be – as any other body part, just like a man’s chest.

    Disturbing how many people forgo critical thinking or even common sense just to maintain an inane status quo.

  • robin

    That is nice and all but I do not want my triple D’s running around without a bra it is just uncomfortable.

  • DookieTurds

    Meanwhile in Africa…..

  • apple

    i don’t get it, maybe when i have a kid and need to feed it will seem like an issue to me. i rather just go to a restroom or private place (dressing room) to take out my titty

  • black_feminist

    Thanks for taking the time to submit a reasoned reply to these inane comments, Courtney. I am genuinely blown away by the ignorance and woman-hating that is being spewed here. I really expected more of the readers here.

  • CurlySue

    @apple – It’s so childish but I still get a giggle out of the word “titty” lol.

  • FreshyU

    So, needless to say Courtney** – you’ll be walking around NYC with your breasts out. Go for it.

    Yes, in OUR society boobs = sex. In other societies, the nape of a woman’s neck or her wrist are considered erotic and must be covered at all times in public. In some cultures, long hair must always be tied up because that’s what’s considered proper. To each his own I guess? If you REALLY like being topless, why don’t you move to a location where no one cares about breasts hanging out and the rest of us can move on to shit that actually matters.

  • Nope

    She and you are just trying to make a point. This would be an issue in a country like ours where women enjoy lots of freedom and opportunities and are relatively spoiled. There are lots of things that need to be changed in this world, and you all are whining about the fact that people view breasts in a sexual manner. You think we need to change that. I don’t agree. Kids are exposed to violence, and that’s not a good thing. Like the poster Ryan said, why not protest men’s naked chests? Why not protest violence? Why do these things make this woman want to take her clothes off?

    So Americans are prudes and need to change? To encourage change, she sits out topless by a playground. Really? Well for breasts to be okay would require a big cultural change that I don’t see happening. What is the point in having this big cultural shift? Just for the sake of fighting the status quo? Feminism changed a lot of things for the better, but a lot of feminists go too far. Yes. Some people live in cultures where breasts aren’t sexual. We do not live in that culture. Get over it, or move to where nudists are free to do their thing. What an inane status quo to fight!

  • CurlySue

    I’m not sure how it’s relevant to bring up other cultures in remote parts of the world. We live in this culture. Topless women works for them because it’s been that way for thousands of years. I’m sure they’d look at a woman mighty strange if she was shy about showing her sweater puppets. However, our society has been THIS way for a very long time. It’s a bit too late now to say “Ok, everyone, just FORGET that boobs are seen as sexual here. IGNORE your social conditioning to be scandalized/aroused/offended at seeing women topless en masse”. We’re social creatures. Our culture defines us. If that’s ok for other cultures, why not us? Why can’t we be allowed to say “I’m not comfortable with seeing bare tatas on my daily commute everywhere I turn”? Other cultures also think 14 is a grand ole age to start having babies. Should we be ok with that here, as well?

  • d_nicegirl

    This is so silly. Instead of protesting for women to go topless, let’s protest to make men be required to wear shirts in public.

  • Tonton Michel

    Her argument is not firm and sags in the face of scrutiny.

  • Nope

    Exactly. We are supposed to get over our social conditioning, walk around nude in front our kids, tell them that breasts aren’t sexual all for the pupose of fighting an “inane status quo” because these women romanticize other people’s cultures.

  • Pingback: NY Woman Starts Movement to Bare Breasts | EURweb

  • Smilez_920

    Courtney no one is body policing. Women can walk around topless in NYC already dikes have been doing it for years.

    Men and women are equal but different in many ways. If you want to walk around with your titties out do it but stop making it seem like your stepping some corner stone in women’s rights because u have your breast out.

    And for the women who are going to do this dont catch a fit when you see ppl googling at your breast, you have them out so they can be seen.

    And like I said no one should be harassed but NYC is crazy and ppl will do it regardless. But why add gas to a already burning fire. I remembering how badly women were being harassed at the pr day parade, fully clothed.

    If anything I don’t think men are against seekg free breast on their way to work in the morning so what’s the big deal.

  • Smilez_920

    +plus one. Sick of seein men with not so in shape bodies showin off their gut.

  • E.M.S.

    Personally, I don’t really understand why a woman would want to walk around in public with her breasts exposed. It’s not about equality to me, it’s about keeping unworthy eyes from seeing your goods.

    And as others have said, breasts are a sexual part of the body and easily provoke arousal, something that shouldn’t be going on in a public space.

