Tuesday, August 25, 2009

GoTopless.org in Columbus, Ohio

On Saturday, April 23, members of GoTopless.org held a paint party for women's topfreedom in Goodale Park, Columbus, Ohio. An unusually cool summer day and cloudy skies kept the typical park crowd very low, and consequently the event drew very few observers and participants.

Carla Watson, event organizer, showed plenty of enthusiasm and was the first to shed her top and have her breasts painted. Her eloquence on the subject of topfree equality can be seen and heard in my interview - part one is here, part two is here. My photographs of the event can be found here.

Turnout was much better in other cities. A report from Chicago is here, and New York here. TERA's commentary on the event is on their website.

It seems that mainstream media coverage of this event was down dramatically from last year. In once sense that's good because the exposure or women's breasts in public could be seen as more of a non-issue, or it could be bad because public interest in the cause is fading. One thing for sure - bare breasts are always fodder for the punsters, who cannot resist the "hanging out" or "Boobstock" references.

All naturists that I have spoken to agree on one thing, that the folks at GoTopless.org should drop their references to Raël and the Raëlian movement. As Dr. Paul Rapoport observes, it's a "distraction" from the topfree issue, and spawns such absurd headlines as "UFO Cult Would Like to See Your Breasts."

This is not meant to be a knock on Raëlians, who appear to be lovely people from my interactions, and are certainly no more "out there" than Mormons or Evangelical Christians in their beliefs, but when Carla opens up her interview with a statement about Raël, it strikes a cultish tone that turns off many people. The Academic Naturist also weighs in on this issue:
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.
To be fair, Carla did not attempt to "convert" anybody, and seemed sincerely devoted to the cause, but a Raëlian book was placed prominently on the table next to the signup sheet.

The folks at GoTopless.org need to mainstream their cause in order to draw in more people. By distancing themselves from the Raëlian movement, they can also be more successful at drawing in organizations like AANR and TNS who have thousands of members who should be willing to join in the demonstrations.

The organizers at GoTopless.org need to reassess their strategies starting now if they want to remain a viable factor in the women's topfreedom movement.

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Paul Rapoport said...

Although TNS may be interested in this sort of event, AANR is not. It has always ignored the topfree issue as irrelevant.

Topfree events don't take place on club lands and aren't part of AANR's brand, which promotes only nude recreation in areas it alone deems proper.

Nudiarist said...

Paul, agreed. I should have said that AANR and TNS members should be willing participants in topfree demonstrations. TNS as an organization, maybe, at least in a supporting role.

Paul Rapoport said...

I think your original point was clear. But since AANR officially won't have anything to do with topfreedom for women, it's unlikely that its members would get involved. Then there are the other issues you mentioned.

The organizers of this event got into the news all over the country, to what benefit, I don't know.

Bob King said...

Frankly, I must take slight exception. This is a simple rights issue, and I think that the Raeliens give it exactly the right whimsical touch.

It's not about whether it's "Proper" or "respectable" or "appropriate" or anything at all to do with what goes through the minds of watchers.

To take away clothing takes away decorum and status, and as much as anything, that layer of pretense is the thing at issue.

And, well, it IS a religious principle to Raeliens, who's religion is every bit as protected under the constitution as, say, Scientology.

But they realize they are silly people, on some level.

It's perfectly reasonable to assert the right to be nakedly silly in public. And if that detonates the skulls of the Terribly Serious who Are Asserting TRADITIONAL and IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES that vary from the most basic Constitutional recognition of a simple human right, well, all I can say is "Thar she blows!"

Indeed, I have said it

Nudiarist said...

It's not the whimsicality of the demonstrations which is at issue, it's the talk of Rael and UFOs at the events which marginalizes the orgainzers, and turns off the populace. The religious aspect of the discussion is a distraction, that's all, and nobody is suggesting that the Raelians should not have their religious freedoms. The whole point of organizing demonstrations is to gain public relations for a cause, and in this case the cult-like status of the Raelians is overshadowing the topfreedom movement they espouse.

Nudiarist said...

Paul, I don't have any stats, but I suspect that many TNS members, like myself, are also members of AANR.