Why Is Femininity Obscene?

By Kendra Holliday | January 5, 2012

Phoenix Feeley, fiery activist

A few months ago, I wrote an article about my amazing breasts. In the article, I featured a woman who won a lawsuit in NYC because she was arrested for being topless. She went on later to fight for her right to be topless in New Jersey, and lost.

It turns out she is Phoenix Feeley, a fire performing artist and civil rights activist.

I sent her this article about a male model in Australia who was censored for being too feminine, and she could very much relate to the silliness surrounding the scandal. In fact, here is a letter she wrote to me, which is reprinted here with her permission:

As of now my case can change the laws in NJ if it is heard and accepted by the Supreme Court.

If successful, women will then have the right to go topless anywhere a man can in New Jersey, just like New York. It’s a long shot though, as only 10% of the cases are heard.

After that, I have to appeal to the Federal Court, which has an even smaller chance of being heard. If I am found guilty (as I have been in the past, my first arrest was in NYC in 2004), I have decided not to pay the fines. This will put a warrant out for my arrest. I will turn myself in and go to jail – possibly prison – all for having breasts and not accepting my inequality.

Transgender people, a man changing to a woman with implants, a woman changing to a man with breast reduction/removal, legal or not? Also women who have had mastectomies- no breasts, just scars – is it legal?

There also is the awareness that nudity is not nudity unless you are fully naked, so if I wear pants and am topless I am defined one way and a man another, I get charged as nude and he is left alone to go about his business.

Biologically, our breasts and chests are no different except for a grouping of mammary glands beneath the surface of born females. Some females may not even be born with these if there is a defect, and some men are born with the glands.

If men can have huge breasts and women can have small chests, then it no longer is about the size and shape. A man injected with certain hormones can have man boobs or he could be naturally this way due to higher body fat. If it is no longer about the size and shape, and both genders possess nipples, is it these invisible mammary glands that are an issue? Glands that are invisible to the naked eye and that help feed our next generation?

Phoenix with someone
who loves her unconditionally

Perhaps reviling these glands is a deterrant to breast feeding. Perhaps the politicians are in bed with infant formula corporations. Or maybe their fear is not financially based, but religious, or patriarchal.

For me, it comes down to this: I have a reason above and beyond my own desire to expose my breasts and enjoy the same personal freedom a man does. If we were going to make it legal for one gender to go topless, it should have been in favor of the gender whose breasts are utilitarian in nature  – women.

I am not suggesting that men cover up. The logic of moral sensibilities is fallible and cannot trump the equal protection act and our rights as outlined in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Note that woman in other parts of the world can show their breasts with no hesitation, but what about women in other countries who can’t show their faces, arms, ankles, etc.?

In these cases, the men are free to reveal their faces, arms, ankles, etc., but if a woman does, she is jailed, stoned or killed. Women are not treated equally legally, it is a physical symbol of our inequality for everyone to see all the time, women who don’t cover their face in these places can be killed where in America if you do not cover your breasts you can be put in jail and like me have cops try to break your wrists, rip you apart at your arms, tear and yank your hair, rip your clothes off your body, even though you did not resist or warrant their violent assault.

Taking off your shirt and being top free is NOT violent or offensive.

Anyone who says it is needs a reality check.

My boobies can’t hurt anyone, but I have been hurt. I am presently being criminalized and can be thrown in prison for going topless, something men had to fight to get legalized over 70 years ago.

The message the U.S. sends out to the world is that we can go in and tell you how to be a democracy and have equality, but we are not leading by example because we fail to live by these principles ourselves. It is shameful for us to pretend like we do.

Wish me luck,

You can sign this petition for Topless Equality here. (Ed Note: They are seeking 10,000 signatures, I just signed as the 9,115th person!)

We will most certainly have a Go Topless Day celebration in St. Louis this August, stay tuned! On behalf of women everywhere, I want to thank Phoenix for her courage to fight for what’s right.


himself 2012-01-05 07:03:48

Phoenix Feeley, You Go Girl!

You, too, Kendra. I plan to arrange to join this summer’s Go Topless demonstrations wherever I can.


David Wraith 2012-01-05 13:52:51

Phoenix, you’re awesome! Thank you for all you do.


Lionman 2012-01-07 23:49:47

Good Luck Phoenix – rise up from the ashes of bigotry and sexism. I think nudity, partial or full, should always be optional. Petition signed.


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