GET OUT: Equal exposure in the Equality State

By on August 27, 2014

Carly Mitchell celebrates Go Topless Protest Day in Jackson Hole. Photo: Alexander Herring.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – An ordinance in Jackson Hole prohibits people over the age of 12 from showing  “the human female breast” in public unless they are breastfeeding.

I’ve been testing this out in California, where it’s legal for women to be topless in public. Even so, I was recently kicked out of my climbing gym. Apparently, the “no shirt, no service” policy applied only to females that day. Then I had an encounter with the police, who were called in to deal with my breasts as if they were two dangerous public enemies. It seems society perceives breasts as sexual objects – harmful to children’s eyes and psychological well-being, and harmful to myself, provoking sexual aggression from men.

In honor of gender equality and the 14th amendment, this past Saturday was Go Topless Protest Day. I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to celebrate my body sovereignty in the Equality State.

I moseyed over to the town square with two supportive friends and my concerned mom. Most folks just gave a quick double take. One family looked aghast, and a few people snapped photos with their iphones, but many smiled and pointed their thumbs in the air.

It didn’t faze me like it did the first time I went top-free in public. My inhibition is nearly gone. Like anything, it just takes practice.

The air and light kissing my skin was delicious, but not nearly as sweet as the sense of freedom as I claimed my body and mind as my very own, to do with as I please in public or private.

Two cops walked by but didn’t see me. I didn’t have a problem facing them; they looked friendly enough. But I risked being imprisoned, fined and subsequently registered as a sex offender in Jackson Hole. These were some of the potential consequences just for showing my breasts in public, which men – with larger breasts than mine – are allowed to do without penalty.

“What about the children!” you ask. There is no scientific evidence indicating exposure to breasts is harmful to children. Breasts nurture and feed babies. Guns and bombs hurt children, not breasts. The real indecent exposure is exposing children to archaic concepts of the female form as an object, not a human being, which should be controlled through shame and mandatory veiling.

Mandatory covering of breasts sends a clear message to girls that their bodies are not their own property. How can she protect, love and enjoy her life if she doesn’t even think she’s entitled to own it? Boys receive the message that if a girl’s body is devalued and not even under her own control, then maybe he can control it. These laws and perceptions enforcing the gender binary breed a culture of sexual inequality and disconnection.

I unveil my breasts because through constant exposure my pectorals become as garden-variety as ankles – once considered wholly indecent in Victorian times. I unveil my skin for I am so much more than a body assigned female at birth. Sovereignty over one’s mind and body is the most basic human right one can practice having. But it does takes practice.

About Carly Mitchell


  1. JH Native

    August 27, 2014 at 9:47 am

    You go girl! As a woman I appreciate your boldness! I may do the same 🙂

    ~JH Native

  2. Carly Mitchell

    August 27, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I hope you do try it! I highly recommend it while riding a bike. It’s as close as I’ve ever come to the sensation of flying. 🙂

  3. anonyholic II

    August 27, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Mary, Judd, Jake, — Srsly?

  4. Carly Mitchell

    August 27, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Seriously, every Mary I’ve talked to about this has given me their stamp of approval.

  5. Mg

    August 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Yes, anoyholic, totally. This (gender issues) is mainstream stuff in other cities and protests are taking place all over the country; and here in our little whitewashed Jackson Hole, this is just not taken seriously. Get with the program! BTW, Carly, you don’t need our “approval” just our support.

  6. JH Native

    August 27, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Amen, MG!! I think all of us women should in town should do it!

  7. Carly Mitchell

    August 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you Mg and JH Native. Your support is wonderful to have! If you all want to have a topless critical mass bike ride through town, or just a topless potluck picnic in the town square, then let’s organize. I’m game.

  8. Selective service too

    August 27, 2014 at 6:49 pm


    Don’t go to Burning Man.

    It is stupid that men can walk around topless but not women. All the really backwards F$%up people keep their women under wraps – think Middle East and you’ll get the picture.

    Women have enough issues with their body image. Making it illegal to show a nipple is the dumbest law that MEN came up with. It’s like the men can’t control themselves. Freeing the nipple is the first step in desexualizing the nipple.

