Topless rally in Pittsburgh likely to not be pulled off easily
Topless women and bikini-clad men — these are the faces, or chests, the organizers of GoTopless.org hope will fight injustices plaguing gender equality almost 93 years after women gained the right to vote.
The unorthodox group plans to protest, in honor of Women's Equality Day, from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, marching from outside the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh at Commonwealth Place, Downtown, to nearby Point State Park.
Donna Newman, a national spokeswoman for the group, said the stunt — in 50 cities worldwide — feels less reactionary every year.
“Some people might think this is a silly protest, but we need to start somewhere,” Newman said. “There is no equal right less important than the other. I'm not saying you should walk through the grocery store without your top on, but if it's legal for men, it should be legal for women, too.”
Pittsburgh has yet to issue a permit for the march, according to Marissa Doyle, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Public Safety Director Mike Huss said the group doesn't appear on his most recent list of applications, adding that he doubts state law would allow such a march. Huss planned to discuss the situation with law enforcement officials.
“We do allow, for instance, some protests without a permit,” he said. “It has to do with freedom of speech, so we allow it. I have to look, but it doesn't seem like we'll be able to allow this.”
Pennsylvania law defines indecent exposure as displaying one's genitals in any place where other persons are present and the behavior is likely to offend, affront or alarm.
GoTopless leaders cite as just cause the Constitution, which provides for equal protection and gender equality under the 14th Amendment. In cities that ban toplessness, the group's leaders suggest revealing clothing for women and bras and bikini tops for men.
Bruce Ledewitz, professor of law at Duquesne University, called the argument “perfectly logical.”
“The issue has come up before,” Ledewitz said. “So far, the government has been able to make the argument that going topless isn't something you can argue under equal protection. If I were challenging this, I wouldn't do it under the 14th Amendment — I'd do it under the state's (Equal Rights Amendment). I think they'd have an actual shot.”
Like GoTopless.org, Strong Women, Strong Girls, a Pittsburgh organization that provides gender-specific programming for elementary-aged girls, was started in 2007.
“Of course, I fully support equal rights for women,” Executive Director Amy Parker said. “But I personally don't know what taking my shirt off would do to move the ball forward on that.”
Pat Ulbrich, director of In Sisterhood: The Women's Movement in Pittsburgh, echoed Parker's initial skepticism.
“When I was in my teens, I would've identified with this, but, at my age, equal rights for toplessness is not the issue,” Ulbrich said. “Maybe it's a starting point for these women, but hopefully, they will expand their horizons toward weightier injustices like unequal pay or how few women we have elected to political office.”
In Sisterhood, a multimedia retrospective on women's history in Pittsburgh, is slated for release this year. In celebration, Ulbrich will help host a reception and fundraiser at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 at BE Galleries in Lawrenceville, also to mark Women's Equality Day.
Newman said beginning conversations is “exactly the point.”
“We want women to examine how they feel about all women's issues,” she said. “From this, maybe they'll look to the workplace, or how they run their homes. We're a springboard for any rule or law women feel isn't represented by their own ideals.”
Megan Harris is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412- 388-5815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pew Research Center poll shows most Americans take gun rights over control
- Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike share program, won’t require helmets
- Trade Institute of Pittsburgh helps rebuild lives of ex-convicts
- Tree giveaway kicks off Earth Week in Pittsburgh
- Deputies arrest couple, seize 45 bricks of heroin in Penn Hills
- Police confiscated cellphone of driver who struck 7-year-old girl Thursday
- Pittsburgh pair plans rare trip to Iran for American classical musicians
- 2 Georgia men charged in Pittsburgh jury duty scam
- Heroin overdoses kill two in Pittsburgh area; others revived with Narcan
- Sto-Rox teachers union upset about possibility of Propel charter school opening in district building
- Now debt-free, August Wilson Center to offer bookings again