It’s “Go Topless Day” on August 25th, the day before “Women’s Equality Day” in the United States, and I‘ve been wondering how many ladies in my hometown of Kelowna will ditch their shirts in celebration. Not many is my guess.

I’ve long been fascinated with our continent’s puritanical views on nudity, and the double standard we have when it comes to seeing the chest of a woman in comparison to a man. But isn’t our reaction to the former due to a societal conditioning of what’s acceptable and what’s not?

“We’re all bare-naked under our clothes,” my dad used to say whenever I groaned, after catching an unexpected glimpse of him in the buff when I was a teen.

My father was what I like to describe as a “nude in peep’s clothing,” only wearing them to appease the rest of us who didn’t want to see his dangly bits on display. If he’d been on his own, and the temperature was suitable, I’m sure he would have lived quite comfortably with nothing on but his birthday suit.

As accommodating as he was to his prudish family, he still managed to get in some naked time on occasion, taking skinny dips in the pool when our friends weren’t around, and relaxing at the nude beach in Vancouver.  

I can’t remember if he took our family to Wreck Beach frequently or just a couple of times – and I’m not going to ask him because he’ll suspect that I’m writing about his nudist tendencies again – but I remember how shocked my little brother and I were to see all the naked bodies walking around.

After our initial discomfort, though, it didn’t even faze us later in the day.

Similarly, I was initially shocked when I went to my high school friend’s house and encountered her mother and aunt sunbathing topless in the backyard. At first I didn’t know what to do with my eyeballs, but after some time, it was no big deal.

“Breasts should be a big deal,” one of my male friends protested when I told him that story. “When I was in Europe I saw them all over the beaches and they became a bore. Who would want that?”

I understood his point, but to me, I think it should be an individual’s choice. Wherever a man can be topless, I think a woman should be able to go topless as well, if that’s what she wants to do.

The idea behind the Go Topless movement is to promote gender equality. Events on its special day are planned all over the U.S., and other countries as well, encouraging women to bare their chests in public, and suggesting men cover theirs up with bras or bikinis to highlight the double standard. 

It was once a criminal act for a woman’s nipples to be seen in public. Now, in most states, with the exception of Utah, Indiana and Tennessee, it’s either perfectly legal, or the laws are ambiguous like they are in most of the provinces in Canada.  

Curious to know what would happen if I walked the streets topless in Kelowna, I went to City Hall and asked. Mayor Walter Gray said people might call the police, thinking it’s illegal, but it’s not.

It was just the answer I was hoping for. Not because I have any desire or intention of baring my breasts in public. I don’t. But I do appreciate knowing that I could legally do it if I wanted to. In some countries women would be stoned to death for such a “crime.” I am eternally grateful to be living here, and not there.

I am also extremely proud of the continued efforts that men and women make towards gender equality –  and human equality too.

To see my “revealing” interview with the mayor of Kelowna, click below. 

UPDATE: Melody Anne Kaiser is inviting gender equality supporters, male and female, to a Go Topless Day in Kelowna at Mushroom Beach on Sunday, August 25th. It is the beach beside City Park but on the left side of the bridge… the one when you go under the walking path and through the walking tunnel that goes under the bridge from City Park.

She will be there at 2pm, but welcomes people to come at their own convenience.  She said next year she’ll plan ahead and get these ridiculous nipple covers, since it’s really the nipple that’s the bit problem in our society. At other “Go Topless Day” events, men will cover up their chests with bras, bikinis or nipple covers and women will bare their chests to highlight the double standard. This can be done today, but it’s not necessary.