Monday, August 24, 2009

GoTopless Chicago!

We attended the GoTopless protest in Chicago! My girlfriend was interviewed for one of the bigger articles on the event, which includes photos and a video interview of the organizer.

This year's protest was organized by a different person than the one last year. The new coordinator (lady in news video linked above) had:
  • Women, including three from Canada.
  • Contact with a lawyer.
  • Pasties available for the women, since nipples are illegal. (Due to radioactivity, perhaps.)
  • Body painting, which alone makes breasts legal too. (My girlfriend sported black strapless paint bra.)

This was a safe protest, since there's nothing we could've been arrested for. Why not go? In my opinion, all naturists should be encouraged to go to these protests since they're about body freedom. It's important to note that the organizers of the GoTopless protests aren't naturists, but that they want basically the same end goals as naturists do.

We didn't set up at the beach house, as advertised. Instead, the organizers chose to set up along a busy walking path that connects with a pedestrian bridge. (map) The majority of the posters were directed to people using the bridge and walking northbound along the path. I was often holding my favorite poster ("Legal or not?") pointed at the southbound users. Other protesters loved both of my signs.

All of the men wore tops of some sort, often of a ripped white sheet to resemble a bikini top. The women wore the nipple pasties and/or body paint. (These both left horrible tan-lines!) There were 6 women who went topless, plus one who was nursing and couldn't wear pasties or paint. The rest were men, and maybe 5 of them joined in the protest after walking by. We didn't get nearly the numbers as LA or NYC, but we still did good.

The police did roll in about an hour after we started. It seems that someone called them to complain. A police squad truck showed up first, then a car, then several on bikes. Some men who stuck around left when they showed up. Many of the women put on tops, including my girlfriend. After a little while, the bikes and car left, but the big vehicle stayed. They almost completely blocked the pedestrian path while they sat there for probably 2 hours just keeping an eye on us. The women eventually slipped off their tops again despite them (and applied another layer of paint just in case) and continued on.

We were asked several times if we were Raelians. "No, us two are naturists, but we're supporting the same cause." Everyone else in the protest group was Realian. During the main speech, the organizer made sure to include a section on the Raelian beliefs. I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Here's my suggestion to them: People will take the GoTopless protests more seriously if you ONLY stick to the issue of top-equality! Once you mention aliens, people just consider you crazy and walk away. Take a look at the news stories -- they always mention the UFO cult, often as the headline. That's bad for getting people to take you seriously.

We didn't get the publicity that we were hoping for. Don't get me wrong -- I think the Examiner article is great -- but the mainstream media seemed to ignore us. (The Examiner guy was fun to talk to, although he only interviewed my girlfriend. We might see him again sometime since he occasionally visits Mazo Beach. Hope he doesn't mind me saying that! *grin*) There was one guy with a professional video camera who took a lot of video. I have no idea who he represented, but the rumor was that he was for a Chicago news station. I can't find his footage anywhere.

My girlfriend and I had a lot of success on the front-lines opposite of the bulk of the crew. She's bubbly and attractive, so men would stop and sign anything she asked them to. She had people signing almost constantly! But, she only did this for maybe 45 minutes.

One big issue that I noticed was that anytime bodies needed to be painted, or a kid needed to be watched, or anything needed to be done in back, the women always wanted to do it. There were only 6 women, and many weren't in front for extended times. Especially when bodypainting -- at one point ALL of the women were attending to that and it was all men leading the protest for at least 15 minutes. Often, it was the men holding the petitions too. The women should've been the ones with the petitions, and the men should've been doing the rest. That's a tip for next time.