    Proof that those gals in National Geographic were ahead of their times as we looked on thinking they were the backwards ones.

  9. First Stone

    August 27, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    At least she looks nice. Not so sure I’d want to see uncle Harry topless or aunt Martha. There is such a thing as, hummmm, judicious restraint.

  10. First Stone

    August 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    If you think texting while driving is a distraction…..

  11. David Lapp

    August 27, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    All you Girls may Go Topless were ever U like to
    even to go for shopping food in stores and to walk around
    out side on the sidewalks too with joy and to be happy about it too !!

  12. paul

    August 28, 2014 at 7:22 am

    Yeah. The day I see women rushing to join her is that day they stop fussing over every square centimeter of their appearance – which would be never.

    One shirtless chick doesn’t add up to a hill of Tetons.

    All the “you go girl” comments are from people who would be bitching if high school girls were running around school like that.

  13. Jeffzx9

    August 28, 2014 at 9:45 am

    Carly, add me to the “stamp of approval” crowd. We ALL need to get over the Beavis and Butthead syndrome and grow up. I say good for you. I think the greater problem is the “sex object” marketing of major retailers (Victoria’s Secret, for example?) THAT is what warps society. 🙁

  14. Carly Mitchell

    August 28, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Here Paul, “never” just happened:

    That’s just one city out of 60 around the world where quite a few women, young, old, what western society considers attractive and ugly, all gathered to bare their chests.
    Also, when you refer to a fellow human being as a “chick” it makes you appear insecure. You shouldn’t be and I hope you start having more positive experiences with those people assigned to the female gender. Seems like you’ve had a hard time relating and having some faith in them. Here’s to better days for you.

  15. Carly Mitchell

    August 28, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks Jeff. Good point!

  16. Rose

    August 28, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    The camel-toe yoga outfit is the most popular form of clothing in Jackson so it’s not like modesty is on any woman’s agenda. As far as what one sees, there isn’t much difference between naked torsos, painted torsos, torsos in see-through blouses, or torsos in thin tight-fitting clothing over bare skin. What a woman feels is different, of course.

    The boob cops didn’t stop her because with a casual glance she has the torso of a man. There’s the deflated chest and man nipples. It’s not exactly big perky boobs pointing in the wind we’re talking about. You can bet that the boys with badges would be all over that. There’s nothing they like more than causing mayhem with protesters or naked free speech activists.

    I don’t see Teen Vogue putting half naked girls on its cover anytime soon or any change in the way 99.99999% of women prance around Town Square so let’s dismiss those concerns. I can appreciate the desire to feel a little more freedom with the top down but there is a time and place for everything. Perhaps the Wilson Beach would be a better venue for those seeking to free their nipples – man or woman. Town Square is a nice civic venue for protesters, though.

    I can see some confusion on the part of men seeing as how many women seek attention from men by exposing parts of themselves to the opposite sex. Women may need to actually show some intelligence to attract a mate in the future if they are all running around half naked. Then again, the smart successful ones will probably have their clothes on.

  17. Betsy

    August 28, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Really Carly?

    You think women in Jackson are going to start making runs up Snow King shirtless? Down the bike path, to the dog park, at the next social event, during coed softball, in the pool? Hardly.

    Maybe for fun and attention one time but they won’t be walking sans shirt on a regular basis like men. Wishful thinking.

    Paul is correct.

    A protest is one thing. Doing it on a regular basis everywhere men go shirtless is another matter altogether. Feel free to get Mary to join you next time and JH Native. And lets us know ahead of time.


    August 29, 2014 at 1:31 am

    Nudism is NOT about seeing or being seen. It’s about de-stressing, relaxing, and returning to innocence. It’s about accepting yourself and others for who you are, how you act, and what you say, rather than what you look like, wear, or own. It’s simply the feel-good feeling of the air, water on you without the constriction of clothing.

  19. Pink

    August 29, 2014 at 7:19 am

    This is about going topless not bottomless.

