Should Women Have the Right to Go Topless in Public? An Interview With NYC's Topless Activist
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SB: What's the most hilarious or best reaction to your toplessness that you recall?
MJ: Best reaction? [laughs] Well, I don't know if you know I was falsely arrested.
SB: Yes, I did read that.
MJ: That I guess was one of the worst things that has happened because I was near the children's park right over there [in Union Square] and a bunch of adults called and complained about it. And I had never been arrested before so that was kind of traumatizing.
SB: Were the cops rough with you?
MJ: It was just humiliating. It's not really cool to get taken away and go to a jail cell for not doing anything wrong.
SB: What is your end goal? What do you hope to achieve through your activism, other than raising awareness?
MJ: This issue of women being able to show their breasts is related to a lot of other issues around women's rights. For instance, it's related to breast-feeding. I feel that if people felt more comfortable with just seeing breasts in public, breast-feeding wouldn't be so socially stigmatized. Another thing is our bodies don't have to be sexualized or commercialized. The way we see it now in American culture, female breasts are seen in an exclusively sexual or commercial territory. I want to expand the vocabulary and definition of what breasts are. They can be non-sexual in any culture.
SB: Guys have boobs too.
MJ: Right. And then there's the idea that it's against the law to be sexy or something. It's OK for women's breasts to be sexual. And for some women a man's chest can be very sexual as well. And that's OK. We're sexual. Human beings are sexual. We can be non-sexual. We can be civil. We can act in an appropriate way in a social circumstance. But there's really no escaping the sexuality of humanity, what it is to be human.
SB: Do you want to be nude in public too?
MJ: No. Not really. I don't consider myself a nudist, although people do ask me often if I’m a nudist. But that would be like asking a guy who's not wearing a shirt if he's a nudist. I feel like to me that's the same thing. The same issue. It's known as “topfreedom.”
SB: Oh, I like that.
MJ: There's actually a Web site. It's the Topfree Equal Rights Association. They're a Canadian organization. They have a lot of material and information that addresses the issue of topfreedom and equality between men and women.