Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Lenoir City, Tennessee - What happened to my rights?

Today is my 27th birthday, but I'm so incensed over what happened to me last night that I can't focus on anything else. I have to write this out.

Since my birthday is a work day, and my boyfriend works until late in the evening, it was decided that yesterday, Sunday, would be "my day." He took me shopping and bought a dress for me, we perused the Sweetwater flea market, and the conclusion to "my day" was to be my absolute favorite activity - swimming in the lake. I grew up on a houseboat on South Holston Lake and spent so much time swimming that I acquired the nick name "Water Dog."

When it came time to head for the lake, there was a problem: I couldn't find my bathing suit. So, I thought, "Why not just wear a tank-top and undies?" The clothes I picked to swim in (a sleeveless shirt and granny panties) actually covered more skin than a traditional bathing suit would. No, it wasn't the mostly classy swimming attire, but I didn't care. I just wanted to swim. And it's not like it was crystal clear swimming pool water - it was a green lake. No one could even see my body from my shoulders down.

It was in the late evening that we arrived at the public, taxpayer funded Lenoir City Park. I found what I thought would be a good place to get in the water - the only people I could see was a family fishing on a pier that was pretty far away from me. My boyfriend took my two-year-old daughter to play on the playground in another area of the park. I estimate the time span between taking off my dress (with the tanktop and underwear underneath) and my being totally submerged in the water was around 6 seconds (there were some rocks at the edge of the water to navigate around).

*Apologies for the chance in tense here*

So, there I am swimming. The water felt great and I felt great. Minutes pass, and the next thing I know, there is a police officer at the shore calling for me to come to him. I comply and swim to him. "Is there a problem?" I ask. He tells me that I am not wearing appropriate swimwear, and I need to get out of the water and put on my clothes. I immediately feel embarrassed. The family on the pier in the distance is now gawking in my direction, but I do as he says. I proceed to tell him, now humiliated and in tears, that as far as I knew, I wasn't breaking any laws. The only parts of my body which were exposed were my arms and my legs, and that was for only a short time period. He then threatens to take me to jail. (On what charge? He didn't say, but I should have asked.)

Now my boyfriend is walking in our direction with my daughter. My daughter, upon seeing me in tears, gets upset and asks repeatedly "Okay, Mommy? Okay, Mommy?" I shakily reassure her that I am okay and the officer tells us to leave the park. As we get to the car, he asks to see my ID and calls it in to check for warrants, of which I have none. Now I'm feeling infuriated and harassed. He asks me if I understand what I did wrong.

No, I don't. I don't understand. And I'm mad about it.

I don't understand why I was shamed in front of my daughter. If a man had gone swimming in his boxer shorts, would anyone bat an eyelash? I doubt it. Why is it acceptable for women to wear string bikinis in public, but I can't swim in murky water in my freaking underwear. (And that's not a stab at women in bikinis, I'm all for women wearing whatever they are comfortable wearing.)

I don't understand why I was harassed when I was not breaking any laws. And I checked. I called the Lenoir City Parks and Recreation this morning and was told that it was NOT illegal to swim at Lenoir City Park. I called the Police Department and asked if there were any county or municipal ordinances which deviated from Tennessee's state law on indecent exposure, which reads:

“Nudity” or “state of nudity” means the showing of the bare human male or female genitals or pubic area with less than a fully opaque covering, the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of the areola, or the showing of the covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.” After I explained the situation to the woman at the police department, she told me that she was not aware of any ordinances, but she or the Chief of Police would call me back. Haven't heard back from them.

So no, I don't understand “what I did wrong.” What I DO understand, though, officer, are my rights. And you violated them.

- From a woman in Lenoir City, TN

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Topless in Guelph

FEMINISM - In 1991 an University of Guelph student named Gwen Jacobs was arrested for being topless in public.

That charge was later overturned. A few years later in 1996 the Ontario Court of Appeals made it legal for women to be topless.

14 years later however two Guelph women (who say they still get weird looks when they’re topless in public) organized the Top Freedom Day of Pride event on August 28th at St. George Square in downtown Guelph.

Its not a march or protest. Its more like a festival for people, both men and women, to go shirtless. They hope to organize another event next year on the last Saturday of August in an effort to promote topless or topfree rights.

As usual at such events men were clicking photos and smiling at the spectacle. About 50 male observers attended the event and watched with amusement.

Organizers Andrea Crinklaw and Lindsay Webb, both University of Guelph students, were among the first to peel off their tops. A handful of other women joined in as the hour wore on. Crinklaw and Webb say women may have won the legal freedom to be topless in public, but they don’t have the social freedom to do because there's still a stigma about it. They hope to help desensitize the public to the female breast.

“We want to have a safe space here for women to exercise their right to be top free,” says co-organizer Andrea Crinklaw. “So here it is!”

“Women, we want you to be empowered. Men, we want you to be supportive. And everybody, be respectful,” says Crinklaw.

“What I don’t like is what the men are going to do with the photographs they’re taking,” said one 64-year-old woman who sat nearby and was tempted to take part in the event.

“If it could be like in Europe where women are able to be top-free on the beaches or roller blade down the street without a shirt and people aren’t appalled by it — that would be amazing,” says Crinklaw.