    Regarding children, it’s one thing if your child walks in on you in the shower or something, but we don’t want them getting the idea it’s okay to strip down in public. Not everybody wants to see you naked as a jaybird while they’re trying to enjoy their afternoon in the park.

    I think her protest is very misguided.

  • Wills

    I agree, I understanding the rationale, but, what about my right NOT to see your boobs?

  • Wills

    What about my right NOT to see her boobs? AND…Have black “Feminists” forgotten that the white girls struggles are not ours? They need to get their agenda’s back in priority…

  • Kam

    Isn’t it already legal to go topless in NYC?

  • Elegance

    I agree that if there is too much violence in the media then that should be reduced and increasing nudity does nothing to change that. In reply to Courtney, in those cultures breasts have probably never been sexualized so they have no issue with them. In other societies people would have to go from seeing breasts as sexual to non-sexual and that may be impossible. Show me a culture this change has been made from sexual to non-sexual and I would actually believe it would be possible. Personally I don’t want people hanging out and jiggling all over the place whether it is a man or woman. I want my nudity to be something special for my partner not a show for everyone else.

  • Hehe

    Thank you!

  • Valentina

    Very well said and I for one, couldn’t agree more. I find it distasteful but would be able to ignore it and keep about my business seeing as how I’m NOT an over-privileged woman with excess time on my hands. I have much more important things to concern myself with.

    However, the “protesting” in front of a playground is reprehensible. She has no right to push her agenda on someone else’s child. And like you said; the logic that children are exposed to violence and therefore should be exposed to breasts is ridiculous; I control the amount of television and video games (and hence the amount and level of violence) my children are exposed to. I also control the when/where/how/by whom exposure to nudity. No one has the right to make that decision for me, in the name of her own personal protest.

    Take that behavior elsewhere, thank you very much.

    And IMO, anyone that compares a woman’s exposed breasts to a man’s is either completely delusional, lacks understanding of the western world’s perception of the nude human form (i.e. the sexualized nature of such) or is willfully ignoring what we ALL know to be true: women’s breasts–that they are a functional source of life for nurturing infants–are first and foremost a visual, tangible and very much physical object of beauty and arousal for our species.

  • Yb

    *sigh of relief*

    Thank you Courtney. +1000

  • helesetalks

    Hi, I’m the featured woman in the article. I encourage you read this post I made last night about the very fact that I am NOT privileged at all. Please read my story and feel free to discuss it some more after you understand my life and how I’ve struggled throughout

  • helesetalks

    See my story here:
    You will see the story of a woman who is FAR from privileged. First of all, NO BLACK WOMAN is privileged in this country. Let’s get that straight. Also, I come from a lower middle class income family, if you accept that label. My parents busted their ass to send me to an expensive school that they couldn’t afford to send me back to. I wanted to live in NYC so I stayed here and worked decent paying jobs until I ended up a flight attendant for two years, for a company that is now bankrupt and treated it’s employees like crap. I got an AmeriCorps ed award that my school wouldn’t accept but I paid off my student loans. It was 10 month contract and after that it was over. Still looking for employment that I feel meets my standards. Please read my story and get to know me before you pass judgement.

  • helesetalks

    Thank you for your support

  • helesetalks

    I’ve been trying to reply to individual comments but it seems that they just show up randomly inthe thread. First of all I want to thank all of my supporters. I want to also clearly address that the STATE OF NEW YORK HAS DEEMED IT LEGAL FOR ME TO BE IN NY TOPFREE, ANYWHERE A MAN CAN BE. I really just did it exercising my rights and had NO IDEA that a week late I would be covered by Clutch Magazine. I sat by the park not even REALIZING it was a children’s playground until the park patrol came over and said something to me. Still, I stand by my beliefs that children seeing breasts in and of themselves is not harmful. I did not go stand in the playground, but I was near it and yes, children were around.

    There are several things I would not like to see, PDA is a considered a problem to some, LOOK AWAY. And I say that for everything else. Who is it actually harming? Are your thoughts your own or do you even know why you feel looking at a natural naked body is harmful? What about naked statues with the penis clearly showing? NOBODY is saying anything about that.

    As far as me being PRIVILEGED…no black woman is privileged in this country. I have never made more than 20 something thousand a year and I come from a lower middle class family. I don’t have a degree and have to fight extra hard to be recognized for my experience in lieu of it. See my story about this here (I have a lot to say about a lot of other issues, not just the issue of females exercising their RIGHTS GRANTED TO THEM BY LAW.

