Archives for category: park

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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IMG_2089Back in the day, when John Lennon lived in New York, the story goes that he’d come to a little lawn in Central Park, near the Dakota Apartments where he lived, to walk with his wife or listen to music or just zone out. After his death, the city of New York renamed the area “Strawberry Fields” after one of his most famous songs, and with help from his family turned the spot into a living memorial, beautifully landscaped and sheltered.

IMG_1887It’s one of our favorite places in the park now. The lush grass is so welcoming; you can feel yourself relaxing as soon as you lie down in it. And though it’s in sight of one of the busier intersections in the park, so you never feel isolated or cut off from the city, it’s set apart enough that half a dozen women can go topless without exciting anyone’s notice. You never feel alone, but you don’t feel surrounded, either. Really a perfect blend of out-in-nature and still-in-the-thick-of-things.

IMG_2224We went on a weekday, so it was less crowded, but it was a gorgeous weekday, so anyone who could get out of work was enjoying the great outdoors. (Along with all of Manhattan’s tourists, who are always around.) We had several first-timers meet us, which took a bit of work since as famous as it is, the actual lawn isn’t all that easy to find. (There are a lot of lawns in the area.)

IMG_2010IMG_2206IMG_1999But eventually everyone found it, and found us.

IMG_2027We relaxed with books…

IMG_1964-FIMG_2134IMG_2329…with strawberry cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery…

IMG_1868IMG_1872-FIMG_1877-F…with silly boobs-pressed-together selfies…

IMG_2185IMG_1993…and just with the excellent company of good friends.

IMG_2271And as we did this, the world and all its troubles (which, heaven knows, are many and grave) receded, so that for a brief moment we had none — no world, no troubles. Like the man wrote, nothing to get hung about.

IMG_2050We like to imagine (see what we did there?) that this might be what it was like for John Lennon too, on his days off, wandering in the park. Everyone needs time to breathe. We’re grateful to have gotten both respiration and inspiration this week.

IMG_2100If you’re feeling in need of either, or both, why don’t you join us sometime? We welcome all body-positive women, timid or bold, eager or just curious. Write to us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We promise: In the late Mr. Lennon’s honor, we’ll help you free your mind.

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IMG_1212Most places in New York look like they’re in New York. Even most places in Central Park do. You don’t have to look far to see tall buildings, or crowds of people, or to hear traffic rushing by on the nearest pavement, honking as it goes. But there are some spots, small and secluded, where the city retreats — or is held at bay, almost as if by an invisible protective shield, like the one protecting Themyscira in Wonder Woman.

IMG_1171IMG_1357One of these is our secret meadow up near the north end of Central Park. We won’t say any more about where to find it, since we’re happy for it to remain our little secret. But passers-by are few and if you lie in the grass you see nothing but blue sky, hear nothing but nature. And we happily took full advantage of being alone in nature.

IMG_1465IMG_0912cWe sketched each other (even when a butterfly landed on our artist’s sketchpad).

IMG_0984IMG_1279IMG_1006We partook of baked goods from the 100-year-old Orwashers bakery.

IMG_0995We posed dramatically against an imposing boulder.

IMG_0864We read — of course we read.

IMG_1418IMG_0900And we inducted a couple of first-timers into our sorority of kickass bare-breasted amazons. (While we’re on the subject, why weren’t Wonder Woman’s people topless in the movie? You live on a tropical island with nothing but women around, and not one of you takes her top off? We call b.s.)

IMG_1410IMG_1464IMG_1308At one point some teenagers came by to smoke pot on a nearby rock ledge — secret meadows have other uses too. But for the most part we had the place to ourselves, and what a lovely afternoon it was!

IMG_1436IMG_1438Would you like to be one of our first-timers next time? If you’re a body-positive woman in the NYC area, send us an email at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. August is almost upon us, and September coming hard on her heels — don’t let the summer pass you by. You can be a bare-breasted amazon too!

Join us. You deserve to have an afternoon lying fearless and proud and laughing in the sun.

