Nudity and protesting often have gone hand-in-hand — the Sons of Freedom, FEMEN, Topfreedom, and transgender rights to name a few.
In 2011, Andrea Jones went topless to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee would not let her change her sex on her driver’s license from male to female. Since she was still considered a male to the state, despite undergoing a partial sex change, why wouldn’t she be allowed to go topless? Men do it all of the time.
Massachusetts resident Stacey Schnee has nearly 1,000 Facebook fans, and photos of herself around the city of Boston with her supporters. Plus, according to The Daily Mail, she has angered her neighbors quite a bit. The act that received a mass of attention? Bicycling topless around Worcester. Police could not arrest her, because she was wearing pasties to cover her nipples.
Is she advocating for women to have the ability to go topless, as a man would? Yes. Interestingly enough, Schnee also has a unique background, allowing her to understand the situation from two very important standpoints. Schnee used to be a man.
Naturally, Bombshell thought that Schnee could provide some insight to the movement and situation. She was kind enough to collaborate in an e-mail Q&A.
BOMBSHELL: Do you feel your bike ride helped others, and how so?
SS: My bike ride and all the media coverage has brought the issue to people’s minds and is getting people to think about it more seriously than before. It has certainly made people more aware of the issue.
BOMBSHELL: What would you like to say to people who are uncomfortable with what you are advocating for?
SS: The biggest thing is that I’m not going to force (or even ask) them to do it. It is much like the fight for gay marriage, if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married.
The other thing to say is that this is a fight for a 14th amendment right. Equal protection under the law applies to sex, gender, and body parts all the same and if men can walk around topless, why not women.
Breasts are not sexual. They are put there to feed babies. Our culture has assigned sexuality to them because they are hidden from view all the time. If they were exposed more, that sexualization would disappear.
Anthropologists say that men liking bigger breasts has to do with choosing a mate that is able to feed and care for the children. The same goes for hip/waist ratios as for why certain ratios are considered more desirable than others, but hips are not hidden from view. So the wiring in the brain to desire breasts is about ensuring the survival of the species, not about sex.
There are many cultures where women are topless all the time (mostly in South America and Africa)
SS: That going topless will hurt the children. Children are very impressionable and what we teach them is what they learn. If a parent teaches a child that the body is to be hidden, that is what they will believe. If on the other hand children are taught that there is no shame in exposing the human body, they will learn body acceptance and have better self-esteem later in life.
BOMBSHELL: Was there a specific situation that caused you to jump to action for this?
SS: Mostly I was asked by the founder of toplessequality.com to take up the fight in Massachusetts after I commented on a photo posted on a Facebook page that showed a topless woman at a pool with her kids. I commented that I would take my top off to support her.
This wasn’t the first bike ride I have done topless, but it was the one that received the most attention. I have been advocating for topfree rights for a number of months and my protests have included parades, going to parks, walking down the street, and biking, all topless (with pasties for many of them, to avoid arrest).
BOMBSHELL: What else do you plan on doing?
SS: At the moment, there isn’t much planned for outdoor activities. It is Massachusetts and it’s now fall. The days are getting colder and shorter. However, I am trying to organize a top-optional get together (somewhere indoors) during the winter.
I will certainly be back out topless in the community when the weather warms up again in April or May of 2014. We are also working on getting legislation proposed that would change the laws in Massachusetts to allow women to go topless anywhere a man can.
BOMBSHELL: Do you feel that the stigma of women going out and about topless, vs men, is more of a reflection on men or women’s behavior in society?
SS: It is both. Women don’t do it because they are ashamed of their bodies and would be embarrassed to show it in public. (some women are so ashamed that they won’t even let their sexual partners see them naked)
Women also don’t do it because they don’t want to be stared at by men, they don’t want to hear the hoots and hollers and cat calls. They don’t want to be thought of as sluts or whores by men because they are topless. They also fear being raped since many men think the exposed breast is an invitation to rape (she is asking for it by dressing like that).
BOMBSHELL: How does being transsexual give you elevated insight into the situation?
SS: This is a right that I used to have, and lost through the process of transition. Now I’m fighting to get that right back.
BOMBSHELL: How does it affect your activism?
SS: It really doesn’t affect it at all. It does however bring an interesting twist to the story that caused my story to go viral in the media.
SS: Yes, it did. I knew about the Rochester (NY) seven that eventually won topfree rights in New York in 1992. Being a nudist/naturist since college, I have been aware of such issues for a long time.
BOMBSHELL: And did you immediately go about your activities topless, the way you had before?
SS: Initially after transition, I didn’t do much topless because of (my) living situation and other legal issues. After a time, I resumed doing things topfree and I really don’t want to go back to having to wear a shirt all the time. But, when it gets cold out, clothing will be required to not freeze to death.
Schnee’s story not only highlights the challenges and rights between men and women, but for transexual individuals.
The idea of dress inviting inappropriate behavior or attention certainly applies to the recent hot topic of slut shaming, and the impact it has on young women. One can even argue that Schnee’s cause is very much in line with body image, as she explains the shame that overcomes many women when it comes to their bodies, especially with nudity.
What do you think? Would you be comfortable with women having the equal opportunity to be topless where men can be topless? Would you do it yourself?