Photo by Jillian Page exclusively for 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

(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