Topless activist Moira Johnston can be seen strolling the streets of the East Village or perusing the veggies at Union Square’s Green Market completely topless. No it is not a crime. In fact, it is completely legal in NYC (since the 1992 ruling) for a woman to bare her breasts. Still, Moira has been (incorrectly) arrested as have others, and she’s taking her activism to places where men can show nips and ladies can’t, like yoga class.
You see, Moira wants to emphasize the point: if guys can go topless in yoga class, why can’t the ladies? And you thought you had a hard time focusing on your mat.
The hubboob all started in January when Johnston decided she wanted to practice yoga topless, at Jivamukti (who, incidentally, got nude for PETA).
Side note: You all remember that totally random “no shirt, no yoga” policy Jiva’s Sharon and David announced, which seemed a little harsh and somewhat bewildering at the time? The new rule stated that “people must wear tops in class and that see-through or overly revealing clothing was discouraged.” Little did we know the topless activist had made a just prior appearance!
Needless to say, Johnston was denied permission to bare her chest and when she went for it anyway, she was booted without a re-entry stamp.
Since then, Johnston’s filed 13 complaints with New York State Division of Human Rights against yoga studios and, according to W+G who interviewed her topless yogi self at the Times Square Solstice event (see above photo), not Bikram Lower East Side nor New York Yoga nor Pure Yoga would let her mammaries breathe freely, to name a few. But those studios count as privately owned institutions and can therefore make their own ruling on toplessness a la Jivamukti. However, Johnston claims “yoga studios should know it’s a civil rights violation.”
“The most ironic thing is that this is the yoga community, and we’re supposed to be transcending gender and celebrating equality,” says Johnston. “I would have thought that this community would embrace it even if it wasn’t legal.”
Ah yes, because, naturally, yogis these days are so progressive and fancy free they’d prefer no top at all to the suppressive sweatwicking wizardry of stretchy boob masking. The 29-year-old activist, who is on the relatively small-medium chest side, it shall be noted (large-breasted women of yoga know why that’s relevant), says that she’s supporting a woman’s choice to go topless and thinks that “every woman should do it on her own terms.”
While we applaud Johnston’s efforts to prove a valid point – that we, as a society and culture, see breasts mostly as sexual or commercial objects (see: public breastfeeding issue, the few female action heroes, every lingerie ad, hip hop video, etc.) – and though topless yoga would certainly surpass skin-tight apparel in the list of reasons men might be suddenly interested in yoga, can we blame yoga studios for asking her to keep her top on? At least for now, boobs are still a distraction and for all intents and purposes a downright discomfort in some compromising positions. Though the march is definitely on and in an ideal world everyone who so chooses could feel the breeze all around our frontal thorax. Salamba breastasana, anyone?
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