    And I do not consider myself a feminist, I consider myself a liberationist. As a differing of opinions, the nude body does not offend me at all, and if someone were walking around the city completely nude I would look and move on. At point in time, someone mentioned earlier in the thread, that an ankle was considered scandalous, but we keep making strides. At one point in time if a Black person sat down next to a white person they would say the same thing….”you can do what you want but why do I have to be exposed to it?” So I say YES…we can change our view on this as a society.

    I believe this is a time of the rise of the feminine, and so I don’t want breasts to be desensitized or desexualized, but CELEBRATED. I just don’t want it to be a BIG DEAL.

    I don’t measure what is right for me based on what men get turned on by. I can arouse a man completely covered, its’ called magnetism. When you have it, it doesn’t matter if you have your shirt on or off. Still I can’t stop ANYONE from looking and I don’t need or want to. It doesn’t bother me that people look with a passing glance but let me stress this: EVEN IN THE DEAD OF WINTER WHEN I’M ALL COVERED, BEFORE I EVER WENT TOP FREE IN PUBLIC, I DIDN’T WANT ANYONE STARING AT ME…so I don’t want anyone STARING at me with my top off either. It usually doesn’t happen for long because I’m bold. If someone stares at me, I stare them DOWN RIGHT BACK.

    If someone says something to me like I lack respect for myself or values, I say “God Bless You” and I inform them that it’s legal. Next time I’m going to be even more passive and invite them to converse with me. We are never going to get past people doing what they want without others getting upset even though it doesn’t directly affect them unless we TALK. I appreciate all of you. I even appreciate the snide remarks about sagging breasts, shows you’re thinking at least.

    I leave you with these questions that I’ve had to ask myself to help myself figure out whether my thoughts were my own:
    What is self respect?
    Does someone show they value themselves by covering up? (In Muslim culture, AMERICAN women don’t show respect for themselves bc they expose themselves to “unworthy eyes” of men.)
    Does someone gain self respect by following societal norms or doing what they feel is right even when everyone else says it’s wrong?
    Is self respect and self value more about doing what society says is right or following your intuition and what you gut says inside?

    Remember when it was looked down upon to be an interracial couple? Remember when they’d get beat up or spat on?

    Remember when you would get killed for being the wrong color in the wrong neighboorhood? Should we shrug it off and say “there are double standards, get over it.” and move on to more “important” matters? (Remember Trayvon Martin? He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

    Remember when it was uncouth for a woman to wear pants? Was that important for women’s rights or was it meaningless?

    I think that’s enough for now. I welcome anyone’s RESPECTFUL dialogue.

  • helesetalks

    I think that’s a wonderful question….it brings up a point…if it’s already legal, why should we actually DO it to prove that it’s legal? If it’s legal then there’s not need to actually EXERCISE the right to do it, because that would just make people mad. We are caught in a very vicious cycle with this type of reasoning.

  • helesetalks

    My priority is my personal liberation and the liberation of people everywhere, because this is really about knowing your rights and exercising them.

  • helesetalks

    I am going to address your concerns.
    The first point I am totally in agreement with, except I believe breasts are also sexual as any part of the body can be and should be, depending on personal preference.

    The scars I got as a result of wearing the bra are because I wore the bra in the heat…anyway I shared that because this movement is actually about my personal liberation as well, so I thought it pertinent to share my other experiences around breasts

    It IS legal to walk around topless in NYC but it’s by NOT common and MOST people don’t know. I am doing me, and spreading information as well. I don’t know if you could TRUTHFULLY say that your reaction would be different if I hadn’t made a “movement” out of what I am doing. The very fact that I’m a writer, a giver of information, a performer, a vocal person, doing this act that draws so much attention makes it a movement WHETHER I WANT IT TO BE OR NOT. So, I’m not sure what you’re getting at with this.

    The point is you are here. You mentioned the rapture…so I see you’re a Christian. I used to have that problem of filtering everything through the Church’s view and misinterpretation of the Bible, I don’t have that problem anymore. I really hope THAT works for you.

  • helesetalks

    Clever. Care to actually add something to the conversation?

  • Sasha A.

    Wow, hurt feelings much? I’m Catholic and attend church once a month at the most so if by ‘Church’ you mean ‘Black Church’ then you are the one with a problem- its called making generalizations and being condescending. Thankfully I don’t have either of those problems and yep THAT works for me just fine :)

  • Smilez_920

    I’m sorry but those examples and you walking around exercising your right to go topless are not on the same level. Listen if you want to walk around topless do it.

    As far as you being by a children’s park, while you might not think its a big deal those kids in the park are not your children therefore you should respect their parents right to feel their child should be able to play in the playground with seeing your breast. And actually I’ve seen cops remove teens who are being overly sexual ( making out heavly from around a kids playground)

    Just like you want ppl to respect your right to bear chest.

