Tuesday, July 31, 2012 is just another summer day in New York City. But when was the last time you walked down the street on a nice sunny day in Manhattan and saw a young woman walking towards you who was naked from the waist up? Women’s rights activist Moira Johnston hopes to raise public awareness on the issue and more women will feel comfortable strolling about topless in the city. Ms. Johnston is outspoken in her opinion that women should be treated the same as men in regards to attire or the lack thereof. She reasons that if men are legally allowed to go about topless, then women should have the same privilege.
Ms. Johnston personally experienced the double standard, when she was asked to leave a yoga studio for going topless during a class. This occurred in January, 2012 and as soon the weather warmed up in May, Moira went public with her demand for equality. As one of the city’s leading advocates for the right of women to go bare breasted in public, she intends to continue her campaign throughout the summer. She hopes that by summer’s end, more people will adjust to the idea of a woman going topless in public and it will become less of a spectacle.
While she doesn’t expect every woman to go topless, she welcomes women who are willing to join her cause. She says, “I want women to know their rights and to give them the courage to go topless too. It’s not that I want everyone to take off their shirt, but I’m supporting a woman’s choice to do it and think every woman should do it on her own terms.”
Most people are surprised when they find out that New York State Law agrees with Moira. NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Paul Browne, addressed the issue with the following statement on topless laws: “The state’s highest court established long ago that women have the same right as men to appear topless in public. Absent a link to some commercial enterprise or promotion, the woman’s lack of certain attire in this instance does not appear to be a police matter.” Despite the fact that the law is clearly on the side of Ms. Johnston, there have been reports of several instances of topless women being ticketed for disorderly conduct and other minor offenses.
Hopefully, New York’s Finest has been made aware of the law and they will not subject Moria Johnston to the humiliation they put her through back in May, when she was handcuffed and arrested as she walked topless past a children’s playground. She said, “[The officer] said it could be considered endangering the children,” before he forcibly placed a t-shirt on her and took her to the precinct. Although the charges were later dropped, topless activists still feel there are officers patrolling the streets who are either unaware or unconcerned that the law is on the side of the women.
Everyone is invited to attend the 5th annual “Go Topless Day” on August 26, 2012. Join Moria Johnston at the event in New York City or participate in the festivities in one of 21 other cities across the United States. The organizers invite men to join the protest by wearing bras or bikini tops to illustrate the hypocrisy of topless laws. Las Vegas musician, Ricy Roehr will be participating in his city’s event and he had this to say about the fuss over topless women, “The very fact that guys are obsessing over boobs as sexual is exactly why we need to change the laws. Making something forbidden or taboo just makes people obsess over it.”