Is Baring Our Breasts the Best Way to Celebrate Women’s Equality Day?

GoTopless is petitioning Obama for the right to bare all — isn’t there a better use of his (and our) time? 

Have your breasts felt ignored because of all the news about your vagina? Never fear. GoTopless is on it.

The organization, dedicated to attaining women’s rights to go bare-chested, is pushing the Obama administration to legalize toplessness for all people. The petition is a lead-in to International GoTopless Day, August 26 — which happens to be Women’s Equality Day, the day we commemorate women getting the right to vote on that date in 1920.

I have nothing against toplessness, but I’m concerned that this push delegitimizes other serious issues related to women and our bodies — like rape, abortion, and our access to birth control and reproductive healthcare. However, I understand that the freedom to go bare-chested is about more than it might appear on the surface, and that in some ways, the focus on taking our tops off one a way to get attention for these larger social issues.

The fact that it’s illegal for women to go topless does support a number of terrible stereotypes, including: Women Are Delicate Flowers — the assumption that we need to be protected from our own sexuality  (we don’t); and Men Are Out-of-Control Beasts — the implication that men won’t be able to control themselves if they see a boob (most can). And then there’s the general injustice of it all; men can take off their shirts in public and women can’t. All that may be true, and yet I have lots of trouble caring or viewing it as a real issue.

In this, an election year when women’s rights are being debated often by misinformed, misogynistic men, isn’t there a better way to celebrate our voting rights? We could vote, for example. We could encourage others to vote by volunteering to register voters in our communities. We could volunteer in communities where Republicans are working to make sure that it’s harder for some to vote. We could donate to candidates and organizations working to preserve and advance our rights.

Or, we could take our tops off.

Photo: leivajd