Asheville resident Soni Pitts responds to the open letter from city council:

An open letter from the Asheville City Council to tourists and other visitors states that “As citizens of Asheville and individual members of Asheville City Council, we do not endorse this conduct. We believe that it does nothing to help our community, and we recognize that it disappoints and embarrasses many of our citizens and visitors. We wish it were not happening.”

I’m not entirely sure what specific aspect the protesters’ conduct it is they don’t endorse–the legal right of women to go topless in public, or the legal right of citizens to assemble for the purpose of expressing their views. But my feeling is that, like many others have expressed, the impetus behind the letter is a feeling that “Hey, you got your law. Going topless is legal. Why do you have to make such a big deal out of it by creating an event to draw attention to your bare breasts? Wasn’t your whole point that it’s not a big deal?”

If this refrain sounds familiar, it should. It’s exactly the sort of personal-discomfort-based complaint you hear around Gay Pride and similar events. “Yeah. You’re gay and proud of it. We get it. We made homosexual activity legal. Why do you have to make such a big deal out of it by creating an event to draw attention to your gayness? Wasn’t your whole point that being gay isn’t a big deal?”

And yet, if the City Council were to publish an open letter stating that Gay Pride parades disappoint and embarrass many of our citizens and visitors (as is the case), and that they wished it wasn’t happening, there’d be rioting in the streets.

But the members of our council would never think of doing such a thing. And the reason why is the reason why the topless rally is so important. Being openly or even flamboyantly gay is no longer something that surprises or shocks most of us as a community. Sure, some individuals still disapprove. But our community as a whole has pretty well moved from shock and outrage at the sight of two guys holding hands to something approaching, “Yeah, whatever.”

The same cannot be said for women going topless. Yes, it’s legal. But it’s still extremely controversial, disruptive and in some cases dangerous to take advantage of the right because, quite simply, our community hasn’t gotten acclimated to the idea or the reality of naked female breasts just yet.

And that’s the service a rally such as this provides: Acclimation. When the day comes that I can walk around town topless and inspire no more comment than the topless guy next to me, then the rally will no longer serve a purpose in the civil discourse (although, like Pride parades, it will still be good fun).

Until that time, we need the rally to shock, to amuse, to inflame passions (of all types), until the community gets those emotions well and truly out of its system. This is a necessary process for societal change, and one we should neither shortchange nor shy away from out of personal discomfort. Enforcing change on an unready society in a “suck it up, sweetie” attitude just results in anger, unrest and, often, violence toward those standing on their rights.

The legality and social acceptance of social change almost always progress out of step. The law comes first and social acceptance of the activities that law enables is dragged along behind it, often quite literally kicking and screaming. This is the point–and the value–of Asheville’s topless rally. And the City Council should be ashamed for taking the stance they have.

If nothing else, Asheville is renowned for a friendly stance on civil rights and it’s welcoming attitude toward those asserting their rights. That they would take a public stand against this particular expression of legal, but still socially unaccepted, behavior speaks more to their own discomfort with naked female breasts than to any “embarrassing behavior” the rally represents.


Soni Pitts is a professional writer, editor and web geek with over a decade of experience producing content, consulting and training in the fields of personal development, social networking and health and wellness.

20 Comments

  1. The worst thing I saw on the news at the rally was all the old men sitting around with shit eating grins. Not to say that 99% of those women got smacked with an Ugly Tree at some point in their life.

  2. please let me know when “love my junk” will be downtown so I can steer clear that weekend! 🙂

  3. Did Soni go to last year’s rally?

  4. Idianippolous says:

    It is kind of funny that the hippies of Ashevile would be banging the djembes of freedom and equality for a movement started by Rael(who believes we were created by aliens), at an event sponsored by Sparkles the clown.

  5. Idianippolous says:

    Anyone who thinks this rally is about equality is a misinformed moron. ITS FUCKING LEGAL YOU DUMBASSES!

