GoTopless Day parade encourages women to ‘express their right’ to bare breasts

The 11th annual GoTopless Day Parade will kick off Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at West 58th Street and Eighth Avenue, ending at Bryant Park.
The 11th annual GoTopless Day Parade will kick off Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at West 58th Street and Eighth Avenue, ending at Bryant Park. Photo Credit: Chris Ware

New York City women will take to the streets bearing messages of equality Sunday in the 11th annual GoTopless Day parade.

The goal of the event, which steps off at noon and winds from West 58th Street and Eighth Avenue to Bryant Park, is to encourage “women to express their right” to be bare-chested in public like men, said GoTopless President Nadine Gary.

Women have been legally allowed to be naked from the waist up in public since 1992 in NYC, but legality isn’t acceptability — and laws vary widely around the U.S. Demonstrators hope to change that and to remove the stigma connected with women baring their breasts.

“We have a lot of work to do on that,” Gary, 52, said.

Parades are scheduled across the country — including Washington, D.C., Denver, Phoenix and Venice, California — and internationally. A “boob map” at gotopless.org tracks topless laws and parade locations.

GoTopless Day falls on the last Sunday in August. The day was chosen for its proximity to Women’s Equality Day on Aug. 26, which marks when American women got the right to vote.

The mood of the Manhattan march is ”celebratory and happy,” said organizer Kasyo Perrier, 48.

Its lightheartedness has previously been expressed by a pair of giant pink balloon breasts atop an SUV and signs urging “Equali-titty.” The Demolition Brass Band, a six-man group, will also add to the party atmosphere this year with Mardi Gras-style music.

The event’s more serious side includes speeches in Bryant Park. The name of the game is education, not exhibitionism.

“It’s not about showing off our boobs,” said Perrier, who’s marching on Sunday. “It’s about freedom, and encouraging women to feel safe in their bodies.”

Gary reckoned that heightened interest in feminist movements give this year’s parade added urgency.

“GoTopless goes hand-in-hand with #MeToo,” she said. “We want to be respected and empowered for our complete rights as women.”

Reactions to GoTopless parades vary. Gary recalled onlookers carrying signs in Los Angeles declaring that marchers would “burn in hell. But we find the crowds are more open in New York City,” she added. “Still, we have seen mothers cover the eyes of their children as we pass by.”

Organizers expect Sunday’s parade in midtown to draw hundreds of participants in addition to viewers on the sidelines.

There are already plans afoot for the GoTopless Day march in 2020, which marks the suffrage centennial.

“The 100th anniversary is a big event,” said Gary. “We would love to have a topless concert to mark it.”

Their top choice for this shirtless shindig? “Lady Gaga,” said Gary. “Who would be better?”

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