  20. Carly Mitchell

    August 29, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    Yes Betsy, really. I do think women in Jackson are going to start making runs up Snow King shirtless. I’ve just heard today that there has been a woman spotted hiking topless. Like I mentioned in the article, things do change over time. The ankles and wrists were considered indecent to expose in the Victorian era, and wouldn’t you know it, the porn industry was born in that era too. I’m sure women in the Middle East are told that taking off their burkas and chadors in public is wishful thinking too, but don’t we want to encourage those women to believe they have that right and things can change for them? What makes this part of the body any different? Someone has to make the first move. I don’t expect a generation of women, who have been made to feel like crap about their bodies from a lifetime barrage of misogynistic marketing and advertising, and the men who have been programed to view women’s bodies in the same fashion, to completely support what I’m trying to change here. I don’t expect the majority to just change their paradigms overnight. I’m not the best spokesperson, because I’m young and in my prime, but there are plenty of women who are doing this that are older and have much larger breasts. I would hope that this is seen as one act of changing a system that doesn’t work for us. Another way is to simply not watch violent programing or pick up that fashion magazine. We are what we consume. Here’s a documentary and article you may find extremely eye opening:

  21. Carly Mitchell

    August 29, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, Rose, “Deflated chest and man nipples” hahahaha. Come on. Haven’t we assigned to the female gender taken enough body-shame commentary? I’m tired of living in a world where we are pitted against each other. Aren’t you? Like I said to Betsy above, I may not be the ideal spokesperson, because I’m young and in my prime and yeah, I have a more androgynous appearance, but there are plenty of women who are doing this that are older and have much larger breasts. I would hope that this is seen as one act of changing a system that doesn’t work for us. As for trying to get attention from men, I am as queer as they come, and I doubt I’m going to get any attention from women in this town, so my motivations are coming from a place to make this world easier on female-assigned people. We shouldn’t have laws that make us feel like we are indecent and that our bodies are indecent, especially if those laws do not apply to men. This is about gender equality. Plain and simple. Don’t you want that for yourself? Me taking my shirt off in public isn’t going to solve the age old obstacle of misogyny, but it does and has inspired others to think about the issue of gender and how pervasive it is in every aspect of society, and to do something about it in the ways they are most comfortable. You might dig this documentary and article from the NY Times. All my breast, Carly

  22. Carly Mitchell

    August 30, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    To me, it’s about gender equality in law.

  23. Carly Mitchell

    August 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    …and body-sovereignty.

  24. Peter

    August 31, 2014 at 11:52 am


    I don’t want to see the plumber’s crack or yours. Remember that being a responsible member of society also means that you are sensitive to the sensitivities of others.

    There IS a time and place for everything. Just because some men choose to run around without shirts doesn’t mean they should. And let’s be honest, Carly, I don’t piss in the street just because horses can – (they have more rights than me?) – and the female breast IS different than the male chest – in appearance, and in sexual & nurturing functionally.

    On the bigger point, you are correct. Women should be able to go shirtless any place a man can. It may be enlightened, but is it wise?

  25. Carly Mitchell

    September 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Peter, I’m not going to take the time and energy to dignify your irrational, faulty logic with a lengthy response.

  26. carlyisthebreast

    September 3, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I don’t know what’s more wonderful: this article, or Carly’s responses to the comments. What a great model for responding with respect, intelligence and humor while also not wasting energy and time with trolldom. Thanks for opening my eyes to this issue and framing it in such a compelling manner.

  27. Carly Mitchell

    September 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

    Thank you for saying that. It means a lot to get the positive along with the negative. 🙂 In solidarity, Carly

  28. The Trolldom

    September 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    “But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

    The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.

    Hans Christian Andersen’s “Keiserens nye Klæder”

  29. The Trolldom

    September 9, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Because you can’t.

  30. The Trolldom

    September 9, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    “Yes Betsy, really. I do think women in Jackson are going to start making runs up Snow King shirtless”


    Date, Time, and number of women. Don’t want to waste my time with one or two crackpots. Lets see if you’re right. Me guess not.

  31. The Trolldom

    September 9, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I think she made a wrong turn near Black Rock City.

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