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IMG_1625For the fourth time in four years, a group of more than 100 artists and models congregated in a public place in New York City — this time, it was in Washington Square Park — to demonstrate that art can take many forms, that the human body can also take many forms, that that the human body is nothing to be ashamed of, and that a naked human body can be an aesthetic object, not only or always a sexual one.

IMG_1559IMG_1650IMG_1743The artists came from all over the United States and all over the world — Japan, Russia, Latvia. Texas. Brooklyn. The models came in all sizes, shapes, ages, races, genders.

IMG_1648IMG_1679IMG_1774IMG_1513The theme this year was a broad one — just one word, Humanity. Nothing that would constrain an artist unduly, but a wonderful jumping-off point for art meant to celebrate what we have in common and our capacity for kindness, thoughtfulness, and decency.

Yes, decency — though five dozen naked bodies were uncovered in a public place, in front of thousands of passers-by, it was decency, not indecency, that was on display.

IMG_1688While some in the crowd showed confusion at first, by far the most common reaction was a smile. Some people we spoke to expressed wonder that an event like this was permitted, but they were overwhelmingly enthusiastic and supportive. A few expressed interest in coming back as models or painters next summer. And they’ll be welcomed gladly.

IMG_1622Some of our members made appearances under the paint–

IMG_1728–while for other models this was their first time standing nude in front of strangers.

IMG_1549IMG_1666IMG_1827And because this was an artistic exhibition, nude meant nude, not just topless — the ordinary restrictions on public nudity don’t apply when you’re creating art. Which meant that thousands of people got to see that a vulva or penis is just a body part like a nose or an elbow, not something you need to shield your eyes from.

(Not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s awfully rare to see a penis presented in public in anything other than a hostile way, as an act of aggression or an attempt to provoke shock, fear or disgust. How wonderful to see penises in their natural state, just there between a man’s legs, doing no harm to anyone, and not meant to do any harm.)

IMG_1805IMG_1653IMG_1821IMG_1834IMG_1641Vaginas, of course, by their nature, are harder to display and to paint, but we proudly salute all our sisters and their marvelous multicolored labia.

IMG_1721IMG_1697IMG_1800But the focus wasn’t on any body part — it was on the totality of the human canvas and what art can be birthed from and upon it. We remain in awe of some of the gorgeous creations we saw, including the ones we saw on our own bodies.

IMG_1668IMG_1664And for all those of you who supported the event, or came to it, or participated in it — thank you.

We appreciate, and gratefully salute, your humanity.

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IMG_0665Did we mention we love to read?

We do. We’re not the sort of book club where everyone reads the same book at the same time and comes prepared to discuss Chapter 27 — but we are a book club, and we all come prepared with whatever book we’re reading at a given time.

IMG_2835For some of us that means schoolwork — a study guide to the MCAT, for instance.

IMG_0661For others, it might be a graphic novel like Peepland by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips, all about New York in the seedy, pre-Giuliani days of live sex shows in Times Square.

IMG_0561IMG_0651IMG_0681Or SoHo Sins, an art-world whodunit by Richard Vine about an art collector who confesses to murdering his wife (but did he really?), which got a bunch of angry 1-star reviews on Amazon.com because of a Lolita-ish subplot (“Avoid this pedophile-friendly trash!”) but is actually really, really good.

IMG_0628The point is, we love to read, and don’t draw a line between respectable reading and scandalous, between high and low. Or between what we ought to read and what we read as a guilty pleasure. All reading is good.

IMG_0564Similarly, all reading is good whether you do it fully clothed or half naked — and if anyone is scandalized by that, well, that’s just too bad. Sometimes the world is better for having a little scandal in it.

IMG_2851cSpeaking of high and low, all reading is also good whether you do it lying flat on the grass by Manhattan’s waterside–

IMG_0675IMG_0569–or up on the elevated park (once a railroad for deliveries to the meat-packing district) called the High Line. Though admittedly we did more walking than reading up there.

IMG_0791IMG_0798Not to mention on our way to and from.

IMG_0699IMG_0712IMG_0727Hats off (and shirts!) in particular to our two first-timers, who joined us proudly and had their first day of outdoor topless pulp fiction appreciation. We have a feeling they’ll be back. 🙂

IMG_0776If you’d like to join them sometime — if you’re a body-positive woman and either bold enough to do this enthusiastically or curious enough to maybe try it a little timidly — we’d love to hear from you. Email us at toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com.