Live music and professional body painters at the event helped to add to the festival like atmosphere. By late afternoon people were dancing, laughing and mingling and nude from the waist up.

“We got over ankles,” said a local man in his fifties who had his chest painted. “Why can’t we get over breasts?”

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Topless Freedom Fighters in Maine


Nearly two dozen topless freedom fighters marched topless through the sleepy college town of Farmington, Maine to protest the double standard that allows men to take off their shirts on a hot summer day. Many men joined the women, taking off their shirts and marching side by side. Small surprise were the dozens of gawkers snapping photos.

It's already legal in Maine for women to go topless in public, but the protesters in Farmington want it to become socially acceptable too.

"It's about gender equality," said Tia Jacques of West Gardiner, joined by husband Charles Jacques, as the mob of people moved through downtown Farmington amidst a traffic jam.

Added Charles: "Whether you choose to do this or not, I want you to be free to do this." He also offered some advice: "Keep making a big deal about it until it's not a big deal."

In other words if you keep making a fuss eventually people will just ignore you and it will become acceptable.

The event was organized by 22-year-old Andrea Simoneau, a student at the University of Maine at Farmington who was inspired by her participation in a topless march April 3rd in Portland. She'd been going topless downtown and near campus for the past couple of weeks to drum up interest in the march.

Thanks to the back-to-back events and ensuing buzz, Maine is fast earning a reputation as a place where women can let down their hair — and their tops.

Simoneau encourages other women to take up the cause around the world. And she said she wasn't going to let camera-toting men ruin her day, either.

"Unfortunately, there's no way to deal with people taking pictures for prurient interest, but I feel the best way to deal with that is to just ignore it," she said.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Polish court reprimands topless sunbathers

On November 7th a Polish court reprimanded two Polish women, including a model who has appeared in men's magazines, for indecent exposure after they sunbathed topless, a rarity in the deeply Catholic country.

"Showing nudity goes beyond social customs and norms in Poland," read part of the verdict issued by a court in Szczecin, northwest Poland. "Personal freedom ends where the freedom of another person begins."

"I completely respect the court's verdict, but at the same time I disagree with it and I will certainly appeal it," Dorota Krzysztofek, 28, said. She also said she would be contacting Poland's ombudsman, a civil rights watchdog.

The court also ruled the women would have to pay court fees of 130 zlotys (roughly $46). The verdict is subject to appeal.

"Perhaps men will also have to cover up their torsos on the beach?" Krzysztofek said. "I see nothing indecent about the chests of men or women," she added.

In May, policemen fined Krzystofek and her 26-year-old friend for sunbathing topless on a public beach in Szczecin.

The women went to court after they failed to pay a fine of 150 zlotys ($55).

The case of the two women -- one of whom is a model and has appeared topless in Polish men's magazines -- sparked such massive media interest that a first hearing in September had to be postponed when too many reporters turned up to fit into the court gallery.

The women pleaded not guilty to indecent exposure, arguing there was no explicit ban on going topless at the beach. They also said fellow sunbathers had not been offended, insisting that many had jumped to their defense.

Topless beaches are relatively common in Europe and Poland is one of few countries that don't have them.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Congratulations President Barack Obama

We want to congratulate Barack Obama for winning the US presidency.

I think we should all go outside and dance topless in celebration!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Topless Beaches in India

TOPLESS BEACHES - Kovalam has three crescent shaped beaches separated by rocky outcroppings. Shallow waters stretching for hundreds of metres are ideal for swimming. The beaches have steep palm covered headlands and are lined with shops that offer all kinds of goods and services.

The larger of the beaches is called Light House Beach for its 35 metre high light house which towers over it atop Kurumkal hillock. The second largest one is Hawah Beach named thus for the topless European women who used to throng there. It was the first topless beach in India. Topfree bathing and parading is banned now except in private coves owned by resorts. Visitors frequent these two beaches.

The northern part of the beach is known as Samudra Beach in tourism parlance. A large promontory separates this part from the southern side. Samudra Beach doesn't have tourists thronging there or hectic business. The local fishermen ply their trade on this part. The sands on the beaches in Kovalam are partially black in colour due to the presence of ilmenite and thorazite. The normal tourist season is from September to May.

Kovalam is situated 16 kms to the south of Thiruvananthapuram. It is a traditional fishing village and a renowned beach destination with lovely palm-fringed beaches having excellent opportunities for water sports, cruising, meditation, yoga and Ayurvedic body massages.

Kovalam means a grove of coconut trees. Kovalam was brought to the public eye by the Maharaja of Travancore. The European guests of the then Travancore kingdom discovered the potentiality of Kovalam beach as a tourist destination in the 1930s.

However, Kovalam shot into limelight in the early seventies with arrivals of the masses of hippies. That started the transformation of a casual fishing village of Kerala into one of the most important tourist destinations in all India- the Kovalam beach.

There are a large number of beach resorts in and around Kovalam. The sea port of Vizhinjam is about 3 km away and famous for its special varieties of fish, old Hindu temples, big churches and a mosque. The Proposed International Trans shipment Terminal at Vizhinjam is also close to Kovalam.