Aug. 26 is a special day in the US. On that day in 1920, American women were granted the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment. On that day in 1970, women all over the US joined the Women’s Strike for Equality March organized by the National Organization of Women (NOW) and its then-president Betty Friedan. Friedan called out women nationwide to stop working for a day to draw public attention on the gender wage gap. Exactly one year later in 1971, the US Congress officially recognized the day as Women’s Equality Day.
Since 2008 on the nearest weekend of Aug. 26, women joined GoTopless Parade for women’s rights to be topless where men can in public. In Aug. 26 2017, people joined the parade throughout the world including Seoul and Manhattan.
“This year was the 10th anniversary of GoTopless,” said Nadia Salois, a participant of the parade. “We’re not asking women to be topless everywhere but where men can be topless, women should have the exact same rights. A human body is beautiful like a piece of art, and women shouldn’t be viewed as sexual objects.”
It is legal for women to be topless in public places in New York City. “As you noticed today, people were going crazy, taking pictures as soon as women were topless,” Salois added. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to express this right without being harassed nor judged. That’s why we’re doing this today.”
On May 8, on an anonymous Facebook page of University of Seoul, a male student called out female students roaming the campus braless “to take note.” The guy had posted, “school is a ‘public place’” and that “although one’s comfort should be taken into consideration, there are many eyes watching. At least regarding sexual issues, I hope men and women don’t get into an embarrassing situation.”
As the society continues to oversexualize women breasts, the participants emphasized each individual’s autonomy of one’s own body.
“To be topless is a wonderful feeling of freedom,” said Chana Lemetayer, another participant of GoTopless Parade. “There should only be freedom to not be disturbed because nipples are not sexual organs – hands can be sexual organs depending on its usage. This is my body, not anyone else’s.”