Feminism / Literature / Politics

Get Yer Tits Out, Get Yer Tits Out, Get Yer Tits Out Fer The…Classics?

Topless book clubThis afternoon, I spent a wildly entertaining hour discovering yet another reason why I wish I lived in New York. You probably haven’t heard of the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society (not the catchiest moniker in the world, I’ll admit) but its members are currently busy reclaiming public parks and gardens for literature worshiping goddesses all across the city. As you’ve probably guessed from its rather unambiguous title, the most exciting thing about this book club isn’t the obligatory tea and biscuits.

It’s a stone cold fact that there are very few countries in the world where it is against the law for a woman to be topless in public. It’s absolutely true – if you Google public decency laws in the United Kingdom, you’ll find precious little to support the notion that the act of being nude in public is illegal at all. According to UK law, you can walk naked down any public street that you like and if nobody reports the incident as causing offence, it’s as legal as eating a sandwich on the underground or reading Twilight at a bus stop – more is the pity. I’d rather watch a mile long parade of nude pensioners waving their wares in public than read such guff, but we’re all entitled to a guilty pleasure or three.

The ladies of New York have it especially good – the law in their city clearly states that anywhere that men have the right to be topless, women do too. This is precisely what the Outdoor Co-Ed Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society (OCPFAS, for short) is designed to celebrate – books and boobs. It’s much like any other book club, where members recommend titles and discuss their experiences in a sociable group environment. The only difference is that these ladies like to take in their literature with a little bit of sunshine and fresh air too.

XXXXXXXXxxCoed1The summer is almost upon us, temperatures are rising and the streets will soon be full of women tugging at uncomfortable shirts and bras – women who have been led to believe that their breasts are an offence to the law. The members of OCPFAS, however, regularly take their books and their literary discussions to public parks and gardens when it gets hot outside – there, they exercise their legal right to go topless. It’s been going a lot better than you’d think, but perhaps that has something to do with the location itself – you’d have to try extremely hard to shock a hardened New Yorker these days.

The OCPFAS is keen to point out that only a small handful of people have ever directly reacted to the sight of a group of topless ladies, with their noses buried in On The Road. The vast majority of these people have exhibited nothing more than a friendly curiosity – they ask questions, they praise, they support. They almost never condemn, which is why New York must surely be one of the best places on the planet to be a breasty book lover with a thirst for the outdoors. The members of the OCPFAS don’t approach non-members whilst topless, they don’t deliberately plant their boobs in the busiest section of a park or garden and they don’t use their bodies to intimidate.

If they are met with an aggressive response, they simply remind said aggressor of their legal rights. On the surface, it’s all a bit of fun – it’s a group of strong, intelligent women expressing themselves in a way that’s enjoyable for them too. At heart, it’s a far more powerful thing. The OCPFAS strikes a blow for every little girl who’s watched her brothers go topless in summer, only to be told that she can’t join them. It’s a clarion cry for nursing mothers who’ve been made to feel like the mere flash of bare nipple is a criminal act. It’s an aide memoire for every woman who’s been needled into forgetting that there’s nothing shameful (or illegal) about breasts.XXXXXXXXXXxcoed4

I’m not suggesting that we all whip off our tops, pick up a copy of Lord Of The Flies and head out to the nearest public park. It takes a special kind of woman to defy the deeply misogynistic notions of public decency that still exist in western societies. In a perfect world, there would be no fear whatsoever involved in stretching out, bare breasted, beneath the sun with a good book. There would be no fear involved, because there’s no threat involved. To be honest, I can’t think of anything better – a tattered copy of 1984, a messy homemade mojito and an all over tan.

It only makes me wish I still had a garden – after reading about the bold and beautiful ladies of the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, I’ve got a sudden urge to slip into my birthday suit and really start appreciating the kiss of a cool summer breeze on cooped up skin. Now, where’s that suntan lotion…

For more information on the Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society, click here to visit the official blog – or you can read about what the Guardian and the Huffington Post have to say about these bare breasted city belles.

 

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