    Dikes or masculinet lesbians have been walking outside topless in NYC for years.

    I’m a woman and I really don’t think this movement is going to have any significant change in the way woman are viewed in society. It might get some good press but that’s about it. Maybe I just don’t see how the end result is goin to make anything better for women or level us out with men other than now we can nth show are boobies.

  • Kacey

    Dear Helese,

    Privilege is not limited to one’s financial means. Privilege also encompasses the time and effort we have to devote to fruitless pursuits.
    In many corners of this land (and lands far and near) there are people struggling to SURVIVE. People with nothing to eat, no where to live, dying of some terminal illness, on brink of suicide from mental anguish. You are fighting for your right to bare your breasts in public! You, dearest heart, are full of privilege!

  • Todd Quigley (ResilientMonkey)

    Time and time again I see people upset that others are doing something they do not approve of. Here is a quote that explains something to you people: “Freedom means you can do and say what you like. It also means people you don’t like can say and do things that you dislike. That’s part of the deal. Most people are unclear on this very simple concept.” – J.L. Hudson

    This means simply, that people can do what they want and they are free to do so weather you like it or not. It’s perfectly legal to go topless in NY. If you don’t like it, tough.

  • JuneBug

    #owned and LMBO at the rapture line

  • JuneBug

    “Her reasoning is that we expose our children to violence”

    You know, when I thought about this it reminded me of how some white people say, “so and so uses the n-word” as if ALL black people use and approve of it. Not EVERY parent actively exposes their children to violence…and I agree with the comment about privilege!

    Good comment.

  • JuneBug

    Arrgh..let me post this Clutch. PLEASE.

    “Her reasoning is that we expose our children to violence”

    You know, when I thought about this it reminded me of how some white people say, “so and so uses the n-word” as if ALL black people use and approve of it. Not EVERY parent actively exposes their children to violence…and I agree with the comment about privilege!

  • theblackparacosmistmind


    You one time blacks in the 50s thought it was a “fruitless pursuit” to integrate into white America. And look at where we are today. I get it. You have a problem with the methods of the messenger, but don’t forget the message.

    Gender-based privilege exists. Gender-based violence and rape culture exists. Black women get lost in the paradigms of white patriarchal heterosexism, and we mustn’t forget that.

    It’s more than “baring your breasts.” Please please don’t minimize and discredit her cause to that! Just like the black people back in the day minimized MLK’s efforts to just trying to eat in a white restaurant.

  • theblackparacosmistmind

    rotfl! Junebug you are a mess! I can’t with you! lol

  • Pharaoh

    “We live in a world where we have to hide to make love, while violence is practiced in broad daylight.” ― John Lennon. This message will be heard! No longer should we shy away from this important subject. It’s time to do something about it this. We support you, Queen. Continue to stay strong!

  • African Mami

    Lawwwwwwwd hammmmmercy!!

    I want a PROTEST for men, to bare their thangs!! Ooooooweee! THAT I will support!!!!!

  • African Mami

    Forgot to add, I’d be the TAPE MEASURER secretariat of that protest. Thanks much.

  • elle

    There are women who suffer from domestic violence, rights to abortion are being taken away in some states and still treated as second class in this country. These are the things we should be focusing on but we’re just wasting time fighting for the right to bare our breasts. Come on now you can’t be serious?

  • Nope

    You are a black woman wandering about with your breasts out making parents angry and confusing children just be cause you want your breasts to be “celebrated.” There are black women in America and in Africa and other places wondering how they will feed their kids. You are definitely priveleged and have too much time on your hands. You want your boobs to be celebrated and not a big deal. They’re a big deal because naked breasts are a big deal in this country. That is our culture. This is some type of reverse cultural imperialism. You are romanticizing some culture where breasts are not sexualized and trying to force that culture on us. We don’t want it!

    You’re whining about not being able to bare your naked breasts and have confetti fall from the sky. You don’t see how you sound like a privileged and spoiled first world brat? Any American woman from a middle class background even a lower one is privileged compared to others. The fact that you can’t see that you’re privileged shows how privileged you are.

    You’re comparing the struggle of black people in this country, the struggle of interracial couples, and Trayvon Martin’s death to your struggle to show your breasts in public? Wearing pants makes things easier for women and allows them to participate in certain activities. How will your breasts battle positively impact American culture? You are comparing your struggle to have your breasts “celebrated” to those examples. I just can’t.

