When is a breast just a breast?

Women in Sweden are fighting for the right to go topless.

By Catherine Price
November 20, 2007 7:29PM (UTC)
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Here's the latest news about Swedish women, brought to you by the Local: They want to go topless. Yes, that's right. After two bare-breasted young women were kicked off the premises of a swimming pool when they refused to cover up, a group of women in southern Sweden formed the "Bara Brost" network. (The name means what it sounds like: "Bare Breasts" -- or, as it's more commonly translated in the news, "Just Breasts.")

Perhaps I'm being a litigious American, but at first I assumed that "Just Breasts" was a legal reference. But the Swedish women haven't actually taken the issue to court (at least not yet). Instead, they seem to be encouraging other Swedish women to stir up trouble by jumping into public swimming pools with no tops on -- in two separate incidents, groups of topless women have stormed public pools, breasts bared, and Sweden's Equal Opportunities Ombudsman is supposed to decide later this month whether to take up the women's cause.


This is probably a boon to Sweden's tourism industry, but the women actually have a more serious goal: They want breasts to be treated the same way as men's chests. As Liv Ambjornsson, a spokeswoman for Just Breasts, said to a reporter for a Swedish magazine, "We want our breasts to be as 'normal' and desexualized as men's, so that we too can pull off our shirts at football matches."

I don't mean to speak for all women here, but soccer games do not rank high on my list of places I'd like to go topless. For some, a swimming pool in Sweden might be a less threatening setting, though, and since many countries that are less prudish than America see no problem with women swimming in the nude, perhaps the women have a chance. But as for the idea of desexualizing the breast? I think that battle is going to take more than 14 naked Swedish women in public swimming pools. At least they'll have plenty of male support.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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