France used to pride itself on the topless women prancing around on its shores. But a growing number of gals between the ages of 18 and 30 are against this national pastime. Blame the economy: Who has money to waste on two pieces of a bathing suit when only one will be worn? Also blame modern feminism. During women's lib in the sixties and seventies, going topless was a sign of "sexual liberation and a return to nature," Christophe Granger writes in his new book, Les Corps d'été. It was a way for women to be just like men. But the younger generation's feminist goals don't revolve around the right to dress the same as men on a beach, but attaining equal pay in the workplace and work-family balance.
In a recent poll, 24 percent of women said toplessness on beaches perturbs them. France is taking legal action against topless tanners. At the artificial beach Paris Plages, topless ladies can be punished with a fine.
But there is a "militant" group of young feminists who are fighting for their topless rights.
"My body, if I want, when I want" is one of the slogans they have borrowed from the 1970s struggle. Two months ago, when a group of them removed their tops and dived in to Les Halles public pool in the centre of Paris in a commando action, pool assistants tried in vain to get them to cover up.
Previous topless commando raids on public pools have seen police intervene to stop them.
They refuse to accept that women's and men's bodies are treated differently. And maybe they have a point, sort of. We have no idea how the (straight) male brain works, but we know plenty of women who will shamelessly check out a hot shirtless guy with nice pecs. In any case, the French media insists most of the women going topless in that country these days are over 60.
France mourns the death of topless sunbathing [Guardian UK]