GET OUT: Equal exposure in the Equality State

By on August 27, 2014

Carly Mitchell celebrates Go Topless Protest Day in Jackson Hole. Photo: Alexander Herring.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – An ordinance in Jackson Hole prohibits people over the age of 12 from showing  “the human female breast” in public unless they are breastfeeding.

I’ve been testing this out in California, where it’s legal for women to be topless in public. Even so, I was recently kicked out of my climbing gym. Apparently, the “no shirt, no service” policy applied only to females that day. Then I had an encounter with the police, who were called in to deal with my breasts as if they were two dangerous public enemies. It seems society perceives breasts as sexual objects – harmful to children’s eyes and psychological well-being, and harmful to myself, provoking sexual aggression from men.

In honor of gender equality and the 14th amendment, this past Saturday was Go Topless Protest Day. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to celebrate my body sovereignty in the Equality State.

I moseyed over to the town square with two supportive friends and my concerned mom. Most folks just gave a quick double take. One family looked aghast, and a few people snapped photos with their iphones, but many smiled and pointed their thumbs in the air.

It didn’t faze me like it did the first time I went top-free in public. My inhibition is nearly gone. Like anything, it just takes practice.

The air and light kissing my skin was delicious, but not nearly as sweet as the sense of freedom as I claimed my body and mind as my very own, to do with as I please in public or private.

Two cops walked by but didn’t see me. I didn’t have a problem facing them; they looked friendly enough. But I risked being imprisoned, fined and subsequently registered as a sex offender in Jackson Hole. These were some of the potential consequences just for showing my breasts in public, which men – with larger breasts than mine – are allowed to do without penalty.

“What about the children!” you ask. There is no scientific evidence indicating exposure to breasts is harmful to children. Breasts nurture and feed babies. Guns and bombs hurt children, not breasts. The real indecent exposure is exposing children to archaic concepts of the female form as an object, not a human being, which should be controlled through shame and mandatory veiling.

Mandatory covering of breasts sends a clear message to girls that their bodies are not their own property. How can she protect, love and enjoy her life if she doesn’t even think she’s entitled to own it? Boys receive the message that if a girl’s body is devalued and not even under her own control, then maybe he can control it. These laws and perceptions enforcing the gender binary breed a culture of sexual inequality and disconnection.

I unveil my breasts because through constant exposure my pectorals become as garden-variety as ankles – once considered wholly indecent in Victorian times. I unveil my skin for I am so much more than a body assigned female at birth. Sovereignty over one’s mind and body is the most basic human right one can practice having. But it does takes practice.

About Carly Mitchell

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