  • elle

    @African Mami girl you are too much lol!!

  • Mademoiselle

    1. A few kids being desensitized to violence isn’t an argument for desensitizing them to breasts. Likewise, (from @helesetalks comments) conditioning society to make breasts no big deal would do the opposite of celebrating them considering people celebrate things that are big deals.
    2. Breasts may not be sexualized other places, but it sure as heck is here, so let’s not act like a bare breasts movement shouldn’t have shock value–it would be weird if it didn’t considering how sexualized they are in this society (can’t get aroused by something you’re indifferent to).
    3. Just because men do it doesn’t mean men are right–maybe we should start a “keep your shirt on” campaign towards guys. Furthermore, just because men do it doesn’t mean women have to also–you do realize that even if all our rights were equal right down the line, we’d still have no use for urinals or prostate exams, and they’d still have no use for tampons or pap smears, right? Not everything HAS to be the same.
    4. Kids are not science experiments. They don’t need to be force fed your “progressive” idealogy. They have the rest of their lives to learn what an adult thinks it means to be liberated. For now, let them be liberated about age appropriate topics like coloring Elmo green if they feel like it or picking out their own school clothes. I highly doubt children are going to be able to connect the rare sight of a stranger’s breasts to the philosophies of feminism, liberationism, secret rights, etc. when they live in a community of covered breasts.
    5. Regarding the 3rd point made in the article: I’ve actually heard WAY more about people helping other people than I have about people worrying about some woman’s lack of shirt.

  • Nope

    Seriously? This is not an important subject. How is the gender inequality of men walking around with naked chests hurting women? How will women walking about topless positively impact American culture? She could be protesting violence in movies because of it’s effect on children but she is walking around with no shirt on telling people to change the way they think and comparing that to sit ins which everyone knows was about more than getting a burger.

    Even if breasts were no longer sexualized but celebrated (whatever the heck that means) the majority of women would opt out. There are plenty of women that won’t even wear a bikini. It will probably be just shirtless men. Rare. When you stroll down the street,are men topless? On average, no. So you are fighting for breasts to no longer be sexualized but then women will still not do it. She said that she doesn’t want breasts to be desexualized or have people be desensitized to them but she wants people to celebrate them. What in the world! I don’t think she even understands what she is saying.

  • mahlOt SANSOSA

    Privileged in what way Kacey?
    I am an active supporter and i am very eager to know & understand the privilege for which you speak, even more so curious why you would think there’s ‘nothing else to do or think about’.

  • mahlOt SANSOSA

    i concur @ black_feminist. woman-hating at its BEST, and of course, by WOMEN. uneducated women. whether you agree or disagree is not the issue here, its a basic sense of appreciation, and/or at the very LEAST, understanding.. but alas, shame on you for ‘expecting more’ of some of the participants in this conversation. These are the EXACT kinds of women that inherently call other women bitches & hoes with absolutely no inclination of the damning consequences on our sex, gender, and gender expression.
    Many thanks to Courtney.

  • Nik

    Right, just like it was too late to say, “Blacks and women should not be someone’s property” or “Interracial and same-sex marriages should be legal.”
    Thank God that society never changes!
    Also, in response to other posters, women like me and these others who will be topfree in public places are not doing it to fight for the right to be able to do so…some are doing it just to get the word out that it is legal (in some places, and damn well should be in other places) because too many women have been wrongly arrested due to just having their shirts off! Others (and this is more the group in which I fall) do it because it’s hot outside, and it’s nice to cool off in the same way men can. For crying out loud, I couldn’t even go to the beach last month without some guy halfway down the beach hollering rude and obscene things at me! “Let me suck on your titties” and other similar gems. To make someone feel so uncomfortable for dressing in the same exact manner as he is just ridiculous. Clearly the guy wasn’t going to stop, and I felt bad for the woman whose kids were swimming nearby who could hear all the horrendous things this guy was shouting, so I left. Nobody should get harassed to the point of feeling the need to leave their “R-n-R” time for the sake of those around them.
    If more women (who WANT to go shirtless) do so, the more it becomes “normal” in society.
    The victim-blaming I’ve seen here is getting old, and not only offensive to females but males as well. To say that if women go shirtless, men won’t be able to control themselves, or would be too easily distracted, is saying that women shouldn’t do the same thing that men are allowed to do because of how men will respond. Way to give males credit in this world. Not all of them are horny perverts. Also, the whole mentality of that argument is similar to saying, “Of course that woman was raped; look what she was wearing.

    (I hope that was all coherent. I am quite fatigued, and did not feel like going back to proofread.)

