In honor of Go Topless Day 2013, five Massachusetts residents marched topless on the streets of Boston on Sunday to make a bold and head-turning statement: Women should have the right to bare their breasts in public.
"[The demonstration] is to crush the social stigma, and crush the political and legal stigma," said Stacey Schnee, 38, of Worcester, who organized the march to coincide with similar GoTopless.org demonstrations held today in 35 states.
"The wind blowing across your chest and your body feels amazing. I feel like it's 10 degrees cooler than it actually is. Women should absolutely be able to enjoy that," said Schnee.
Although she has gotten plenty of support from spectators, the self-described nudist has also endured rude and harassing comments from both civilians and police.
"A lot of people have said, ‘I'm calling the cops,' or, ‘You're scaring the children.' But many people breast-feed their children," she said. "So what's the problem?"
Massachusetts state law regarding the indecent exposure of breasts in public is ambiguous. State law does not clearly define “indecent exposure,” however the court system considers it to be “an intentional act of lewd exposure, offensive to one or more persons.”
Schnee, a spokesmodel for topless equality, said police will typically "harass" or threaten arrest or citation during nudist events, and often appear to be misinformed about the laws surrounding indecent exposure.
When confronted with criticism over baring her breasts in public, Cally, 22, said her response is to ask, "What is offensive about my body? And why is my body intrinsically more offensive than a man's body?"
Cally, who declined to give her last name, and Schnee were the only two women to bare their breasts at Sunday's march. They were, however, backed up by three bare-chested men. "I've been doing body comfort things for 30 years," said David Linden, 53, Bedford.
Todd Cooper, of Franklin, said he's participated in similar pro-topless events, and has been asked by police to cover up.
Holding signs and handing out flyers, the group made their way around Boston Common before marching past the State House and on to City Hall Plaza.
With Duck and trolley tours in full force, the shocking demonstration drew plenty of reactions. Some passersby voiced support, while others laughed and heckled the group.
One woman who drove by the procession on Beacon Hill yelled, "Y'all need Jesus," and a man on Tremont Street said, "Stay away from me," as the group passed on the sidewalk.
A clique of adolescent boys giggled and pointed, as did a bus full of amused tourists in front of the State House. One man hung out the window, recording the group with his tablet. Dozens of people snapped photographs, apparently entranced by the sight of breasts in public.
"I appreciate your balls, and your tits," said one man who sat in a wheelchair on City Hall Plaza. He took a flyer, and said he supported their cause.
The occasionally crass feedback didn't seem to bother Cally: "I think this should be (accepted) nationwide. Boston more so would be more welcoming. I'm surprised it hasn't gotten more support."
Schnee was also unfazed.
"It doesn't matter what you do. You could walk down the street wearing a purple hat. Some people would love you, some people would be offended. What's the difference?"
Organizers said they plan to hold a bigger GoTopless Boston rally next August.