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Women, and Men, Doff Their Shirts Around the World for ‘Go Topless Day’

NYC may remove Times Square walkways to stop topless women 1:58

Thousands of people paraded shirt-free around the world Sunday to push for laws that would allow women to go topless in public.

"It's absurd that someone has judged topless women as obscene, and yet topless men is considered normal in our culture," said Carolyn Estes, a participant in Sunday's parade in Austin, Texas.

"We just abhor the double standard," Estes told NBC station KXAN of Austin. "We are practicing our rights. We think everyone should try it — it's a lot of fun."

The parades in at least 60 cities around the world took place amid a debate over New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to remove topless and "painted" women from Times Square, whom he calls nuisances even though toplessness is legal in New York.

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But the parades have actually been going on a lot longer. It is at least the seventh year the gatherings have been put on under the slogan Free the Nipple.

Image: Topless parade in New York
People participate Sunday in the Go Topless Day Parade in New York City. Getty Images

Sunday's events were coed affairs, with hundreds of men joining in in many cities, including New York, Paris, Montreal and Seoul, South Korea. Women were encouraged to wear pasties in cities where female toplessness remains illegal.

"We want to promote equal topless rights for women as well as men," said Kelly Busch, who organized a topless parade at Overton Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

"Anywhere where it is OK for men to go topless, we would like for women to go topless," Busch told NBC station WMC of Memphis.

But not everybody approved of the display.

"My two children right now are staring at a set of boobs, which is very inappropriate," Jaclyn Gardner told New England Cable News at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire.

"That's just the way society is: Women are supposed to cover themselves. They're supposed to stay that way," Gardner said. "My boys aren't supposed to see that before a certain age."

The Go Topless group — organized by the Raëlian religion, which posits that humanity was created by extraterrestrials — said it puts on the parades even in cities where toplessness is already legal to encourage women to overcome their reluctance to go natural even if they're not breaking the law.

"A hundred years ago, though women had just earned the right to vote, relatively few actually did because of their conditioning," the group said. "It took a lot of encouragement for them to feel comfortable voting. It is the same process for their topless right."