So what's the best part about going to a protest? Reactions, of course!
  • Many seemed to support us, but few signed the petition.
  • Many of the guys just wanted pictures. (It's odd that I can't find any on flickr though... Please post to the comments if you find any.) There were around 7 guys that wanted their picture taken with my girlfriend. Whatever.
  • One guy stopped his bike in the middle. We asked if he'd like to sign our petition. "Nope," he said, "I just want an eyeful." Hey, at least he's honest!
  • Of course, a majority of people just walked by and ignored us.
  • There were several near-accidents with the bikes and people. I think they were distracted.
  • A few were absolutely disgusted. There's no reasoning with them.
  • One Swedish woman was all for our cause for obvious reasons. But, she said her breasts were "treats" that only boyfriends can see so she'd never go topless.
  • Many women said they'd never go topless, but agreed that women should have the right to.
  • Some guys thought that only hot women should be allowed to go topless. They just don't get it.
  • One of the protesters struck up a conversation with a he/she who was in the middle of a sex change operation. The protester was surprised to learn that he/she was AGAINST the top-freedom issue.
  • A lot of people brought up the "what about the kids" argument. For one man, we replied with "What about the kids in Europe? Being topless is normal there." His response: "Well the Europeans are all screwed up!"
  • One man hung around the event and supported our cause but didn't participate. He kept snapping pictures of my girlfriend and other women. After probably 5 minutes of the camera pointed directly at her, she lashed back: "Stop taking pictures of me, you're pissing me off!" I think he stopped with all pictures at that point. Yes, naturists have a sensitivity to camera use!
  • One woman thought it was cool that body paint and pasties were legal as long as it covered the areola. She glued on the pasties, added some bodypaint, then wandered down the beach topless. We saw her again at the end of the protest (2 hours after she was painted) and she was still walking around that way. You go, girl!
  • One lady flashed her boob as she biked by, twice. Others did a quick flash as well. Everyone cheered except us -- flashing doesn't help and they run the risk of being arrested and causing negative publicity. This isn't Mardi Gras.
One last observation that we made was that us naturists were more mature about the nudity than the Raelians. The men spent a lot of time praising the women, and looking at the women, instead of treating everyone equally like we did. (OK, so the men were largely ignored by everyone.) I made good eye contact with both the men and the women, and they knew it because I wasn't wearing sunglasses. Many of them were, so it's hard to tell what exactly they were looking at. I asked my girlfriend if they looked down a lot, and she couldn't answer because of that.

One of the Raelian guys asked my girlfriend why she was so comfortable being topless. She replied that she was a naturist and that she would like to push for naturist rights someday. They were immediately uncomfortable, and shyly said that they don't really agree with that. That ended the conversation.

The event coordinator, before painting my girlfriend's breasts, learned that this was our first protest. She then went on a speech on how liberating it's going to be for her, and how empowering it's going to feel. I asked my girlfriend later if it was liberating and empowering: "Not really, it felt normal. Well, except for the annoying paint all over my breasts."

In conclusion, the Raelians have a thing or two to learn from naturists. If they focus on the issue, and if we naturists would help out more, we'd have a bigger impact. Maybe next year the press will drop the whole Realian part of it. I'd say that the Chicago protest went very well, and I look forward to helping them out in the future. I suggest that you help them out as well in their quest for top-equality. Remember that it's one step closer to being naked, and one step away from cultural prudishness.

Oh, did you want photos? Here's a couple.


Anonymous said...

hi there i was at the event and was fortunate to have met ur girlfriend which btw is a very charming young woman... i hope to see u guys again, how was the afterparty?


p.s. i had no idea wat the raelians were all about.. and u're right they should have limited themselves to the issue at hand, i wouldn't taken them seriously myself

Academic Naturist said...

Comment crossposted from Nudiarist's blog:

I agree, and it's probably something I should've stated in my post: The Raelians are normal people just like everyone else.

We carpooled to Chicago with a family, and had pizza with the whole group after the event. They were a fun group to spend the day with.

mp said...

Eventually arrests will HAVE to happen. 1st you should do the protests like you've been doing for maybe a decade longer as the public gets more accepting. When the public is more ok with female breasts, women at a protest will have to disobey the law & remove the paint or pasties (you are right about flashing doesn't help).

As far as I remember, it took arrests & the resulting court action to make it legal in N.Y. , I think it took the same thing in Columbus, OH & likely other places.

In the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s-60s it took many arrests to change segregation laws.

Topfree for women is illegal in most states & eventually (after more public acceptance), it is going to take arrests in some states to get laws changed.
It took arrests to get the law changed for men to go topfree in the 1930s.

To get a better idea of the changing social climate you can see my timeline at (& read some of the citations)