Freedom From The Cloth
By Gregory Fort

On June 24th, hundreds of men and women gathered downtown to rally and march topless in what Mayor Jones called “a naked spectacle.” The truth is, this statement clearly shows he is one of a great many who just don’t get the point of advocating for women’s rights. I’ve heard it all before: “she just wants to show off to get a man’s attention” or “she’s asking for it if anything happens.” The real reason for the Free The Nipple Rally was to normalize a topless woman or a breastfeeding woman in the same way no one cares when a man is topless. Especially in the summer. So why is a woman being topless so controversial? The supporters of female toplessness just want what men have enjoyed for the last 80 years to be an option for women. To be comfortable without anyone gawking and making a big deal of it.

It is disgraceful to think people still use the excuse of men being unable to control themselves around a bare-naked female chest as reason for opposing toplessness among women. Disgraceful for the women who are still being told their bodies are only to be viewed sexually, and for the men who are presumed to have no self-control. Public nudity is commonplace in Europe and it’s not like it’s a continent full of uncontrollable savages. In fact, places like the Middle East and North Korea are viewed quite harshly by American eyes because of their strict clothing laws and how they treat women.

The laws on toplessness have evolved over the last hundred years. Men didn’t get the legal right to bare their chests until 1936, but it only took 10 years for toplessness among men to be commonplace. Until the 1940s, toplessness had been deemed immoral and women and children had to be protected from the sight. One of the first chest-revealing bathing suits for men appeared in 1932 and was called the “Topper.” The suit had a detachable top that could be zipped away from the trunks. These were made of wool. Unfortunately, men who chose to go topless at the time were often arrested for indecent exposure, much like women are today. In 1992, the state of New York was the first to allow women to be topless after a lawsuit filed by 6 women who were arrested in 1986.

Once it was legalized, it took toplessness amongst men less than a decade to viewed as normal and here we are 25 years after women were first given the same rights and we’ve made no progress in eliminating the social stigma against female toplessness. West Virginia is one of 33 states where female toplessness is legal. Please show you support for toplessness, regardless of gender.