Minneapolis woman bikes topless because she can
Both of them were topless.
The only reason this day stands out in anyone’s memory is because the Minneapolis Park Patrol wrote a report about it. A pair of officers in uniform were sweeping the beach on foot when they came across Howard and Carrigan.
“I could see that the female’s breasts were exposed, and I could see Howard’s nipple from the side as we were walking up to them,” the report reads. “I did not see any clothing under Howard, or attached to Howard’s top half.”
The officers walked past, turned around, and addressed her.
“When Howard leaned up, I could clearly see Howard’s breasts, areolas, and nipples,” the report says helpfully.
They advised her to cover up and issued her a citation. Minneapolis Park ordinances specify that “no person 10 years of age or older” shall expose their “genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast below the top of the areola” at a public park. Carrigan asked the officers why they could be so sure Howard was a woman, and they declined to answer any questions “unrelated to the explanation of the citation.”
If they had a problem with it, they’d have to take it up in court.
Howard was prepared to do just that, and attorney Jill Brisbois was prepared to help – pro bono. It’s not right or reasonable, Brisbois says, that “certain people get to walk around without their tops on, and other people don’t.”
Even at the state level, people with breasts are allowed to be topless – as long as they are not also being “lewd” or “lascivious.” (Whatever that means.) But the rules are wobbly enough to leave some room for interpretation. In 2017, Rose Picklo got sent to jail for taking her shirt off at a Minnesota United match. The handful of men who’d also done so were not even asked to cover up. Charges were eventually dropped.
Last summer, Michelle Bennett, a Duluth photographer, got the cops called on her for sunbathing topless at Park Point Beach. She wasn’t cited with anything, but it effectiveley ruined her day out.
It turns out, Howard didn’t get her day in court. The case was tossed out pretty quickly after she lawyered up. But, as far as Howard’s concerned, this conversation isn’t over.
“The next summer, I started biking around topless,” she says.
After calling the city attorney to be triply sure she was within her rights to do so, she mounted up, took off her shirt, and went for a ride with a friend. The next time, she went alone. Then she started biking to and from work topless.
For the most part, things were fine. She even got the occasional bout of encouragement from passersby. Sometimes, people would shout, or catcall, or take photos, or point-blank ask her why she was topless. She’d usually give them an honest, straightforward answer.
“Because it’s hot out,” she’d say.
Biking without a shirt on a summer day feels amazing. And if men are allowed to do it, why can’t she?
Her next step was organizing her first topless bike ride – a gaggle of about 10 riders, including Carrigan. They congregated on the Midtown Greenway, took off their shirts, and had a refreshing ride. Then they met up for ice cream.
Carrigan thinks they heard at least one driver shout “boobies” out the window as the crew zipped by, but other than that, it was just another lovely summer day.
“It felt beautiful and powerful and, ultimately, totally normal,” they say.
The Minneapolis Park Board is currently in the process of reviewing its ordinances, including the one that got Howard in trouble at the beach. After the board has bandwidth to handle anything unrelated to COVID-19 or police brutality, Howard’s hopeful they’ll decide it’s an arbitrary, sexist relic and throw it out. She’s already spoken to her commissioner about it.
In the meantime, she's deciding when she wants to take another group ride. Nothing’s in the works at the moment, but if you’re a woman, trans, nonbinary, femme, or literally anybody who wants to experience what it’s like to take your shirt off on a hot day for the first time, send her a quick email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
GoTopless 2019 in Paris, France
Gotopless took place on Paris Plage this year, just like last year where we were able to match for a whole 32 minutes before being stopped by the police. (we had lasted only 2 minutes the year before)
On this very hot sunny day, there was an obvious absence of equality between men and women on Paris Plage. Countless men were topless and enjoying the bright sun while women had to dutifully wear their “mini burkini” to cover their chest.
We began our match, walking slowly on the beautiful path along the Seine as a group of 3 topless women and 2 topless men.
The reaction of the people who noticed us was mostly nonverbal. We noticed astonishment, but also envy and even admiration toward us for daring to do what we were doing.
In the beginning, a group of women wearing a two-piece swimsuit kindly warned us that the police was nearby, and that they might fine us. We appreciated this act of solidarity and understood they approved of our behavior.
We were able to quietly demonstrate for more than half an hour and enjoy this pleasant feeling of complete freedom while awakening the conscience of others by modeling what all women who want to bare their tops should be able to do.
Maryline, Head of GoTopless in France said “being topless on the beach in Paris Plage should be considered normal! But there is a strong regression of topless activity for women on French beaches. So, going topless has become indecent again in certain places. If you don’t exercise your right, you simply lose it! We have to win it back for equality’s sake!”.
At one point, we came across a conservative Jewish family and felt the weight of religious morality pointing to the root of body repression. The 2 men wearing a kippah and the 2 women wearing long dresses reacted very strongly at the sight of our topless chests.
One woman quickly turned her back on us and the other put her hand in front of her husband's eyes to stop him from seeing this sinful situation, screaming that it was very embarrassing for both of them.
After 30 minutes, we were stopped by the police from the city of Paris. Things haven’t changed since last year though we enjoyed our freedom 30 minutes longer this time and the police agents were very courteous. However, they ordered the topless women to cover up but not the topless men, making gender inequality strickingly obvious.
Had we refused, they would have called the Paris patrol to arrest us. We decided not to take it any further.
We went on to rejoin the other gotopless members who were standing at the entrance of Paris Plage, holding a banner and passing out leaflets .
Aside from our street action, we also sent "Happy Gotopless" letters and cards to the mayor of Paris, Mrs. Hidalgo, her deputy, Marlene Schiappa, and all the female delegates in the Macron government.
GoTopless celebrates 12th anniversary with parades in NY City and Venice Beach, CA
Las Vegas, Aug 21—The women's organization, GoTopless—established in 2007—continues to lead the fight for gender topless equality with its 12th edition of GoTopless Day on Aug 25 in honor of Women’s Equality Day.
The activist movement was inspired by Rael—International spiritual leader and fervent Human Rights and gender equality advocate.
In NY City, Los Angeles, and countless other cities, women and men will stand up for equality. Women will go sans shirt with the picture of a penis on their front while men will wear a top with the picture of a vulva on their front to remind Americans of the precise source of current topless discriminatory laws: one’s genitals.
“The absurd laws around female nipples point to the lingering bodily repression still inflicted on women by Abrahamic religions in the 21st century. And they are reflected by obsolete, prudish ordinances in our society even today,” stated Nadine Gary, Raelian Guide and President of GoTopless.
“A law that only criminalizes topless women, but not topless men in public leads to ‘sexual violence against women’,” Gary said. She added, “It hypersexualizes women’s chest and creates a predatory reaction in many men."
“Already 35 US states are legally topless on paper, but the law is often not enforced and many women are concerned about going topless for the fear of being harassed. Steep fines must be given to men to deter them from doing so," Gary remarked.
Gary believes that in a safe environment, women will recover the confidence to exercise their equal topless rights.
On August 25th, the goal of GoTopless Day in both NYC and Venice Beach is to inspire and empower women. In NYC, they are invited to exercise their topless right, since it is legal in that state. In Venice Beach, CA, however, they are encouraged to come and stand up for gender topless equality, which is currently denied in LA County. The parade in New York City is slated to start at 12:30pm on W58, between 8th and 9th, whereas the parade in Venice Beach, CA, is slated to start at 1pm on Ocean Front Walk @ Park Ave.