The earliest years of my life were spent on the beaches of Sydney, Australia, where toplessness—for women as well as men—was the norm. I didn't wear a swimsuit (except for cute photos) until I lived in the United States, and only then when I was at other people's pools. It seemed silly to me—and to my family—to put a child in a swimsuit. So, probably more than most, I don't really have a problem with nudity, nor do I sexualize it. Naked=naked in my mind, not naked=sex. In the U.S. I often feel like I'm in the minority with this POV.

Fast-forward to 2013 and it's not uncommon to see even baby girls in bikinis, which is just SO weird and much creepier than a naked child (or, if need be, a swimming-diapered baby) if you ask me. 

Also in 2013, we see heated battles about breast-feeding in public, photography projects about women's body acceptance, 'baby bump' watches in the tabloids, community assessments of how fast women get their 'pre-baby bodies' back, plus-size fashionistas creating blogs and fashion brands, and specific rules being enacted nationwide about what women can and cannot do with their bodies once pregnant. Needless to say, there is plenty of energy focused on women's bodies these days, and everyone seems to have an opinion about any one of these issues. This is not to say that men don't have body-image pressures and questions too, but I don't know of any other time since I've been alive that women's bodies have been so talked about and so scrutinized. 

So to rollerblade across the Brooklyn bridge topless takes a significant quantity of guts and the ability to shrug off others' opinions. Which Elizabeth Siematowski (founder of ToplessBlading) has in spades. An avid rollerblader who wants to bring recognition and appreciation back to the sport, and a woman who, well, likes to go without a shirt, she recently put her beliefs into action and has been taking advantage of the New York State rule that makes it fully legal for women, as well as men, to go topless in public places. Her brave ride wasn't about sex, it was explicitly about freedom. 

After her initial fear of making an idiot of herself, and attracting negative attention, she felt an ultimate sense of freedom, one that men take for granted: "I was topless. It was actually an exhilarating, freeing feeling — the kind you get when you slip into the water for the first skinny dip of the season. I felt pure happiness and if my boobs had a voice, they would most likely be saying, “Yes, fresh air” as the wind coated me like the lingering fog on a few distant buildings. The air felt heavy as I breathed, but my body felt light and alive." 

As she continued her journey over the bridge, she realized, with some astonishment, that nobody really cared. She was, except for some positive support from other women, roundly ignored. 

She concludes, "It’s not so much about empowerment vs. degradation or right vs. wrong. It’s about having the choice to embrace my body the way I choose to."

There's a part of me that wonders—if women went topless when they felt like it, as men often do (and like men, some women wouldn't ever feel comfortable baring it all, sure), maybe some of the body craziness aimed at women would abate. Maybe breast-feeding in public wouldn't be a big deal. If breasts were everyday things, desexualized, then maybe we would all be more comfortable with out bodies, as perfect—or imperfect—as they are. 

Related on MNN: 

How to be happy without the perfect body

'Beautiful Body' book project aims to show diversity of women's bodies

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