Topfreedom

topfreedom

Topfreedom is a cultural and political movement seeking to advance gender equality by the recognition of the right of women and girls to be topless in public on the same basis that men and boys are permitted to be barechested. In addition, topfreedom advocates seek recognition of the right of nursing mothers to openly breastfeed in public, and of women to sun bathe topless.

The Topfree Equal Rights Association (TERA) also assists women in Canada who have been charged for being topless, while GoTopless organizes demonstrations in the United States to protest against the legal and public attitude to the inequality. In Sweden, Bara Bröst is active in advancing topfreedom, as is Topless Front in Denmark.

As a result of social conditioning, many people feel uncomfortable viewing exposed women’s breasts and regard such exposure to be indecent. Most women do not regard their breasts as indecent. However, at the same time, most women are reluctant to be topfree. This may be due to their own social conditioning, social or sexual inhibitions, because of their upbringing or because of the social norm which traditionally expected women’s breasts to be covered. In several countries in Europe non-sexual toplessness is not illegal. However, private or public establishments can establish a dress code which requires women to wear tops, and deny access or remove individuals who breach these standards. Topless swimming and sunbathing on beaches have become common in many parts of Europe, though the practice remains controversial in many places, and not common in most places. Many public swimming pools are owned by municipalities, which are treated as private organisations.

Most US State jurisdictions permit breastfeeding in public. In the United States, for instance, a federal law enacted in 1999 specifically provides that ‘a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.’ However, these laws generally do not apply to rules imposed by private organisations or on private property, such as restaurants, airlines, shopping malls etc. Many traditional indigenous cultures today consider female toplessness normal and acceptable. In many indigenous, non-Western cultures it is completely acceptable for both men and women torsos to be unclothed. In several countries in Europe non-sexual toplessness is not illegal. However, private or public establishments can establish a dress code which requires women to wear tops, and deny access or remove individuals who breach these standards. In Sweden, toplessness is not illegal. However, private or public establishments are permitted to establish dress codes which may require women to wear tops, and deny access or remove individuals who breach these standards. In 2007, ‘Bara Bröst’ (a pun meaning both ‘Just Breasts’ and ‘Bare Breasts’) appeared to promote topless equality in these semi-public facilities.

The group scored a victory in 2009 when the Malmö city’s sports and recreation committee approved new rules that, while requiring everybody to wear bathing suits at indoor public swimming pools, did not require women to cover their breasts. ‘We don’t decide what men should do with their torso, why then do women have to listen to the men. Moreover, many men have larger breasts than women,’ said a council spokesman. Female topless bathing and sunbathing is acceptable, tolerated and very common in beaches all over Spain. This is also true in certain parts of Italy and Greece. Virtually every beach on the Adriatic coast of Croatia and along Europe’s Mediterranean coast permit topless bathing, as well as on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine. Female toplessness in public is illegal in most of the United States, on the basis that it is indecent exposure, or as a public nuisance or disorderly conduct. Toplessness is tolerated during specific events in a few limited locations, like the San Francisco ‘Bay to Breakers’ race and the Oregon Country Fair.

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