    Thanks for the chance to voice my thoughts here :-)

  • http://. Patience

    Africa’s problems are Africa’s problems.

  • ALE

    While you come from a traditionally unprivileged background, there is some privilege in being able to spend the time to protest your cause (whereas other people have to go to work). While that does not discredit the cause, that is something to note. Some may say there are better things to be fighting for – I’m not sure that is the case, but that is an argument.

  • ImThinkingAboutIt

    You read my mind like a book.

    Why don’t they campaign for men to be covered up? Because they wouldn’t get any attention that way. And this whole thing is about attention, right? This lady wants attention. She’s a singer, author, etc. who clearly wants attention. (Looking for a book deal, record contract, etc.) If she was really down for equal topless-rights, she wouldn’t be protesting in a city where topless-rights are already equal. How much sense does that make?

    That’s like asking MLK to do a sit in at a Black restaurant. HUH?

    If she really wanted to see a change, she would put her authoring skills to work for her. Write a preposition for a change in legislation asking for equal topless-rights. Properly submit it to the government for their approval. Ask men to cover-up.

    But guess what, that would be boring. And wouldn’t bring her any attention. And though that way has been proven to work several times in the past, she probably won’t sell any books or get a record deal that way. So instead, she goes topless in a city where being topless is already legal.


  • Sweetles

    I agree with everything you have said. Thank you for holding this thread down.

  • TJH

    You seem to be trying to rationalize why protesting your right to go topless, when it’s legal, makes sense. This is like protesting black people riding at the front of the bus, by riding at the front of the bus. There is no protest in this–it’s legal you aren’t actually fighting for anything.

    This is why people are saying you are privileged, because instead of taking up an actual cause, and trying to change an area of society that is damaged or raising awareness to the many issues, you are rallying against a non-issue. If women wanted to go topless around NYC they could. But the streets of NYC are public, whereas women who are attempting to carry on business, further their education and just generally be taken seriously cannot roam around topless. I can’t even get a sandwich topless. Do the words, “No shirt, no shoes, no service” ring a bell? They should. Most private establishments don’t want any person, man or woman inside without being clothed. It’s not about sexualized images of women, it’s not about a double-standard, it’s not about liberation. This is not the a 3rd world nation. We don’t go around topless. We have air conditioning, indoor plumbing, wifi, and shirts. I love and appreciate all of those things
    If you don’t like the fact that people expect you to wear a shirt then move to a nation where your unclothed breasts are commonplace. As it stands, the streets of NYC, as legal as it may be is not that place.

    Perhaps since you are so hellbent on making a statement I can give you a few links to some children who would LOOOOOOOVE nothing more than to have a shirt to cover up with. They would adore the idea of having clean clothes and shoes to wear, but are naked because they don’t have a choice. Poor Children–that’s a cause! Hungry Children–that’s a cause! You wanting your bare nipples to be accepted by the average person on the street is a cry for attention.

  • DMR

    I don’t understand why so many responses to her action point to male reaction to seeing female breasts as if 1) In a place like NY where gay marriage is legal, men are the only people who enjoy seeing breasts (2) that women who go topless are typically lesbians or “dykes”–since that word is completely acceptable in this forum (3) that men are unable to control their own sexual urges and if upon seeing breasts they were to “harrass” women, it would be the “woman’s fault” for exercising what we all acknowledge to be her legal right. More importantly, since when are breasts only about sexual pleasure or breast-feeding? Oh so its only acceptable for women to show their breasts when they are fulfilling their pre-ordained destiny of being mothers? That argument is so bound up in heternormative notions of women as either sexual objects for male fantasies or fulfilling their duties as mothers.

    Having said that, while it is legal for woman to show their breasts, clearly our discomfort with it (including my own) speaks to how entrenched our social norms are. The claim that we shouldn’t see breasts because it is “our culture” wrongly suggests that culture is some fixed unchanging phenomenon and that we all had a equal say in defining what is culturally “acceptable” or “normative”.

    Finally, why is her decision to exercise her legal right being labled a privilege? Personally, if she wants to show her breasts and its legal to do so, fine by me.

    As for the claim that third world women have other pressing issues, as a third world woman I have to say that being topless or naked depends on your tribe or class or area or country. Africa is a continent made up of various countries and if one were to walk around topless in certain cities or professional areas/neighbourhoods it could still be considered taboo or inappropriate. There is no single view of topless women.

