Go Topless for Equality?

I once heard a man say he wished women would go topless all the time. Many men have probably desired this.

Be careful what you wish for.

If it actually happened, men would likely lose interest.

In cultures where women go topless all the time, as with tribal societies, breasts are no big deal.

A similar phenomenon occurred in Europe in the 80s when women went topless at the beach, in magazine and television ads, and on billboards.

Female nudity was used in European advertising because it caught the attention of both men and women.

But after a while, people stopped noticing. Nudity became blasé.

Male European students studying in the U.S. began asking why American men thought breasts were such a big deal. They’d grown up seeing so many of them, they couldn’t fathom the mystique.

National Topless Day protesters say women should have the same constitutional right as men to bear their chests. They want women to see that their breasts are noble, natural, and not something to be shamefully hidden. 

The Go Topless campaign argues that feminism has led women to repress their femininity, which is “a powerful asset.” Go Topless doesn’t get that in the end, uncovered breasts would likely lose that very power.

In fact, some feminists have advocated going topless, arguing that if men were continually exposed to breasts, they would lose their status as sex objects – and so would the women who are attached to them.

Is Go Topless really concerned with women’s equality? As Jezebel reports, their founder, Claude Vorilhon, who now calls himself Rael, says a UFO inspired him to start a church, complete with an “Order of Angels,” really, a group of women who sexually service Rael and his friends. Go Topless looks more like shock PR for his church than a real concern with gender equality.

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych, women's psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State University. And I have blogged for Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos.

Posted on August 26, 2010, in body image, feminism, gender, men, sex, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. American Men are not as mature as European men. If our women went topless they wouldn’t get used to it- just look at our ads – our women are nearly topless now – men in the US can’t help but ogle.
    I have been telling my grandsons since birth (24 years) these( me and my girls sport DD’s) are mammary glands for feeding our young not sex toys!

    Our boys have seen the biggest and the best right here at home and they know what they are for – they don’t look at breasts the same way other guys do – but we taught them right from Day 1 – !

  2. There is nothing immature or sexist about a man admiring and being attracted by the female form. There is nothing sexist about wanting sex or being sexy.
    Heterosexual men would always be attracted to women no matter what they wear or don’t wear, although the point about nudity getting old-hat is well known and studied by every media form in existence.
    Sexy is a mental concept, and like all art, use of the imagination is always the sexiest component of all. That’s why magazines with starlets in bikinis or underwear sell far better then their straight nude competition.
    The Europeans are worse about sex than Americans, and nobody should pretend that there is something more mature across the pond. The page-three girl is a British concept and from France to Spain to Italy and in every direction, Europe has consistently exploited the female form to make money. Europe has produced more then their share of female sex symbols to compete with the American ones.
    Sexism is about power and the feminist models of the 1960s and 1970s proved that it does not matter what a woman wears. Do we recall the “female suits” of the early 1970s? They were absurd. The answer to sexism is not for women to become men or for there to be some ridiculous attempt to say there is no difference or distinction between men and women.
    Sexism is answered when women take power and control authority. That is why women should be encouraged to seek political office and attain the highest educational levels available.
    But sexism being about power, it is entirely possible to have sexism with men in the role of the victims. The notion that the female persona and psychological character are better for society undermines the strengths men can offer. Whe men are denied their right to be men, society suffers as much as when women are denied their equality. The sexes are different. So I think it is long past time when confusions about sexism and sexuality are treated as one-in-the-same.

    • I’m not saying hetero men won’t be attractred to women if their breasts are exposed all the time. I am saying that overexposure to naked breasts desexualizes breasts.

      That doesn’t mean that men won’t be attracted to women just because they’re no longer aroused by breasts. Tribal men still have sex with women. European men still were attracted to, and had sex w/women in the 80s, despite their overexposure to nudity that made breasts seem “no big deal.”

      And, women still want to have sex with men even though men don’t have breasts, or anything equivilent to them.

      On women as sex objects, most women don’t want to be things. They want to be human beings. There’s a difference between sexy and sex object.

      More on all this later, in future posts.

  3. Oh, those wacky, wacky Aliens – using a creep like Vorilhon to advance the women’s movement.

    Here’s an idea on how to stop the ‘sexualization’ of the breast in America: How about if it starts with American WOMEN, making positive changes through their own dressing habits and fashion trends? How about if they take themselves off the Victoria Secret commercials, the Sex and the City movies, and the “Girls Gone Wild” photo shoots?

