IMG_2872The law in New York says that women have the same right as men do to go bare-chested in public places. Not some women — all women.

IMG_2737Accordingly, we invite all women to join us at our events, regardless of race, age, shape, size, sexuality, religion, or any other attribute. If you’re female,  we welcome you. And you have the same rights as any male.

IMG_2791But not every female feels like she has the same rights, or the same freedom to exercise those rights. So we sometimes take extra pains to encourage those who might feel unsure if the law applies to them, too.

IMG_2751To give one example: we’ve been contacted repeatedly over the years by students — still in school or on summer break — who’ve written things like, “I love and support what your group does, and someday I hope to be able to take part in it.” And when we ask, What’s stopping you? they answer, “I can’t yet…can I?”

IMG_2623Of course they can — if (for instance) a high school senior or college freshman who happens to be male can take his shirt off to play frisbee in Central Park, the law says his classmate who happens to be female can do the same thing. Equal rights for all means equal rights for all. But while male students stride easily around Sheep Meadow with a confidence born of never having questioned their body’s suitability for public display (privilege, anyone?), female students hide and agonize and wish the world were different — or don’t even think to wish that, since they’ve been taught from childhood that their bodies must be covered. The more progressive among them might have a vague sense that at some point it becomes okay for them to take their shirts off too…but when, exactly, they don’t know. When they turn 18? When they turn 20? 21? When they graduate from college? When they’re no longer living under their parents’ roof…?

Our answer: when you want to. And no time like the present.

IMG_2733cSo a few weeks ago we held a special event. We invited two dozen students from schools all around the city to join us for a picnic near the Great Hill in Central Park.  They were joined by a few members of our group who aren’t too far removed from that age group themselves, to help introduce all the first-timers to what we do. It was perfect picnic weather and everyone came prepared to relax and enjoy some time outdoors.

IMG_2440IMG_2459IMG_2671There were books to read–

IMG_2742IMG_2538There were snacks to eat.

IMG_2695-rIMG_2726We all introduced ourselves, and discovered just how much we had in common. (This despite the group randomly being one of the most diverse we’ve ever assembled.)

IMG_2857IMG_2883IMG_2663IMG_2889And we did all of this bare from the waist up. Not one passer-by complained or gave us a hard time or did anything to make us uncomfortable. In that regard, it was no different from most of the other events we’ve held in parks around town over the past seven summers. But what made it different was that almost everyone there was bare-chested in public for the first time — and that many of the participants, if you’d asked them a few weeks earlier, would probably have said they weren’t even sure they were allowed to do it. This was liberation in a very literal sense.

IMG_2534IMG_2539After the event, we asked everyone who took part if they wanted to share any thoughts about what the experience was like. Here are some examples of what people said:

The event was amazing. To me going topless outside in a public place felt wonderful. I’ve never felt more at peace with myself. It was so relaxing to be in a judgment-free zone where everyone can be comfortable with their bodies and not feel ashamed….I love the fact that it’s legal for a female to walk around topless just like men. It sucks that not as many girls are aware that it is legal and most girls are “embarrassed” about their bodies. Overall girls should be able to do the same things boys do, like being topless without caring what people think/say. 

IMG_2842It was my first time going completely shirtless today and at first i was really nervous but i wanted to do this because girls should have the right to. So many people making a big deal about it. It seems like the norm is to sexualize everything that’s natural. I would love to do this again because it made me feel confident. 

IMG_2720It was definitely a fun and new experience for me! Overall I was surprised by how normal it all felt. I just hung out with my friends in the park like I always do and I enjoyed the freedom of it. I do think it’s important for women to know their rights on this issue especially considering how hot and humid it can get in New York, and how ultimately it is really not a big deal.

IMG_2796I was so pleasantly surprised at how natural it felt to be in a park, topless. Being surrounded by so many other beautiful smiling women helped ease the initial shock of showing up alone to a topless picnic in the park. I’ve gone topless on beaches in parts of Europe, but never in the United States so it felt good to apply the NY law to reality and take my top off! I very much look forward to doing it again!

IMG_2562The girls were very sweet and I really liked the event. Although girls in general can be very competitive and judgmental, these women were very accepting towards each other’s different body types and were able to have great conversations regardless of them meeting a few hours ago! Everyone was so comfortable and open amongst each other. They were topless for non-sexual reasons which made it empowering and I think more women should try it. 

IMG_2876It was so nice being able to let loose with my fellow ladies; definitely took me out of my comfort zone for a little bit, but still a great time! 

IMG_2646I was initially really nervous about this event. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I’d feel being topless or if the experience would be awkward or not. When I arrived, however, I felt welcomed by the group and soon I didn’t feel awkward at all. Everyone was very kind and the good conversation quickly took my mind off of the fact that I was topless. By the end of the first half hour, I felt quite comfortable and I was no longer self conscious. I honestly believe that every woman should experience being topless at least once, to dispel any concern or apprehension about it. This event marked my first time going topless, but I very well may do it again in the future. 

IMG_2868Listen to what they’re saying: It felt natural, normal, non-judgmental. It made me feel confident. How can anyone hear these women’s voices and not recognize that this is an unambiguously good thing, a healthy thing, a healing thing?

IMG_2556In our opinion, a topless field trip to Central Park should be part of the curriculum of every school in the city. This is how you raise well-adjusted, healthy girls and self-confident young women, ones who respect their own bodies and each others’.

But until the School Chancellor shares our point view (and we’re not holding our breath), we’re proud to do our part.

IMG_2551And so we say to the female students of New York (as we do to every other group of women in the city): the law does apply to you. Women’s rights are your rights. Be smart, be safe — but be confident too, and don’t let anyone tell you your body is one iota less prideworthy than your brothers’.

And if you need help taking the leap for the first time, we’re here for you. Just email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. You’ll be out in nature in no time — and you’ll wonder what took you so long.

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