Sunday, April 11, 2010

Topfree Organizer Needs Thicker Skin, Clearer Message

In the past, protesters have been subjected to tear gas, bullets, fire hoses, taunts, thrown eggs, spit or worse. The heart of any protest is for people to stand up to an inequity in society, and to accept the consequences from the reactions of those who disagree.

When 20 year-old Ty MacDowell decided to organize a women's topfree march through the heart of Portland, Maine, she somehow thought that people would automatically accept bared women's breasts as a normal occurrence. "I was shocked by the number of people", she admitted. "I expected that (people would watch), but not to the extent that it was."

Ty was also upset that a video of the event was posted online and blurred out as if it was pornography, noting that such censorship felt like "total objectification".

Now I give Ty major props for taking on this endeavor, but she needs to thicken her exposed skin a little more in the face of public reaction. After all, the women were not arrested or hindered in any way. If some men behaved like young boys seeing their first Playboy centerfold, it's a male problem, and illustrates exactly why the topfree movement is important. The only way to reverse the objectification of women's breasts is to make them ubiquitous.

Ty states that she "can't understand" why other women would find the display of female breasts "disgusting" since there is nothing inherently sexual about nudity. Again, I applaud her efforts, but Ty has to get a little more savvy in dealing with the press if she wants to make her positive message more effective. It's hard to imagine Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem declaring that they "didn't understand" society's push back against feminism. I would argue that Ms. MacDowell does in fact understand, which is why she is organizing topfree events in the first place, she is just inexperienced at articulating her position.

Embrace the photographers, embrace the publicity, and embrace your new position as a women's rights leader, Ty. It's all a good thing if you channel some of the negativity you feel into focusing your message and expanding the movement. Shock and indignation should not be the thrust of your platform.

Ty reports that she has been contacted by a University of Maine at Farmington student who wants to organize a similar march on that campus, but she also states that she wants to take her movement "more grass-roots" and plan events through word-of-mouth rather than through social networking on the Internet.

Like it or not, Ty MacDowell has made international news with her topfree walk through an American city. Shying away from the publicity is a mistake, and will likely create the impression that society is not ready for topless women in public. Trying to avoid the "circus atmosphere" only assures that the objectification and voyeurism will continue. A civil right not properly exercised will wither and die.


Anonymous said...

In the aggregate, what she organized was significant, so, hopefully, people will counsel her in an encouraging tone instead of a dismissive one.

Nudiarist said...

I hope you are not suggesting that I am being dismissive of Ms. MacDowell, because I am not. As noted in the post, I give her a lot of credit for her courage and ability to mobilize 25 women to walk topfree down the middle of an American city. This is no small feat, and it became an international story. What I am suggesting is that she continue her efforts, but to learn from her mistakes, such as dwelling upon the negative in her initial interviews. I think she gets that and will be more savvy in the future. Ms. MacDowell needs to realize that she was successful in her effort. She inspired people. Her message needs to be positive and very public. I will be the first to stand up and support her next event.

Eventually there will be a women's topfree movement which will catch fire. Ms. MacDowell needs to realize that hers could be the game-changer.