    How about we stop blaming the men, and take responsibility for the fact that we (collectively) still exploit ourselves in today’s sexually suped-up culture?

    Because until We the Women work together collectively, the menfolk will continue to follow our lead.

  4. As a male I find it ironic reading these women’s perspectives.

    For example, saying: …”“Order of Angels,” really, a group of women who sexually service Rael and his friends.”…

    Given that the women probably are there voluntarily it’s more likely the case that the “Order of Angels” is really a group of women >>who get sexually serviced<>The Go Topless campaign argues that feminism has led women to repress their femininity, which is “a powerful asset.” Go Topless doesn’t get that in the end, uncovered breasts would likely lose that very power.<<

    It may be that BroadBlogs doesn't get that in the end women want to be known as people, not just sex objects. Therefore having breasts lose their power actually could be beneficial to women and equality.

  5. —reformatted–sorry–

    As a male I find it ironic reading these women’s perspectives.

    For example, saying: …”“Order of Angels,” really, a group of women who sexually service Rael and his friends.”…

    Given that the women probably are there voluntarily it’s more likely the case that the “Order of Angels” is really a group of women <>

    Then
    <>

    It may be that BroadBlogs doesn’t get that in the end women want to be known as people, not just sex objects. Therefore having breasts lose their power actually could be beneficial to women and equality, and that The Go Topless campaign is really fighting for the result of gender equality.

    I will keep this entry to simple logic, and not offer any opinions…

  6. Figuring the formatting here.. sorry..

    As a male I find it ironic reading these women’s perspectives.

    For example: …”“Order of Angels,” really, a group of women who sexually service Rael and his friends.”…

    Given that the women probably are there voluntarily it’s more likely the case that the “Order of Angels” is really a group of women “who get sexually serviced”…
    Maybe this is a sex-positive environment, where they can engage in an important kind of social relationship without being insulted by others (usually women?) who are less sex-positive.

    Next item:
    “The Go Topless campaign argues that feminism has led women to repress their femininity, which is “a powerful asset.” Go Topless doesn’t get that in the end, uncovered breasts would likely lose that very power.”

    It may be that BroadBlogs doesn’t get that in the end women want to be known as people, not just sex objects. Therefore having breasts lose their power actually could be beneficial to women and equality, and that The Go Topless campaign is really fighting for the result of gender equality.

    I will keep this entry to simple logic, and not offer any opinions…

  7. I agree with Georgia, I think that if women went topless, our breasts would be, eventually, as regular and diverse as seeing legs. At first I think it would be an absolute culture shock to most people but as the time progresses it would become regular. I also believe that it would be incredibly difficult to get women to participate in this because we are all expected to look a certain way, but the truth is that every single woman has her own unique figure. Overall, if this could happen I think it would undoubtedly change how breasts are seen today, on a sexual pedestal .

  8. I have long thought that it was interesting that there is little extra appeal and attention to women in cultures where breasts are commonly exposed, and the same when men’ penis and testicles, or buttocks make daily appearances. I believe that it isn’t so much the body part or it’s function that creates the sex appeal, portrays a power, or excites – so much as the presentation. This blog post reinforces that belief to me, especially when referring to Europeans views of the naked body after so much exposure in the common media and leisure world.

    Still, I find it hard to imagine baring my breasts in any practical manner. I wouldn’t be averse to visiting a topless beach by any means. Although I would concern myself with who I was going with, or who I would be around and how I might be judged (but that is a larger topic). However, I wouldn’t want to be bare chested at home, at work or in public places. Why? Because it would be physically uncomfortable to me. I assume this opinion wouldn’t exist if I had been born to a society where being bare chested was normal for women, but still I believe that it isn’t practical for most of how we spend our time in the United States. What I wonder more about, it why women are almost always clad in undergarments that shape and restrict the knowledge of their true breast shape? Why is it so taboo to see an erect nipple through ones clothing (although less so as the years go on)? I think the primary reason that we cover up so much is that we don’t want to be visually interrogated by men, so much so that their thoughts are clouded for a bit. But then again, I wonder if some of us know that giving away our secrets visually, will give up some of that power? I think for some of us, yes.

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