‘Bare With Us’: Topless Women Taking A Stand

Women have had the right to be topless in public since the 1990’s but rarely do women choose to exercise this right. The choice to exercise this right is so rare that when it was exercised, a police officer told the topless sisters in the region of Waterloo, Ontario to put their shirts back on because it was against the law. Confused? You aren’t the only one!

The Mohamed sisters are well informed feminists who chose to practice their right to be topless in public. When the officer cited that it was against the law, the sisters asked him to make the same comment on video camera – at this time the officer changed his tone and asked if the bicycles were properly equipped with lights and bells. The sisters voiced their concern stating that the police officer genuinely didn’t know law or they were being prohibited from exercising their rights – both scenarios did not sit well with them.

It’s no surprise that a woman’s body is far more sexualized than a man’s body in society but many women are having trouble coming to terms with how to deal with this issue. Upon stopping the sisters, the officer stated that there had been complaints and there were children around; thus the women should put their tops back on. Some individuals agreed with the officer as the sisters were riding their bikes in a residential area while others argued that the sisters should be allowed to exercise their rights.

Some feminists have argued that riding topless on a bike in residential areas will not desexualize women but rather contributes to the problem. They go on to suggest that women should dress modestly, to combat hypersexualizing women. Conversely, other individuals argue that it is a woman’s right to bare her breasts and they should be able to exercise it as they please.

Some supporters are largely motivated by their belief that women are hypersexualized in society regardless of what their actions maybe. In this past year alone there have been multiple cases of young ladies taking action to speak up against hypersexualizing women. For instance, there was a recent case of a woman in British Columbia who chose to sun bathe topless at a beach and was asked to put her bikini top back on due to bylaw violations but then was informed that no such bylaws existed. Similarly, there was a case of an eight year old girl swimming topless at a community pool that was told by the lifeguard to put her bikini top back on as it was inappropriate.

Another young lady in high school arranged a protest to speak out against school dress codes. She initiated a “crop top day” where young ladies wore crop tops to school and protested against the sexualisation of female bodies. They went on to argue that it is degrading to men and women to suggest that males can become distracted and unable to control themselves because of what a woman is wearing.

Furthermore, there have been cases where mothers have been told to leave restaurants for not using a cover while breast-feeding their infants. These cases usually result in human right violation cases and the plaintiff is usually compensated. However, men and women alike have argued that these cases are frivolous and the plaintiffs are “too sensitive”.

Laws are often put in place to reflect and reinforce social norms but there are clearly differing views in respect to women’s rights. The three sisters from Waterloo will be hosting a protest “Bare with us” at the Waterloo Town Centre. What’s your take?

Points of Discussion:

1. From the cases provided above, which cases do you think constitute legal action and which cases do you believe should not receive the same attention?

2. Do you believe individuals are just too sensitive?

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4 comments

  1. That was a really interesting post. I found your fourth paragraph most interesting in regards to how individuals can view what worsens the hypersexualization of women’s bodies from opposing sides of the spectrum. Baring your body makes it worse versus baring your body will push people to become more accepting.

    To be honest, I am not quite sure where I lie on this, but it is definitely not at either extreme. I have no issue with these women going topless, but being realistic, had I been witness to it I may have reacted differently – more conservatively so to speak. That is not a behaviour that I would personally engage it, and may not quite care for seeing, but I also do not see anything wrong with it. I can be accepting of people who are uncomfortable with topless women as we were raised in a society where breasts are highly associated with sexuality and exposing your breasts in public is generally frowned upon; you can’t blame someone for that. However, if you feel this way, you can choose to walk away or not look, but you can’t force someone to change their behaviour, that they are legally allowed to engage in, just because you don’t like it. That is unreasonable and unacceptable. If their choices are not detrimental to others in any way, people should be free to dress and behave as they please.

    But breastfeeding is another thing altogether. It is a completely natural part of life which involves infants being fed by their mothers and there is absolutely nothing sexual about it. Why should mothers have to hide away in a back room to feed their child because YOU don’t approve of it? This is pushing it too far. Again, if you have such a problem with it, don’t look or to be frank you should be the one to leave need be, not the mother and child. Why should these women have to accommodate you when there is absolutely nothing inappropriate about what they are doing.

    I can make my peace with people reacting to topless women and feel that society adjusting to this may take time, just as we have with issues of racism, homosexuality and so on. However breastfeeding is probably one of the most natural processes that occurs in many life forms aside from humans. People seem to have no issue with breasts in the media – HBO shows have women’s breasts hanging out left, right and centre….but yet is the woman feeding her innocent child or the girl who is open about her menstrual cycles that gets people all riled up – again both natural parts of women’s lives which they should not be ashamed of. How does that make any sense?

    People have created this hypersexualization of women, and people need to put an end to it. And in the past, it is more often than not when individuals revolt and make a statement that change is finally initiated. Perhaps this is another one of those instances.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your insightful and enlightening thoughts. I believe many individuals would agree with you on various points.

      Perhaps individuals have become desensitized to seeing nudity on television as it often dismissed as make-belief.

      I also appreciate how you discussed menstrual cycles as I had not considered that point but I’m sure again, many individuals express similar frustrations.

      I hope to keep hearing more from you. Your comments provide another angle for me to consider post publishing my pieces. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we as women have much bigger problems than having to fight for going topless in public. While I agree women’s bodies have become hypersexualized at the same time I feel like our priorities, especially in the developed world, have shifted greatly. Now what’s happening is people think we’re making a fuss about everything and don’t take us seriously when we are vocal about our concerns.

    Why aren’t we more vocal about our reproductive rights and the fact that in the US (not to the same extent in Canada, but still an issue) are being pushed farther and farther to their limits? Or the fact that around the world where ISIS has taken reign that women are treated like objects and aren’t able to leave the house without a man present? Or in the Democratic Republic of Congo, girls are being forced into sexual slavery while little boys are becoming child soldiers? Feminism needs to move its original roots that we used during the women’s suffrage and transfer them to developing countries that are in dire need for activists to push for women’s and children’s rights!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts E! You really gave me some new points to consider. I’m going to try to play devil’s advocate for individuals who may not post their thoughts but might differ in their approach to the issue.

      I can appreciate your concerns on a macro level. The issues in Canada seem far less pressing when compared to the issues women are facing globally. However, some individuals are not willing to act on issues on the global scale and only issues that impact them personally, not because they are indifferent to the pain of others but because they feel like they are helpless to help in bigger issues.

      In respect to your comment regarding about “making a fuss about everything” – I think that’s something I personally need to consider. Perhaps as feminists, these women may see their right to exercise their freedoms being taken away from them as a need to protest. Another reader on the Facebook page mentioned when the topless women policy was passed it wasn’t passed because women actually wanted to walk around topless but rather they wanted the gov’t to uphold the principal of equality. At that point in time, it was considered a big victory for women but in present time it is viewed as pointless for some women. Perhaps these feminists are concerned about violating the principal and the hypersexualization of women’s bodies which to them is a big issue.

      Again, I love reading your comments!! You have some excellent points that I completely agree with. Your thoughts are well thought out and well written. I look forward to reading more comments from you in the future! Cheers!

      Like

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