Topless Controversy at Toronto Beer Fest

Since 1996 it’s been legal for women to go topless in Ontario, but at this year’s Toronto Festival of Beer a woman was reprimanded by security after attempting to go topless (wearing a black bra underneath).

From Xtra.ca:

As the rain poured down at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) throughout the afternoon on Aug 7, the soggy and intoxicated crowd grew increasingly boisterous, and many ripped off clothing to dance in the rain.

So when queer activist and photographer R Jeanette Martin was dared by another woman to take off her top, she happily shed a layer, revealing a black bra underneath. (Full disclosure: Martin was at the event with this reporter.) Moments after Martin removed her T-shirt, a female security guard was at Martin’s side, telling her sternly to “put the shirt back on.”

“Why?” Martin asked. The security guard, who refused to provide her name, said, “There are guys here who will take that the wrong way.”  The security guard also told her, “That’s the rules of the festival.”

Martin pointed out that many of the men were topless and many of the women were wearing bikinis, not technically dissimilar from Martin in her bra. The CNE said they spoke to the security guard involved, but argued Martin keeping her shirt on would’ve been prudent for her safety:

Amanda Gray, security supervisor for the beer festival, tells Xtra the security guard who initially asked Martin to put her top back on was “spoken to.” Gray assured it won’t happen again.

But Gray says security people frequently have to diffuse hostile situations that are triggered “when a guy grabs a girl. We’ve had a lot of fights and stuff because guys do grab girls. That’s why I suggested [putting her top on].”

According to tweets from the event, several women then took off their shirts to protest in solidarity with Martin. Many tweeted that Martin’s treatment and that of women who want to go topless in society is hypocritical and a sexist double standard. Saying it’s due to safety also leans toward the victim-blaming side of things, suggesting that if Martin was sexually harassed or assaulted for doing something perfectly legal, it’d be her own fault.

What do you think?

-Jarrah
(photo by Tomasz Sienicki via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT, Politics 4 Comments

About the author

Jarrah Hodge

Jarrah Hodge is the founder and editor of gender-focus.com. She has also written for the Huffington Post, Bitch Magazine Blogs, the Vancouver Observer and About-Face. Jarrah has B.A. in Women’s Studies and Sociology from UBC. She’s a fan of politics, Star Trek, musical theatre, and brunch.

4 Responses to Topless Controversy at Toronto Beer Fest

  1. blatanville

    disclosure: I’m a friend of Jeanette Martin’s.

    This is OBVIOUSLY the double standard that the Court of Appeals ruling was meant to correct.
    It is also, clearly, a case of “preventative” victim-blaming.
    There’s nothing Jet was wearing/not wearing that was out-of-line with other revelers there that day. Perhaps the word “bra” is what is to blame here? :)
    “Bikini” seems to be acceptable…

     
    • jarrahpenguin

      Thanks for the comment! I totally agree that it’s kind of silly to distinguish between a bra and a bikini. And the double standard in this situation between topless men and “topless” women (though clearly wearing a bra or bikini top isn’t really topless) is really blatant in this case.

       
  2. Lalith Muthali

    Hypocrisy, double standards, and plain ignorance on the part of our idiotic society.

    1. Who the hell cares about what someone else wears or not wear.

    2. Do these people know that a bikini and an underwear are the same bloody thing?

    3. I hear the same moral police are fine with bikinis.

     
  3. Bridal Dance lessons

    Maybe the guard was trying to protect Martin but without thinking that not only her was in that attire. But for Martin’s situation it’s definitely unfair.

     

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