    My only difficulty is with the fact that it happened to be around children. I feel that if this were about contesting the norms of social spaces, it would have been better to do it among adults who can actually intellectually engage the issue. While one can counter by saying that it should be as normal for children to see this as when a man does it, I still think that if one is seeking to reclaim public space, then one should be more strategic about the audience.

  • helesetalks

    Let’s get out of the bubble of this thread…I’d love to contest every point but there is no need to. I thank EVERYONE for their input, especially the well thought out respectful responses, even if they totally find what I did distasteful. I started a movement of one, named it, and did what was legal a few days out of this year. Maybe I should post my resume or my experience with working with community, volunteering, and posting about the ills of our world, (what some call “real issues”), so as to find solutions. Also, cathartically writing about my experiences so as to facilitate healing for people who can relate. It’s why I am a writer. That’s why I’m raw and real. Everyone here can talk crap if they want to and say that I should find something better to do with my time, but the point is NOW YOU’RE LISTENING. You’re here posting, and I would like to see ANYONE ELSE WHO HAD TIME TO COME HERE AND POST AND REPOST AGAIN, SHOW ME WHAT YOU DID TO ADDRESS THESE SO CALLED ISSUES THAT YOU FEEL ARE SO IMPORTANT. It’s important that we hold each other accountable. I did a post on the education industry, did anyone read that? Did Clutch do a piece on that? No. So it goes to show that this piece got me the most Likes on my Facebook page and the most comments on my blog. Now people are talking. I didn’t plan it this way, but I’d be damn good PR person if I did. Maybe now people will listen. We can spin our wheels all day about the specifics of things, but what I hope to do is to get enough people talking about issues that can change minds or change policies.

    I stand by the idea that people doing what they want to do, when it’s not directly hurting anyone else, should be legal on all accounts. (I’m sure you’ll challenge me on this and I welcome it.) Body acceptance, the demonization of the feminine (somehow a woman’s body is more indecent than a man’s), and the fear of human sexuality in this society is STILL an issue. So, all of these issues are super important and if we CAN’T GET PAST A PAIR OF BOOBS, how can we move on to anything else? Not everyone has the same gifts, not everyone’s cause is the same. But everyone has a purpose and I will continue to fulfill mine. Me not wearing a shirt is not going to make anyone more clothed on the other side of the world. Let’s be logical. Do you clean your plate every time you eat? Do you throw anything out that someone might need? (I said I wouldn’t address specific points but that was so inane…I just had to.)

    Thanks again you all, and keep the dialogue coming. If you think I should be focusing on other issues, point them out to me, provide me with resources, let me know. Maybe I could distribute info about these issues topfree and get the message out, and everyone will be happy. But I’m sure someone will have a problem with that too. Smh… Love y’all.

  • Yevi

    Thanks for telling the truth, Courtney.

  • Tonton Michel

    Yeah find something constructive to do.

  • chanela17

    @elegance “Show me a culture this change has been made from sexual to non-sexual and I would actually believe it would be possible.”

    umm a woman showing her ankles used to be a BIG HUGE deal back in the day. it was definitely sexualized and look at us now?

  • chanela17

    well we since have pretty much every women left and right getting nasty ugly breast implants anyways so since they already show off their new balloons in hoochie clothing anyway, i think they would be the main ones parading the streets to show what they just bought. they do it

    i predict that if more women DO start walking around topless then breast implants would be a government requirement and everybody over 15 would have them in order to walk around topless.

  • FreshyU

    @Nope – That’s EXACTLY what I was thinking.

  • FreshyU


  • chanela17

    not to be mean but… you don’t know that swings and multicolored slides= playground?

  • chanela17

    YES!!! that way men will feel as insecure as us women are because men will finally be constantly scrutinized and picked apart and judged based only on the size of their deck. bahaha

  • chanela17

    doesn’t covering up her nipples on the picture defeat the purpose of this entire article? why is the woman protesting not upset by them letting everything else show BUT her nipples? why not bleep out half the picture? i never understood why people cover a teeny tiny area.might as well show

  • Nope


  • jcross

    lol I agree. Some people (I said SOME) blow things out of proportion. Yes, there are many legitimate issues that women should and do fight for or against, but I wouldn’t protest for the right to go topless in public. Um, it’s not like men are going bare on their bottom half, and the ones who dare to are arrested. Until men are allowed to expose their privates in public, while women still can’t, I see no reason to cry ‘sexism’. It’s not the case here…

  • jcross

    +1, thanks.

  • Maxine Shaw (@MaxineShawEsq)

    This broad needs a life – as evidenced by her need to respond to everybody who thinks she’s a couple of shrimp short of a basket. I sure wish I had time to write 20-page diatribes to everybody who had a problem with the stupid shit I do.

