Protesters: ‘The female body is not a spectacle’

Protesters: ‘The female body is not a spectacle’

Topless women attract the attention of bystanders, April 30, 2010, in Farmington, Maine. A group of women planning a topless protest for Saturday in Charleston say the event will go on despite the City of Charleston’s objections.

After the Charleston mayor accused them of planning a “naked spectacle” and asked them to reschedule, a group of women planning a topless protest for Saturday in Charleston responded that they are “not ashamed of [their] natural form.”

Organizers of the “Free the Nip Top Freedom Rally” say they are marching “for topless equality and the normalization of the female body.” They have said they want to defy the expectation that women must wear shirts and bras, lest other people become aroused or offended. Participants plan to show their support in different ways — by going topless and/or braless, using body paint or participating fully clothed.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones on Wednesday asked the women to hold the protest on a different day, accusing them of planning “a naked spectacle” and “seeking to parade naked in front of young children.” Several FestivALL children’s events are planned for Saturday.

Organizers had originally planned to march down Capitol Street at 5 p.m. on Saturday and end at Haddad Riverfront Park. They had already agreed to march on Summers Street or Court Street, instead, to accommodate the city.

Wednesday evening, about six people met to make posters and other supples. Late Wednesday, Sarah Starks, one of the organizers, sent a response. They will not reschedule the event for a different date, but did reschedule the time.

Organizers say, “We are not ashamed of our natural form” and “the female body is not a spectacle.”

Organizers say they plan to march on Summers Street at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. They plan to meet at Davis Park and then “reveal as a group,” according to a Facebook post. Starks said she estimates about 100 people will attend, but cautioned that it’s “hard to tell.”

“We are marching to demonstrate that our breasts are not innately sexual,” the statement continued. “Our bodies are not objects. If a man is respected in a natural topless state, so should be a woman. The female chest is no more nor less sexual than the male chest. The only difference between the two sexes’ breasts is that female breasts sometimes feed our offspring. And if our breasts were not so sexualized, we would not feel shame in the natural act of feeding our children in public. We would not be shamed by strangers for feeding our children.”

“We would not be shamed by strangers for dressing to our comfort level. We would not be shamed for our choice of attire and blamed for being victims of sexual assault. We are not ashamed of the female form. It is time to change the narrative surrounding the female breast.”

Jones had said his office was inundated with complaints “from folks that are going to have children downtown.”

“They don’t think it would be in the best interest of everybody concerned to have a bunch of naked women parading through Summers Street with all these kids, and there will be a lot of children because of the library event,” he had said.

Organizers said that, as parents, they “respectfully disagree with other parents who are raising their daughters to be ashamed of their bodies and their sons to sexualize the female body. But we cannot in good [conscience] allow our beliefs to keep families from enjoying the events tirelessly planned by amazing and hardworking organizers with FestivALL.”

“That is why we are pushing back the time of our rally past the end of the children’s events on Capitol Street. We urge naysayers to come hear what we have to say with an open mind.”

West Virginia’s indecent-exposure law does not prohibit women from exposing their breasts. City Attorney Paul Ellis has also said he does not interpret the city’s indecent-exposure code to prohibit women from going topless.

Reach Erin Beck at, 304-348-5163, or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.

Funerals for Sunday, October 13, 2019

Adams, Tammy - 2 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Averson, Louie - 2 p.m., Armstrong Funeral Home, Whitesville.

Durst, Betty - 3 p.m., Waybright Funeral Home, Ripley.

Elkins, Norwood - 2 p.m., Spencer Chapel, Hewett.

Farley, Richard - 2 p.m., Henson & Kitchen Mortuary, Huntington.

Hatten, Joseph - 1 p.m., Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Light, David - 2 p.m., O’Dell Funeral Home, Montgomery.

Samples, Romie - 2 p.m., The Family Cemetery, Procious.

Williamson, Hi - 11 a.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.