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Things are going swimmingly.
Around April 2022 I read an article in which the German city of Göttingen became the first city in Germany to allow bathers of all genders to swim topless in their public pools at the weekends. It was a trial to run from May 1st through to the end of August and came about in response to a complaint from a person identifying as a man, whom pool staff perceived to be a woman, who was asked to cover their chest. The trial run was announced as a win for gender equality by the authorities.
In September there was an article published announcing that the municipal authority had found that the overwhelming majority of swimmers had approved of the topless equality trial. The four municipal pools would now allow topless bathing for all genders all the time instead of just at weekends. In the same article, it was mentioned that a court in Berlin rejected a discrimination suit filed by a woman who was asked by officials to cover her breasts in a city water park, while men were not asked to do the same.
Recently, I read that the city of Berlin has agreed that the woman had been the victim of discrimination and that all visitors to Berlin’s pools will now be allowed to be topless. Interestingly the pool operator the Berliner Bäderbetriebe (BBB) claims that they didn’t change their rules, they simply clarified that they require a bathing suit to cover the genitals, and that applies to all visitors, no matter their gender.
I find it curious that if those were the rules all along, why a Berlin court had previously rejected the discrimination case. Was the staff member asking the woman to cover her chest not aware of the rules of the organisation they worked for, and how did it get to court?
That question aside, it seems that Germany is pressing ahead with fair and reasonable rules around gender equality in public facilities.
As I may have mentioned a few times in previous blogs, I am not a fan of any swimwear, but I’ll take topless equality as a win and a step in the right direction.
There is an argument that all naturist organisations and “top equality” groups such as free the nipple, should seize this recent development to put pressure on their own local authorities to reconsider the rules about gender equality in swimming pools and public spaces.
I accept that Germany has long been seen as having a mature and common sense attitude to public nudity as part of the FKK movement (Freikörperkultur - free body culture). The German attitude to nudity in parks and public spaces is almost nonchalant indifference, and in some cases, such as saunas, nudity is expected.
I also accept that many perceived advanced western cultures are still hung up about nudity and that asking them to be more tolerant will be an uphill battle. Footage of mass shootings and terrible violence is shown every day and treated as news in the public interest, but we can’t show a female nipple because that might cause irreparable harm.
Many western countries have legislation that bans discrimination based on gender, and yet still insist on having different dress rules for different genders.
It could be argued that for some jurisdictions, the fear of legal action around gender discrimination might override their position on the tolerance of public nudity, or at least topless equality.
Perhaps the naturist movements around the world should join forces with gender equality groups and harness this fear to help push the case for all local public pools to allow all people to swim topless if they choose.
I know it’s not the outcome that many naturists would want, as swimming naked would be the obvious solution to us, but in terms of taking small steps and fostering relationships with other groups who then might be allies in our own struggles for acceptance, might this not be a smart and strategic move?
Wouldn’t living in a world where female toplessness was regarded with the same indifference that we give male toplessness be a big improvement on the illogical position that we are living in now? Wouldn’t normalising the female breast help address gender inequality and reduce objectification?
As a man, I need to be careful not to be too evangelical about encouraging topless equality, as much of society would see that as simply a man wanting to see more female breasts. While unwilling to lead the fight for change, I am happy to lend my support to groups advocating for topless equality, and it strikes me that given the recent announcements in Germany on the issue, now would be a good time for everyone to step up and get behind the cause.
Gender equality must become a lived reality.
— Michelle Bachelet
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.