About 100 women doffed their shirts Sunday for a march through midtown Manhattan calling for equality between the genders and the destigmatization of women who go topless in public. Dozens of men joined them in protest, also baring their chests.
The event -- part of International GoTopless Day -- was independent of but coincided with the controversy of topless women wearing body paint and posing for photos in exchange for tips in Times Square. Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton are weighing measures to regulate so-called desnudas and costumed characters who approach tourists.
"Free your breasts! Free your mind!" read a card that demonstrators distributed Sunday, noting that Women's Equality Day is Wednesday.ColumnO'Reilly: Naked women in Times Square? Marvelous!
"Obscene because of you," read one message painted on a topless march participant.
Going topless is legal in New York City but protesters said they want bare breasts normalized so mothers can breast-feed in public without shame and young girls can be less prone to body dysmorphia.
"If men can do it, then women can do it," Nickii Raynor, 18, of Shoreham said of toplessness. "It should be all or nothing," she added of the prospect of driving out chest-baring female buskers from Times Square but not men such as the Naked Cowboy, a shirtless musician.
The eighth annual New York City event was held in conjunction with topless demonstrations in 60 cities worldwide. In years past, topless advocates in New York City have held a rally; this was the first march.
De Blasio and Bratton have suggested removing Times Square's pedestrian plazas to keep tip-seekers from congregating there. Opponents of the mostly nude buskers have said they create an environment that is not family friendly.
The topless protest drew hundreds of oglers, many of them camera-wielding men.
"I hope you're here for equal rights and not taking perverted pictures of me," Phoenix Feeley, an East Village activist, told a male-dominated crowd that had gathered in Bryant Park.
Bratton, in a radio interview that aired Sunday, said the city and state are looking into legal solutions to rein in Times Square tip-seekers.
"What we have are nuisance issues with these women and with the costumed characters," Bratton told 970-AM host John Catsimatidis. "And we are trying to find ways within our laws . . . to deal with those among the population who are potentially harassing -- or in some way, intimidating -- people who are only in the square for family purposes."
City officials should regulate desnudas as buskers, but "the issue should have nothing to do with the fact that they're topless," Feeley said.
"Eventually, this will be normalized," Rachel Aliendro, 19, of Brentwood said of breast-baring, noting that topless men in public once were taboo.
David Kaplan, 51, of Glen Cove, has participated in Go-Topless Day activities for seven years. Some men wore bikini tops or bras to highlight the double-standard; Kaplan wore no shirt.
"Women deserve equal rights," he said, adding that the women in Times Square were a separate issue. "They shouldn't be asking for money," he said.