Events took place all over the world to mark International Go Topless Day but, here in the U.K., there was a noticeable lack of bare-boobed action to protest against censorship. It appears that Edinburgh was the only city to hold an official “Free the Nipple” demonstration, as reported by the Edinburgh Evening News — and even then it only consisted of between 50 and 100 people (depending on which publication you believe).
The half-naked gathering went topless outside St Giles’ Cathedral on what was — fortunately — one of the warmest days the Scottish capital city has seen this summer.
Elsewhere in the world, from Paris, France, to Seoul, Korea, people demonstrated minus tops in their thousands to “Free the Nipple” — part of a movement to relax international laws on female toplessness.
According to event organisers GoTopless.org, the aim of the protests is to combat the gender inequality in our society, which deems it unacceptable (nay, obscene) if a woman walks around topless, while it’s perfectly acceptable for men to do so.
So why did so few British women get behind the cause yesterday and join forces to demand the same constitutional right as men to walk around in public baring their chests?
Aside from the weather issue (outside of London and the South, it hasn't exactly been sunbathing weather this summer), could it be that this cause simply isn’t important to the vast majority of women?
Campaigning for equal rights on a wider level is, of course, crucial. All over the world women are unequal to men in endless ways. In the U.K. women are being paid 19.1 percent less than men and many of them face discrimination and deal with misogyny on a daily basis. In other countries girls don’t receive the same education as boys. In some women don’t even have the right to vote, drive or mix with men in public. In the most oppressive parts of the world women face domestic violence and rape on a daily basis, are forced into early marriages and subjected to the torture of genital mutilation.
While most women would surely agree that it’s clearly not fair that they can’t go topless in public, when men can, how many of them would actually take advantage of that right if it was afforded to them?
Technically there's actually no law against public nudity in England and Wales, meaning a woman could go out in public topless, but using nudity to "harass, alarm or distress" others is an offence under the Public Order Act of 1986.
This means if a topless woman was asked to cover her breasts by a member of the public or a police officer she should do so or risk being arrested.
If people's attitudes suddenly changed, and it was deemed perfectly acceptable for a woman to walk through her local supermarket with her breasts exposed, what would really change for the oppressed women of the world? It wouldn’t make the lives of Saudi Arabian women any less segregated. It wouldn’t stop IS using the promise of rape as a recruitment tool. It wouldn’t do anything to help the girls in Nepal who are sold off to traffickers before they reach their teens.
Many, many gender inequalities need to be exposed and eradicated. By all means take your top off to free your nipples and protest about censorship laws to your heart's (and breasts') content. But at the same time think about all the women around the world who would love having to wear a T-shirt in public to be their greatest concern.
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