Roughly 30 topless women marched from Longfellow Square to Tommy’s Park in Portland on Saturday to protest the taboo of female nudity.
No law prohibits female toplessness in Maine. Police were on hand to ensure that onlookers didn’t cause problems and marchers didn’t cause too big of a disruption. Police reported no problems, but march organizers Cecil Marlique and Ty Macdowell said that several girls had felt uncomfortable when men with cell phones began photographing their breasts and approaching them. “The only issue is that we asked them to get a permit for the march and they didn’t,” said Portland Police Lieutenant Don Krier.
Tracey Rickett, 23, of Gorham, strolled bare-chested through the Portland streets as wide-eyed passers by documented the event with cell phones and video cameras. “I’m here because there’s a social stigma around women showing their breasts but there shouldn’t be. It’s natural and they’re sexy and beautiful,” said Rickett.
One man had climbed a traffic light and others shouted “boobs!” at the top of their lungs. Two men dressed in flowery sundresses nearby held a sign that read “Pants are for pansies.” “We came in dresses because we want to end gender stereotypes and inequalities and we felt like this was the best way to support the female marchers,” said Nickolas Konyer, 21 from Canada, one of the men wearing a sundress.
Several topless women on the back of motorcycles cruised alongside the police and marchers waving their arms in the air.
Andrea Simoneau, a senior history major at UMF, drove two and a half hours to join the topless marchers on the warm spring day. “I came because I want to lift the social stigma around women going topless,” she said.
“It’s just the human body, it’s not something to cover up,” said Xix Seaom, 22, from Sweden. Seaom said female toplessness in Sweden is considered normal and women often go topless on beaches. He admitted that he’d never seen women walking topless in a city before.
Hundreds of men attended the march – some to take off their shirts in solidarity with the female marchers and some to shout, take pictures and gawk.
Kelsea and Casey Dunham came to the march topless with their 4 year-old son who was wearing a shirt. “We brought our son because we want our kids to see that bodies are normal,” said Kelsea.
“Yeah, everybody’s different. They’re just boobies mommy,” chimed in the youngster.
A fully clothed 84 year-old Portland woman who asked to remain anonymous was drawn to the gathering at the end of the march in Tommy’s Park. “I’m curious to see this. I don’t know how I feel about it,” she said. “You always see men without a shirt and never women but maybe this is a little too much,” she said.
Caitlin Taylor and Erica Tenney, both 17 from Portland, posed for pictures in their bras. “We’re underage so we didn’t feel comfortable taking our bras off and we weren’t going to take our shirts off at all but the parade made us really excited,” said Tenney.
“We came to celebrate the cause that girls can go shirtless too. God made us this way. It’s natural; it’s beautiful,” said Taylor.
Tony Rose, a handicapped man from Portland, wheeled up next to the topless women in Tommy’s Park. “It’s about time that women had a revolution of this sort. It’s not a very sexual thing. It’s just a natural thing. It’s great that they can go topless out in public,” he said.
The march organizers Cecil Marlique and Ty MacDowell said in Tommy’s park that they were delighted by the turn out but had mixed feelings about the bystander responses. “I’m sick of the sleazes, but it was what we expected. There are lots of creeps here,” said MacDowell, eyeing the crowd at Tommy’s Park.
Marlique and MacDowell led the group down to the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal and ended the sunny day on the state pier. Small groups of topless women broke off from Tommy’s park and drifted back into the city causing gasps, cheers and stares.
Many of the bystanders thought that the march had something to do with breast cancer. Matt Foley, 36, of Cumberland Foreside, joined the marchers wearing a giant beast cancer awareness box with pink breasts balloons in front. “People that know someone who has died from breast cancer have been signing the back of my box,” said Foley.
Casco Bay Lines operations agent Larry Legere watched all the topless girls and their supporters march by as he wrapped a large pallet for shipment to Peaks Island. “Sure, why not? I don’t think it hurts anybody. I saw a lot of pink ribbons so I guess this has something to do with breast cancer,” he said.
As she walked back up Congress street bare-chested, Lynn Newbegin, 41 of Concord, New Hampshire, had to ask for directions several times. “I came just for this, I’ve never been to Portland before, but I like it. The only negative things I heard today were from other women, comments like ‘it’s just lesbians’. But I’m not gay, I’m here because I really support women’s right to be topless,” she said.