By Tatiana von Tauber
Envision spending a nice sunny Saturday downtown when suddenly a crowd of women come at you – topless! Do you gasp? Quickly grab your children and cover their eyes? Do you think, WTF, laugh or grab your camera? Portland, Maine had plenty of diversified reactions to just such an event.
About two dozen women participated in a march on Congress Street to bring attention to breast equality: women can go topless too and in Maine it’s legal. Of course this half-naked public and free event sparked a lot of onlookers and unsurprisingly, amateur photographers yet the coordinator of the march, Ty MacDowell, 20, was upset about its progression:
“I’m amazed,” she said, and “enraged (at) the fact that there’s a wall of men watching…”
“A lot of people were taking pictures without even asking,” she said. “Even if you’re somewhere where people are fully clothed, you should ask.”
Hold on a minute here. Ask for permission? In a public place there is no privacy and besides, what exactly is the point of a partial nude protest march?
Attention, right? Bare breasts make people look but according to MacDowell,
“The point of the march was that a topless woman out in public should attract no more attention than a man walking around without a shirt on”.
That’s rather an ambitious “should” but youth is drenched in potential. Here’s a lesson from science: There are very distinct biological differences between the male and female brain. For example, according to Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain*:
1. Women use about 20,000 words per day versus men’s 7,000.
2. Men think about sex once a minute and women once every couple of days! (yeah, that is depressing for both sides)
3. Men have 2.5 times more brain area for sexual thoughts than women.
4. Women need their amygdala – the brain’s worrying and critical thinking system - “turned off” to ironically become turned on or sex will either be faked or a raincheck.
There are just some things that are too difficult to change when they are deeply etched into social perception or nature’s biology. The results of the bare breasted protest barely registered on the feminist Richter scale. A 24-woman march just isn’t good enough breast coverage.
I agree with MacDowell’s idealistic intent. Topless women should attract no more attention than men. However, in reality this courageous 20-something just learned one of women’s hard lessons: when there are bare breasts, there will be a wall of men, paparazzi picture taking and objectification; therefore, what should be isn’t.
One step to change such realities is to simply expand our views of the opposite sex while we come to deeper understandings of our own. Brizendine’s books The Female Brain and The Male Brain are a good beginning towards understanding why men and women do what they do and hence what’s possible to change and what seems enslaved to hardwiring. In the process maybe bare breasts in public might become less taboo. I don’t exactly recommend topless outside seating but it would be nice if America could ease up on the stigma associated to public display of those dangerous female nipples.
*The Male Brain is Brizendine’s newest release I’ll comment on in the future