Gender Equality Bares Its Chest For A Topless Summer

For years, it’s been legal for women to go au natural (from the waist up) in New York. But the NYPD’s level of tolerance for this court-protected behavior has been less than stellar. This year, they’ve pledged to step up their efforts to not enforce a non-existent code of decency.

Gender Equality Bares Its Chest For A Topless Summer
Moira Johnston by Paul Arps via Flickr

Climate change will make for increasingly toasty (and deadly) summers in New York City (especially since carbon dioxide is entering the atmosphere faster than ever.) But there’s good news for half of the population who may have once felt concered about their rights to go topless in the city’s parks in summers past. This year, the NYPD’s 34,000 officers have been ordered to no longer arrest women who show their breasts in public.


The New York Times reports that the message was delivered to the city’s police squad this February. The message is more of a reminder than a new order: In the past, police have arrested women for showing their breasts in public, even though a New York state court decided more than 20 years ago that the activity is just as legal for a woman as it is for a man.

The Times cites a memo distributed among police saying:

“Even if the topless display draws a lot of attention, officers are to ‘give a lawful order to disperse the entire crowd and take enforcement action’ against those who do not comply, the memo says. ‘Whether the individuals are clothed is not a factor in making a determination about whether the above-mentioned crowd conditions exist.’ “

Sounds like New Yorkers can expect more naked Occupiers in coming months? Jokes aside, the decision’s an important one for gender equality in the city. As PolicyMic’s Hannah Ridge writes,

Though bare-breasted women might shock the sensibilities of some in the public, it is encouraging to see the police responding positively to gender bias, even on such a seemingly small scale. After all, no one thinks twice about a man shirtless on a summer day. However, the female nipple or chest is still considered “lewd.” By reminding its officers of this, the NYPD is publicly declaring that it will no longer perpetuate unconstitutional gender discrimination, a standard to which all law enforcement should be held and a decision for which it should be applauded.

Here’s to a topless summer for everyone.

About the author

Zak Stone is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor of Playboy Digital. His writing has appeared in,, Los Angeles, The Utne Reader, GOOD, and elsewhere.