Feb 23rd, 2017, 07:11 AM

The Topless Debate

By Verónica Ayala
Image Credit: Pexels/Paula
AUP students discuss the protest in Argentina over women being topless in public.

Dozens of women protested topless in Buenos Aires on February 7th after police expelled three women from a beach because they had taken their tops off.

These women were sunbathing when police approached them and asked them to dress or leave. The people at the beach had called the police because they felt it was offensive. The argument got heated, the police threatened to arrest them if they ever took their tops off again. The women were confused about their alleged misdeed. One of the bystanders recorded the altercation and the video went viral after posting it on social media.

Many Argentines gathered to protest at the Obelisk Monument of Buenos Aires. Some attended topless, with quotes of empowerment painted on their bodies.

AUP Students Expressed Their Feelings About the Matter:
 

"I believe that what happened represented the macho culture that continues to be entrenched in Latin America. Considering Argentina has been the leader in Latin America for feminism, what happened at the beach, is a backlash against these ideals from the resistance in the Latin culture regarding gender equality. We cannot forget that it is not only the cultural part but the institutional too. It is the responsibility of the governmental system to find a way for this not to happen. Why were there policemen brought into the situation? This event shows us that we have a long way to go with regards to gender equality and freedom of expression for women."
—María José Lozano (Colombia)

"This event shows us that we have a long way to go with regards to gender equality and freedom of expression for women."

"I guess this is something that's been embedded in society over time. Women's top part of their body is seen, by society, as sexual genitalia, men's isn't. It brings a lot of things into question. Does it give the same connotation? Is it a question of equality or is it a question of just codes of conduct that have been there and people are following. To a certain extent, I believe that it is fair to challenge this norms but they shouldn't have been surprised by the response. I can't be naive and go out in public fighting something controversial and not expect a backlash. It's a paradigm shift, and that takes time but at least it starts with a conversation."
—Safian Ado-Ibrahim (Nigeria)

"Is it a question of equality or is it a question of just codes of conduct that have been there and people are following."

"To me, this happened because it is the image that society requires of you. We learned to cover our body in society, and we learned to see breasts as a symbol of sexuality and we are taught that they have to be covered. We have to accept that a body has no meaning and it is something biological, we all have the same so there is no reason to ask for women to cover them. It is like that with any unequal subject in the world. Why judge black and not white, if the pigment of the skin happens naturally. As well as why judge woman's body and not men's. Every country, every culture, every religion has their own morality and it has to be taken into account but we cannot forget science and anatomy. Each group should be opened to the modern world."
—Margarita Valljuly (Puerto Rico)

"We learned to cover our body in society, and we learned to see the breasts as a symbol of sexuality and taught that it has to be covered."

"I'll preface this with the clarification that I'm a firm believer in equality, across the board. So what's wrong with being topless? I couldn't tell you; however, what I can tell you is that these women chose the wrong battle in this war on equality. Are they really going to start with the double-standards on 'toplessness'? They have to be kidding! I'm astounded that out of all the issues women in Argentina face, there's not one thing they can find more pressing to 'stand-up' for, than the inequality regarding their inability to sunbathe topless. They didn't think that the need for reproductive rights, or for better laws regarding sexual harassment and domestic violence, or even for the gender pay gap were reason enough? It's totally absurd. Unless their desire to 'free the nipple' is felt with the same longing as their desire for reproductive rights, equal pay, etc., they are pointless and their cry for 'topless equality' is just relentlessly tedious white-noise."
—Dalton Folsch (USA)

"Are they really going to start with the double-standards on 'toplessness'?"

"Women shouldn't have to compromise their lifestyle because men can't concentrate. We shouldn't have to apologize for their inability to be mature human beings. It's time for man to stop looking at women as sexual objects. That needs to start with the government, they have the responsibility to show us the way towards equality. That starts by allowing both men and women to be in the same public space under the same circumstances."
—Leila Eliot (USA)

"That needs to start with the government, they have the responsibility to show us the way towards equality."

"I believe that women should have the right to go topless wherever they see fit. However, it is interesting to notice that, even in topless-friendly towns, women can get in trouble for showing their breasts. That is because our patriarchal societies sexualize and objectify the female body so much that it seems to prevail over any law on that matter. As a consequence, we have male police officers blatantly breaking the law and invoke "decency" to express their misogyny. I find this truly appalling, especially given the fact that such mentality was also used to prevent women from breastfeeding in public, a right in an overwhelming part of the United States. We need to understand — and teach the younger generations — that a female body is not more sexual than a man's. Then this will become a non-issue, not something up for debate."
—Thomas Costa-Lopez (France)