Will You Take It All Off On Topless Saturday?

The right to bare … breasts? This Saturday marks the third annual “Go Topless” protest in which women are encouraged to take off their shirts and go topless in the name of gender equality. Held simultaneously in nine cities around the country — including Denver, Chicago and Miami — it aims to end shame around women’s bodies. The group’s founder and “spiritual leader” Maitreya Rael (yes of the cult The Raelians) says, “as long as men can be topless, constitutionally women should have the same right, or men should also be forced to wear something hiding their chest.”

The GoTopless group sees their cause as aligned with the fight for women’s suffrage and equality. They also “aim to help men differentiate between nudity and sexuality” by demystifying toplessness and rendering it normal. It does seem strange that men — even men with very large man boobs — are legally permitted and socially encouraged to walk around shirtless and women are not. The legal inconsistency definitely speaks to the cultural over-sexualization of the female body. But we’re not entirely sold. When it comes down to it, we have no interest in seeing anyone’s breasts — male OR female — when we’re out and about. In fact, it drives us crazy when men walk around sans shirts in our neighborhood (I don’t want to see your gross, hairy chests and man boobs, OK?).

Female toplessness is currently legal in the District of Columbia; New York State; Columbus, OH; Ontario, Canada; Moscow, Idaho; and Maine. And many additional cities permit public breastfeeding (deemed not the same as public toplessness). A 1999 federal law ruled 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.”

Tell us: Should women have the same right to go topless as men? Would you — or have you — ever gone topless in public? [GoTopless.org]