August 21, 2011. Pack Place in Downtown Asheville, NC.
After 10 plus years of living in Asheville and watching it flower into the city it is today, it would only seem fitting that the little bohemian town of the Appalachians should (at least in my own time frame of reference) finally come of age. That being the very well publicized event of Asheville’s first ever National Go Topless Day rally held at Pack Square (and well, where else would you expect to hold such an event?).
Yes. Men and women without shirts or bras braving the scrutiny of those who prefer to wear shirts in public.
As to be expected, the crowd of spectators outnumbered participants some 40 to 1. That’s just a rough guess, of course. But let’s just say it was SRO!
Okay, I went with my camera– actually I went with two cameras. Honestly, if I didn’t enjoy blogging, I really would not have bothered. I’m certainly not breast deprived.
Still, it was a unique opportunity to witness and document something I only read about from back in the days of Haight-Ashbury–an all out waving of the freak flag!
According to the organizers at http://www.gotopless.org, in a Nation that offers equal rights via a Constitution, it should then be perfectly acceptable for both sexes to parade in public without shirts; else all parties must remain covered so that– as one girl at the event said to me rather tongeu in check– one would not reveal “your shame”.
Livienne Love who organized the event maintains the main goal is increasing accepting gender equality and breaking down old taboos that stigmatize those who would dare brave the outdoors sans shirt or bra.
The event was founded in 2007 by spiritual leader Rael, an individual that preaches not just intelligent design, but intelligent design where all life on Earth was created by extra-terrestrials.
Believe whatever you need to believe– I just report the news!
Having said that, the message of the rally leaves one to ponder philosophically just how equal is equal?
First, I have to ask why should we even have to debate this as though this were a high school civics course? Haven’t we evolved as a people, as a Nation– as a race that the idea of inequality should be receding in our collective memories?
One would think. Ah, but like a persistent toothache, remedies only disguise an uglier truth.
In North Carolina, it’s not against the law for women to be seen shirtless in public. That’s all well and good. It’s certainly not illegal to be a particular color, religion, of a sexual orientation that strays from the conventions of most of Western Civilization. But people DO get harassed and beaten for being a certain color, for practicing a certain religion or for being involved in a same sex relationship. Just because we implement laws and certain codes of conduct does not necessarily mean that everyone will abide by them and be on their best behavior. And just because a woman can go topless while walking down the street does not mean that she won’t be subjected to some puritanical tongue lashing from those who deem it morally obscene. Or worse, sexually harassed by an individual incapable of getting past the mindset of a 12 year old.
Oh, and speaking of sophomoric, let’s just say that the last time I witnessed a similar display of adolescent behavior was back in parochial school when a couple of my classmates were fighting over a copy of National Geographic.
That a large segment of the gay and lesbian and transgender community made a strong show at the event should not be lost those who know that Asheville has had a strong history of a local population that basks itself in homophobia to the point where even straight individuals are harassed and beaten for just “looking gay”. Really?
The rally as I see it was not to advocate that women should just flaunt themselves in public to prove anything. If anything it should be a moot point. But as with all rights, if we refuse to exorcise them, then one by one, they fall like dominoes.
This is not meant to be rant. Just an observation of my own attitude. I doesn’t bother me. I casually engaged in conversations with women with no tops–so what? Maybe it was my years of life drawing in art school. Was it out of the norm? Ha, define normal!
The fact that the event was so well attended had little to do with support, but for the mere novelty. If it were held next year, I can only imagine one of two scenarios: the first, low turnout (well, save for the media and those who just need a fix); and the second being a concerted effort to actually ban women from going topless. There’s already been debates and challenges regarding women breast-feeding in public. And if motherhood is getting kicked in the head, what would prevent the next backlash that would only result in curtailing peoples’ inalienable rights due to the very fact that underneath our clothes, we all stand naked?
For more images of the rally, visit flickr. You’ll have to have an account to see these photos on flickr.
All photos are Copyright 2011 Joe Longobardi. All Rights Reserved. joelongobardiphotography.com/