US & World

Women go topless in push for equality

GoTopless Day demonstrators march during their annual protest for women's rights in Venice Beach, California on August 23, 2015.  The protest is held to celebrate the nationally recognized
GoTopless Day demonstrators march during their annual protest for women's rights in Venice Beach, California on August 23, 2015. The protest is held to celebrate the nationally recognized "Women's Equality Day" in the United States. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Update: The Associated Press reports that protesters were countered at the start of the march by a group against allowing women to go topless in public that held up a giant inflatable Bible.


Women around the U.S. plan to go topless as they hit the beach or march in parades in celebration of GoTopless Day, focused on promoting gender equality and women's right to bare their breasts in public.

GoTopless Day is celebrated annually on the Sunday closest to Women's Equality Day, marking the day American women earned the right to vote.

Events planned include gatherings at beaches from New Hampshire to California and parades in New York City and Los Angeles featuring giant balloons shaped as breasts. Other celebrations are planned in cities across the globe.

In L.A., a group of topless women and men are expected to take their protest to Venice Beach Boardwalk. They'll meet at 1 p.m. at the northern end of Ocean Front Walk at Navy Street before heading along the boardwalk to Windward Circle for a rally.

Nadine Gary, the president of the L.A. chapter of GoTopless, tells KPCC, "We need to have gender equality. If men can go topless, women should have the same right."

Cities and states have varying laws regarding whether it's legal for women to go topless in public.

At today's event in Venice, because it's not legal for women to bare their breasts in public, Gary says women will have to cover their nipples men will be wearing bras to show their support for the law.

Last year, the Venice Neighborhood Council approved a resolution supporting women's right to go topless at the beach. But both the city and county would have to approve the rule change for it to take effect.

Although the topic sometimes inspires giggles and blushing, Gary and her fellow activists in GoTopless are serious about the right to go topless.

According to Gary, the female toplessness movement has its roots in Raelian spiritual movement. Founded in the 1970s by French man Claude Vorilhon, the Raelian cosmology states that life on Earth was created by an advanced race of extraterrestrials known as the Elohim.

Gary tells KPCC that the movement took off nine years ago when Rael (Vorilhon's nom de religion) was inspired by a New York activist who was arrested for going topless. Almost a decade later, 60 cities around the world will host GoTopless rallies..

"We’re really hoping by 2020, which is the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, we will have finally our right to go topless in California — and everywhere else in the country," Gary says.