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Reasons to Love New York 2014

15.Because Toplessness Is a Right (and a Movement) in New York.

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America has a love-hate relationship with breasts. Images of them are everywhere, and yet women who dare to expose the real thing in public—even to breast-feed—are often treated like they’re breaking the law. So activist Lina Esco made a film, Free the Nipple, which tells the story of a group of topless female crusaders.

“I wanted to shoot in New York because it’s been legal to be topless here since 1992,” Esco says, referring to People v. Ramona Santorelli and Mary Lou Schloss. After seven women were arrested for exposing their breasts in a Rochester park, the New York State Court of Appeals agreed that the charge was “discriminatory on its face since it defines ‘private or intimate parts’ of a woman’s but not a man’s body as including a specific part of the breast.” Basically, if men can show some areola, it shouldn’t be illegal for women to.

But in reality, the NYPD rarely remembers to honor that law—Esco was threatened with arrest her first week of shooting. Fortunately, she managed to dodge cops just long enough to get her exterior shots, including a mad, shirt-free dash across Times Square that she describes as the scariest and most empowering five minutes of her life.

Free the Nipple has gone from a film project to a full-on viral campaign, garnering celebrity supporters like Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus, and Russell Simmons. Earlier this year, in protest of Instagram’s censorship policies, Scout Willis took a casual, nipples-out stroll through the streets of downtown New York to prove a point: You can’t show nipples on Instagram, but you absolutely can in this city.


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