Everyone needs a little more reading time — and a little less bra time.

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IMG_9937To celebrate the 4th of July, we took a trip to Madison Square Park, named after one of the architects of American liberty, President James Madison. Give him partial credit for the Constitution and even more so the Bill of Rights — though the man also owned slaves, so there you go. Feet of clay. In any event, there we were, on the very spot where, in 1876, the right arm and torch of the Statue of Liberty stood on display as money was raised to fund the rest of the statue’s construction. An early Kickstarter project, if you will. And it got us thinking about liberty and independence.

IMG_9979It’s easy to define “liberty” as freedom and leave it at that. But how often do one-word definitions suffice to illuminate complex and important concepts? Liberty is indeed freedom, but more specifically it’s the freedom to do as one pleases — to pursue happiness in one’s own way, without undue restriction. Now, reasonable people can disagree about what restrictions might be due or undue, but the general principle of liberty is to err on the side of presuming that restrictions are undue until proven otherwise.

Prove to me that the sight of my breasts is harmful when the sight of a man’s is not, and then you can restrict me from taking my shirt off. Otherwise — allow me my liberty, and my pursuit of happiness.

IMG_9744IMG_9947IMG_0062Now, independence. Clearly, the opposite of dependence — so not relying on someone else’s support, or requiring someone else’s permission, or subject to someone else’s control. An independent woman makes her own decisions based on her own best judgments. She won’t always be right — who is? — but she’s free to choose her own path. She doesn’t wait to be told what to do or refrain from doing as she wishes just because someone else might not look glowingly on her choices. She is not dependent on the opinion of others. She is independent, and at liberty.

We are independent and at liberty.

IMG_0042So when we sit down in the park, under the sun, and take our shirts off in accordance with the laws of New York but in violation of some folks’ sense of decorum or propriety, it is with an acute appreciation of our freedom. We know most women don’t have the same freedom we do. And even those that do — our fellow New Yorkers — are often unaware of it, or cowed into not exercising it.

IMG_0032Our job, as we see it, is to exercise our liberty without hesitation or pause, and to educate our fellow citizens about theirs.

IMG_9810No girl should grow up believing her body is anything to be ashamed of, or something that ought to be hidden when her male cousins and siblings and friends are free to bare theirs gleefully, innocently and without criticism.

IMG_9712Knowing it, believing it, and living it — that’s freedom. That’s liberty.

IMG_9722Happy Independence Day, everyone.

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IMG_9610Every Monday night during the summer, HBO shows a free classic movie outdoors on the big screen in Bryant Park. We decided to stop by last week, when they were showing On the Town, the Frank Sinatra/Gene Kelly/Leonard Bernstein musical from 1949. Okay, the movie’s a bit sexist. (What movie from 1949 isn’t?) But that music! And Gene Kelly! Plus it was one of our members’ birthday, or close enough to warrant a celebration.

So we picked up pastries and strawberries and some fizzy peach beverage in a fancy bottle and joined the sea of humanity waiting for the movie to begin.

IMG_9694We were the only ones topless in the crowd — but no one seemed to mind much that we were there, except for one angry lady who picked her way across the lawn from some distance away to tell us that “nudity should only be for the bedroom.” Fortunately, not only were we more than happy to ignore her but the very nice woman in front of us leaped to our defense, pointing out that we weren’t the ones sexualizing our bodies, she was, and that her remarks were more problematic than anything we were doing. It felt like a scene in a movie, to be honest. Like that bit in Spider-Man, maybe, where all the ordinary people stand up to help the embattled hero. Not that anyone else stood up to defend us — but certainly no one stood up to take the other woman’s side. And one dissenting voice in a crowd of well over a thousand people? Not bad. Not bad at all.

We’re thinking we might go again some other Monday night before the summer ends — would you like to join us? If you’re a body-positive woman in the New York area, send a note to toplesspulpfiction@gmail.com. We’ll save a seat for you on the lawn.

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