On a warm and sunny Sunday, Montrealers were taking in some rays at Jeanne Mance park. Men were sunbathing topless and women were joining them.
“I know that what we’re doing today is bothering a lot of people. and I say, good, good. Because at the end of the day, what we’re claiming is our rights to use our bodies the way that we want to,” said Alice Lacroix, the “Free the Titties” organizer.
Alice Lacroix was one of the dozens of bare breast demonstrators at the Plateau Park. She organized Sunday’s topless protest. It was in response to the treatment of a Quebec City woman who was suntanning topless.
In a Facebook post that has been shared by thousands, Éloÿse Paquet Poisson explains her interaction with police. Local officers responding to a complaint asked her to cover up. She said “no,” adding that she knows her rights.
She says that officers said “it’s true, we don’t have the right to give you a fine.”
“There’s nothing in the criminal code that says being topless for a woman is illegal,” said law professor Brenda Cossman,
Among the demonstrators Sunday was Susie Simard. She showed Global News the warning RCMP officers gave her last June for being topless at a Gatineau beach.
“They were threatening to remove me by force if I was not wearing a top on the beach,” said Simard.
The experience was especially upsetting for Simard, because she says men are not treated the same.
“Half of the rest of the people on the beach were not wearing a top,” she added these people were all men.
She vows to continue to fight for gender equality, like fellow attendees.
“Why is it that women’s bodies are treated differently and why is it that we still look at women as though they are sexual objects?” asked demonstrator Ioana Iuniana Mocanu.
Lacroix says people still think they can dictate what women can and cannot wear. Saying it comes out of concern for the male gaze.
“We need to shift that mentality and start teaching men to manage their own emotions the same way everyone does on everything else,” said Lacroix.
The organizer hopes Sunday’s demonstration gives women the courage to reclaim their bodies in public.