    The ridiculous thing is, Helese, you already have a right to go topless in NY. So…what are you protesting, exactly? Are you really that bored?

  • elle


  • Get over the notion of Privilege

    The idea that her taking up the cause because she has a privilege is such an irrelevant topic. Just because she is not starving does not mean that there are not other issues in this world to focus on. In America where there is sooo much food and alot of the population is busting out the seams why can’t there be a focus on other issues as well. I am not denying that there are not people in America who are not starving and there are plenty of charities working on those problems but this argument reminds me of civil rights movement…ignoring the discussion of Black women and sexism and solely focusing on race when each issue is valid. While some use their time to fight hunger and other issues. I believe others should have the same right to focus their energies on other concerns like women being able to topless.

  • cherish

    I think it’s b.s. If a man is walking out with his shirt off, he’s not exposing his privates. Quite frankly, I don’t want to see a woman walking topless just because it’s uncomfortable. That is private. Stop trying to be like one of the guys. This is feminism on its hinges; there are some things man can but women can’t, that including going topless. Breasts, to be, are seen as private, and should be covered up in the public square.I am tired of everyone trying to equate everything to everyone else. shoddy socialism.

  • Jae Bee

    I remember reading an article several years back by noted feminist, Andrea Dworkin, who asserted that [summarizing] our culture’s “acceptance” of exposing outward signs of female sexuality (i.e. breasts) in public media (i.e. movies) and the resistance/reluctance toward exposing outward signs of male sexuality (i.e. penis) just reaffirmed the patriarchal structure and continued objectification of women. It’s funny how Western society believes that it has/will become progressive when more breasts are exposed in public, yet we never take the time to wonder why a penis is so “sacred” that it is rarely exposed in (at least not at the frequency that breasts are).

    It’s interesting that Helese chooses to take a stand on public nudity when it comes to breasts, though I wonder if she would feel the same way about penis. Would she be ok with men going bottomless at a playground? What if they used the same argument that penises fare better when they are not strapped down or covered where the skin can’t breathe and the lymph isn’t free to move around? If sexual repression of breasts is so harmful to children, why isn’t sexual repression of penis equally as harmful? If the goal is to make children more comfortable with the nude body then why is there such inequality when it comes to the exposure of penis? Why don’t we see movements calling for “bottomfreedom” at the same intensity that we see movements calling for “topfreedom”? Just makes me wonder…

  • Jae Bee


  • NTG

    Exactly!! Thank you

  • yea, I said it, what?

    Exactly. Put those cows back in the barn. Nobody wants to see all that-go to a nudist colony/beach or Mardi Grad if you wanna be topless.

  • yea, i said it, what?

    *Mardi Gras

  • ?!?

    Her going topless is not the equivalent of men being shirtless. It’s more like men exposing their penises.

    This chick just has too much time on her hands. She also likes attention. I just really don’t even know what she is having a movement for. It’s already legal. She says she is trying to draw awareness to the fact that it is legal. Yea right. She just keeps saying a bunch of liberal mumbo jumbo to make it seem like her movement is about something when it really isn’t.

  • African Mami

    You shut this whole post down. No more needs to be said. Thanks, Jae Bee!!

  • African Mami

    Loll!! ur comments are kinda kray-iheart them so!

  • Ravi

    It is interesting to see the degree to which individuals apparently lack the ability to see outside the perspective formed within a specific cultural context. There is nothing inherently more sexual about a woman’s chest than a man’s. It is completely a social construct. Nearly every part of a woman’s body has been sexualized by some society at some point in time. It’s funny to me to see how rigidly people stick to the arbitrary classification of sexual vs. non-sexual body parts. This is an issue of gender oppression no different than women compelled to cover their hair because it is deemed sexual while men have no such restrictions.

    But I digress, this sort of rhetoric always seems to follow when anyone dares question the norms established that preference those in power. I’m sure such commentary looked pretty similar when women demanded the right to vote or equal pay.

  • motrenaissance

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

  • 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.

  • Pingback: Women Who Bare All | THE JEENYUS CORNER « The Jeenyus Corner

  • jamesfrmphilly

    “I have never made more than 20 something thousand a year”

    work in your local titty bar. there you could bear your breasts and make more than 20k. two birds wit one stone?

  • WorldHeaded4Doom

    A woman’s breasts are the equivalent of a man’s balls. Technically, men should be able to expose their testicles since it doesn’t play a role in reproduction and therefore “isn’t really” sexual. Men could let the balls hang out and only cover the penis itself.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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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