GoTopless Day: Women in Montreal and other Western cities still don’t have equal rights

Photo by Jillian Page exclusively for jillianpage.com and Turning the Page. No other reproduction permitted.
Why should the men in this picture be allowed to be topless in public but not the women? In fact, the women in this picture were allowed to be topless in public one Sunday in August 2014 during the demonstration at Mont-Royal in support of topless equal rights for women. Sylvie Chabot (centre, in white jeans) leads a march around the George-Etienne Monument on Mont-Royal as part of a Go Topless demonstration. (Photo by Jillian Page exclusively for jillianpage.com.)

(This post has been updated to note that Montreal’s GoTopless event was cancelled today because of the threat of thunderstorms.)

While many are talking about women’s rights to wear burkinis at the beach and burqas in other public settings, few are giving serious thought to women’s right to go topless in social settings where men are allowed to peel off their shirts.

In truth, many women would rather fight for the right to overdress than to under dress. And one can hardly blame them: baring our chests in most social settings will only bring a lot of unwanted attention.

I saw a good example of this at a GoTopless rally in Montreal on Mount Royal a few years back. It became more of a spectacle than a demonstration for equal rights, as crowds of men gathered around to leer and snap photos of the half-naked female demonstrators.

Sadly, many men seem to be unable to see a woman’s breasts without experiencing salacious desire. So we are careful about where we bare our breasts, even in provinces like Ontario that allow us to go topless in places where men are allowed to do so.

Still, women should have the same rights men have, even if we choose not to exercise those rights. And there are too many places in the world where women don’t have equal rights. I could go on and on about all the places where women are denied myriad rights (i.e. Saudi Arabia), but now I focus on the right to go topless — in places like the democratic city of Montreal, where the annual GoTopless rally was to be held today on Mount Royal. It was to take place in the area where the weekly Sunday TamTam event is held, which would have given it all a party atmosphere, with some demonstrating, much dancing, and lots of men leering and taking photos of semi-naked women. (Update: Montreal’s event was cancelled because of the threat of thunderstorms.)

When I first attended the event and reviewed it, I wondered about the wisdom of holding it at TamTam Mount Royal rather than having a march down one of Montreal’s main boulevards such as Ste-Catherine St. or René Lévesque Blvd., where it would have much more visibility and get much more media coverage.

I’m guessing it’s because the organizers realize the right to go topless is not much of a priority for the vast majority of women.

Still, they are making an important point: Women in Montreal do not have equal rights when it comes to being topless in public. In principle, all women should be concerned about that.

— Jillian

7 thoughts on “GoTopless Day: Women in Montreal and other Western cities still don’t have equal rights

  1. Dress as you like while considering the impact of your actions on the younger generation (children) as adults we need to get over the stigma of headdress and whatever we may be seeing out of the norms. If at a nudist resort seeing it all is ok. NO thought is being given to shape size just the state of mind of the individual and our ability to relate at a higher level of communication besides the physical. In the streets of Montreal maybe not the most appropriate place at this time. Evenings in social settings such as bars and discos sure. A family restaurant, not so much. We evolve, seeing ankles is permitted as are dresses above the knees.

    Education and acceptance are the right courses to take. The confrontational approach we are taking is not the way. Shock for dramatic effect is ok. Nudity should be a pleasant experience and a way of life if desired. Society at large needs to become exposed and sensitised to the fact it is just a natural comfortable state to be in. There is no pretentious air put on when naked, as you cannot hide behind the wardrobe and pretend superiority. We are all humans here to enjoy and contribute to life in whatever degree and means we so desire. Living in a free society why are we even having the need to discuss this? Ignorance needs to be overcome.

    I believe that we should be pushing for the right to be naked as we want, where we want, without the need for special yearly events, such as bike rides and topless marches. These just bring out the gawkers.

    Nudity at whatever extent, should not be considered as a statute needing legislation. It is an alienable right as breathing clean air, as freedom from religious prosecution. It should be part of our inalienable democratic right.

    Eventually, all will see it as a natural state and life will move on. We are now seeing more generic bathrooms, then it will shower at gyms and pools. Life moves forward and rights reflect attitudes acquired.

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  2. I agree that it is a sad commentary on men that they are unable to control themselves at seeing a bare-chested female.

    I propose we start using the term bare-chested rather than topless as it has sexual undertones from it’s past.

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  3. I’m curious, how did they gain the right to be bare chested in Ontario? Was it legislated, or decided by the courts, or some other means?

    I’ve been reading about this movement, here and in other publications, for some years now and I wondered if much more is being done beyond having this annual demonstration?

    If it is possible in the neighboring province, why is it not seeming to move ahead in Montreal or Quebec overall?

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