A Woman’s Right to Bare

Credit: Jordan Matter

One of the reasons that I love summer so much is because I get to wear as little clothing as possible.

I absolutely love baring my legs, wearing light fabric and pretending that pants don’t exist. It’s also why I spend most of my time at the beach during the hot season—because I get to be half naked in public without there being a problem.  What I’m saying, is I love to be half-naked. There are times when I’m jealous of men due to the fact that when it’s sweltering outside, they get to remove their shirts and strut their stuff, no matter how fit or big their belly is. I’ve always wondered, why do we women not have that right?

Well, it turns out that women in New York State are allowed to be topless (Lucy also talks about this here). Yes, you read that right. Women can indeed bare their breasts in public and be completely within their legal rights.

According to a report in The Village Voice from last year, the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Paul Browne, was quoted as confirming the right that women have to wear no tops. He stated, “The state’s highest court established long ago that women have the same right as men to appear topless in public.” The law dates back to 1992 in the case People v Ramona Santorelli and Mary Lou Schloss when several women were arrested due to a law that prohibited exposing any part of the breast that is below the top of the areola. The Judge found this to be discriminatory since men can be shirtless in public and show their nipples, and therefore, the New York Court of Appeals ruled in their favor and allowed women all over New York to go topless as they please.

This came as a shock to me at first, but then I remembered that last year in August, I was strolling right outside of Central Park and a topless woman rockin’ her bare bosoms, a long necklace and a pencil skirt strutted right past me. I remember thinking, damn, this woman has guts.

It seems pretty crazy, right?  Crazy, but completely acceptable and brave in my eyes, though I’m sure many find it to be crude.

The breasts of a woman in our society symbolize sexuality, or rather, sex. It’s sexy when a girl has big boobs, and when she wears low-cut shirts—never mind the fact that they’re attached to the rest of our bodies. But going topless isn’t about being sexy. It’s about utilizing the freedom that we have as women, to be half-naked because we can be. Jordan Matter , a photographer has been documenting women all over New York celebrating their right to go bare and the stories that go along with why they decided to do so. He captures these women in a way that shows their confidence and their beauty in an artistic way.

Later this month on Sunday, August 26, 2012 is International Go-Topless Day —will you be wearing your regular clothes, removing your top, judging these women or cheering them on?


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  • Lisa

    More power to the women who bare themselves! Personally I want to keep my goodies to that special someone but for those who do – do it!

  • http://www.topfree.ca Paul Rapoport

    Thank you for this. A small correction: “the judge” in the Rochester 7 case was actually three judges. Only one used the equality argument; the case was not decided on that basis, unfortunately, but on a stricter interpretation of the relevant New York law and what it meant or did not mean.

    Jordan Matter’s book, available for some time now, is a treasure. I recommend it highly.

  • Phil

    To quote Lewis Black: I’s got nipples; you’s got nipples; all God’s childrens got nipples! :)

  • Leah

    I was amazed to hear that New York, was so open about women going topless. I live in Arizona, where there are way to many conservatives, and prudes living here. If men, can go shirtless and have bigger breasts then me… Then why, can’t I take my shirt off.. and walk around without being arrested? It has never made any sense whatsoever to me. Of course, there are some men, that think of women’s breasts for sexual pleasures.. Hey, we all have them.. I mean boobs… So do you!! Men I’m referring too… Get over it… We want to go TOPLESS too… I don’t want to get arrested though. What can’t that law be made here in Arizona? Women in Lake Havasu, can bare there chests.. BUT they have to wear pasties to cover their nipples.. sigh!! Come on folks.. have you seen some of the women’s bathing suits out there… what are they covering anyways… lol Just go NUDE!! Big deal!!

  • http://www.terracottainnblog.com/2012/08/go-topless-day-is-sunday-august-26th.html Tom Mulhall

    People forget that men would be arrested for sunbathing on the beach shirtless until the mid 1930’s. And it took protests and men being arrested, before they won that right. And what arguments did the religious looneys and government use? They had to protect women and children for the sight of a man’s bare chest.

    It’s time society matured. back in ancient Greece middle and upper class women wore topless clothes as they thought they looked more graceful with their breasts showing. Sometimes the more civilized we seem, the less we really are.

  • Mike (a guy)

    Topfreedom Equality isn’t just logical,it’s the ONLY fair and non-prejudicial way to legally have it. What would the reaction be if (fate forbid) there were a law on the books that made taking your shirt off legal for whites but not blacks or Latinos? Or vice-versa? The outrage would be heard ’round the world,I would think. So,WHY is it legal to dispense this old and established right based strictly on gender? Are people SO afraid that familiarity with a woman’s breast might demystify and de-perve the sight of a shirtless woman in appropriate situations? Wouldn’t want THAT,right?

  • http://wwww.helesetalks.wordpress.com helesetalks

    Please see my blog on this issue. I almost got arrested for going topfree but I bring up these four points as to why I support baring breasts (blog excerpt):

    “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. 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. I call them my Battle Scars, even though they’re fading.)”