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article imageStigma still rampant when it comes to the female breast Special

By Stephanie Dearing     Aug 29, 2010 in Lifestyle
Guelph - The first ever Top Freedom Day of Pride Event, held in downtown Guelph Saturday illustrated the deeply embedded stereotypes modern society holds when it comes to women's bodies.
Modern North American society no longer expects women to stay home, cooking, cleaning and bearing children for their husbands. But in spite of that, women's bodies are still sexualized by society. That stigma means the idea of women baring their breasts in public will generate controversy.
Fully clothed and waiting for the event to start, this female reporter eyed the growing number of men gathering in the Square to see the semi-naked women they'd heard would be there. "Talk about feeling objectified," I noted. As a female it was not a comfortable atmosphere, prompting me to ask "The burning question - will the event organizers go "all the way?"
By the time the event got underway, the square was ringed by approximtely 200 males of all ages, presumably there to get a look at women's unclothed breasts. Many men appeared to think toplessness meant a free peep show. Some of those men were honest about their intentions, while others appeared to feel guilty and fudged about why they were there.
James B., for example, said he belonged to Toastmasters and was attending because he was "very curious to find out what kind of speeches are given at an event like this." James said he was hoping to hear speeches that were "very entertaining and something that certainly is going to catch attention," wondering whether any speeches would be heard in face of the fact that the women presenting would likely be topless.
James went on to say that if women were top free all the time, there would be nothing special about women's naked breasts, illustrating the taboos that surround women's breasts, noting "These kinds of things are like air. You only care about them when you're not getting them."
Unfortunately, I lost track of James during the event, so was not able to check back with him after one woman gave an excellent speech about equality and women's rights - while wearing a top.
Just after speaking to James, two women took off their tops to the applause and cheers of male onlookers.
Two topless women being appreciated by a horde of men at the Top Freedom Day of Pride event held in ...
Two topless women being appreciated by a horde of men at the Top Freedom Day of Pride event held in Guelph.
Four men appearing to be in their 40s sat together in the square. They joked about why they were there, but sobered slightly to say they'd heard about the event and decided to stop by as they headed to Niagara Falls. When asked if they were there to see naked female breasts, Casey answered with a nervous laugh, "Well, kind of, yeah." His friend Dominic chimed in saying they were there for "the art. The art of the female." Their friend Stan was busy taking pictures of the bare-chested women. Casey asked if I would remove my top too. "It's all right," he encouraged, "We like it."
Two young women, topless, were sitting under a tree in the shade. They identified themselves as Pat and Elizabeth. When commended on their bravery, Elizabeth responded by saying she'd wanted to "so badly" go topless in public for "a long time." Pat said "it's like getting into really cold water, honestly."
They encouraged me to take off my top, but I declined, saying I was uncomfortable with the number of men waiting to see bare breasts. Pat said "That's what I thought too, but then I thought, f___ them 'cause they're probably perverts." Laughing, Elizabeth added "This is like probably one of the only times we'll at least be able to do this in a place where there's other people around ... that would support this."
We talked about being objectified. Elizabeth said "I find it really problematic because ... why should you even be feeling objectified when you're doing it? ... there are so many like social norms I find that are hard to break out of because they're really ingrained. Like the fact that I would be afraid to do this, and the fact that I would be afraid that I would receive like negative attention from males perhaps ... I don't call it negative attention but like unwanted attention ..."
When asked if they received unwanted sexual attention from men when fully clothed, Elizabeth said she didn't find that was the case for her, adding she thought a lot of people felt otherwise.
Pat said she thought the event was a good idea. "In terms of changing the stigma of women's toplessness, I don't know if it will do much in this city. But I think it is good to do it, to just show people that we can, you know."
Saying she had just left British Columbia where attitudes were more relaxed about nudity, Pat added "It just feels better to be topless whether you're a girl or a guy... This is a really good quote, I forget who said it though. It goes 'if you have the ability to create a reality for yourself, then you have the ability to project it onto others.' ... It makes sense, I think it was in the context of Hitler actually, but it makes sense. If you can hold your belief you can put it onto others."
Some of the men who were waiting to see bare-chested women in Guelph at the Top Freedom Day of Pride...
Some of the men who were waiting to see bare-chested women in Guelph at the Top Freedom Day of Pride.
Nudist Tad loved the event, and while Tad would prefer to be naked all the time, he said he had attended in support of womens' rights to be topless. "I've been looking forward to this for a few weeks. It's important to support because, as I say, the human skin is not a sin. And it's like, I think, clothing shouldn't be forced upon us."
The event did not de-sexualize women's breasts in any significant way, although organizers Andrea Crinklaw and Lindsay Webb created a space for honest and open discussions. Even so, it is apparent that a one-off event and the legal right to be topless will not be enough to change societal perceptions about exercising that right.
Topless Giselle said "... Because you are naked does not mean you are sexual ... If all women, all day long went topless then people would think it was no big deal."
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