  6. The letter writer fails to comprehend how this whole Topless Rally nonsense erodes the real work that women have sacrificed for, such as equal pay, voting rights, etc. By reducing all of women’s civil rights to a sexual shock & awe approach while making Asheville a laughing stock you insult real women who actually take themselves seriously, raise families, work hard to operate their own business, etc. Who gives a crap what city council thinks. They don’t speak for all women or Asheville. Just as Soni Pitts or the weirdo doctor guy from Alabama whose putting this circus on in the first place don’t speak for all women. If you had a lick of common sense you’d realize you will be taken far more seriously clothed than unclothed. What a joke.

    • When women started wearing pants, people thought it was silly, even immoral (based on Deut 22:5). I think that equal dress has a huge impact on the way society views women, even if that effect can be hard to measure.

  7. D. Jordan Knight says:

    Breasts are not sexual organs. Not the breasts of men, nor the breasts of women. They never were. They never will be. To compare a woman’s breasts to a man’s penis is ridiculous — unless, of course, you have such little control over your penis that the sight of women’s breasts fills you will uncontrollable lust. But then, that speaks more to the character of the penis than that of naked breasts.

    It is not that a woman’s breasts are any more or less sexual than a man’s bare chest. It is that by and large, women do not marginalize men as sexual objects and they are mature enough not to be driven into a sexual frenzy by the sight of naked breasts.

    And that, I believe is the problem here. It isn’t that naked breasts are shocking, it is that there are those men (not all, of course, but many) who fear that their penises will betray them and expose their own adolescent lack of control.

    • LoveMyJunk says:

      If women’s breast did not incite lust in a man there would be no market for push-up bras.

      • Idianippolous says:

        Or implants.

      • John Mercado says:

        If a womens face was not considered attractive to men; would the cosmetic industry go broke? The sexist part of a women is her face and yet Western countries allow its exposer. If male sexuality were to end, then so would the god of many people, as it only has to do with one taboo… no sexuality and god is dead. Sad if you think about it. A nation that can start a war over an overt lie, spend a trillion dollars and not worry about it, maybe needs to switch gods.

  8. Fine letter in response to the city council’s very misguided and thinly veiled attack against women. Sure, it makes great sense to say you have to exercise your right by not exercising it.

    Meanwhile, you might turn your attention to Dr. Snarl Gunpowder, who has it all nicely rigged so that he can send his cronies to the rally to get photos to add to his private collection, all the while HImself playing “holier than thou.” He also gets his agents provocateurs to incite illegal acts, while claiming he had nothing to do with it.

    Give him credit for learning from the misogynist, barbaric totalitarian thugs he so selflessly resembles.

  9. mentisflux says:

    LoveMyJunk: Apparently your penis is atop your shoulders, so just take your hat off.

    A penis is not equivalent to a chest. The issue is EQUALITY. Their are plenty of ugly fat guys WITH BREASTS who are legally able to strut their stuff in front of my ever-so-sensitive children.

    If any effort is made to change the existing exposure laws, the law should apply to both sexes equally.

  10. I think the penis is already pretty obviously showing.

  11. NoNameGiven says:

    LoveMyJunk:

    Actually that is a good reason for everyone to attend at least one Burning Man festival. There is something free about nudity becoming “normal” at least there, and for that week in the desert. Not to say going around downtown should be that way, but still – there is a bit of up-tightness about nudity being seen outside of say… a shower or a locker room that is almost overkill. Perhaps people need to be shocked, just a bit – for one or two hours a year until people relax.

  12. LoveMyJunk says:

    I really want to walk around downtown with my penis hanging out, I know it may be shocking at first but I feel that it is my right and I really don’t care what other people think or if it may offend them because I’m a little narcissistic that way.

    If I can get other like minded gentlemen to have a rally so we can shock the fine folk of Asheville in to submission, then all fellas can be free to “hang-out” in Asheville.

    Gay, straight or just homeless, dirty and weird, there will be lots & lots penis showing in Asheville. Then once I have proved my point and made government and the average citizen numb to the sight of my penis and only when I can walk down Broadway in front of children and the religious with out fear of prosecution I will put my penis back where it belongs.

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