Topless Woman Strolls Manhattan

Moira Johnston
Moira Johnston

The weather was lovely in New York City last weekend, and Moira Johnston, 29, took full advantage by strolling the balmy streets of lower Manhattan without a shirt or bra. "It's to raise awareness that it's legal for a woman to be topless anywhere a guy can be without a shirt since 1992 here in New York state," she told Atisha Paulson, a roving photographer for the website racked, who caught up with her near bustling Union Square Park. In 1992, the New York state court of appeals ruled that women could go topless unless they were "engaged in commerce."

With her sweet smile, wedge sandals, a-line skirt, and "Jackie O" shades, Johnston looks more like a hip kindergarten teacher than a radical activist, but female breasts are certainly a politicized part of a woman's body here in the United States. Our culture is obsessed with them-at least 300,000 thousand women a year get breast implants-but, at the same time, they are taboo. Even breastfeeding is suspect unless mom is nursing a baby doll-like infant under a thick blanket, please, as the recent hubbub over the Time Magazine breastfeeding cover attests. Its as if the naked mammary is going to drive men so wild they won't be able to control their impulses.

Which is exactly what I worried about when I first saw Johnston's picture on the Internet. New York City isn't exactly known for its genteel street culture and I wondered if she had been groped-or worse. However, after a couple of weeks of walking around the Village topless, Johnston seems pretty unfazed and at ease although she was detained by the police briefly when parents at a playground complained of her presence nearby. In general, the topless crusader says, "I get a lot of support." Though she adds, "Well, there's mixed reactions, because people aren't used to seeing it in our culture yet."

What do you think of Johnston's topless activism? Let us know in the comments below.