As you probably know, it's completely okay (as in, legal) for women to walk around topless in New York (and in a lot of other places, too). If you didn't know, however, topless activist Moira Johnston is going out of her way to spread the good word about women being able to bare their chests everywhere men can bare theirs.
According to a profile on the Daily Beast, Johnston has been meandering topless around the city all summer, having her picture taken both from a creepy distance by some leering gentleman, and up close, surrounded by some golly gosh impressed out-of-towners. Even Michael Lohan tweeted a picture of a UPS guy reacting (we can assume by dropping someone's box of vintage cocktail glasses) to Johnston, a picture that daughter Lindsay retweeted to four million faithful followers. Johnston, in other words, is sort of a big deal, and has been gaining recognition for her exploits ever since January when she was kicked of a yoga class for popping off her top.
The Daily Beast's Lizzie Crocker wonders, though, if Johnston's activism is really all that necessary anymore. Johnston runs into a lot of people who already know about the topless law and regard Johnston with only mild surprise before going about their day. If Johnston is helping normalize toplessness in New York, that's great, but how many people — men and women — just walk around, or would just walk around, without a top anyway? Private institutions, notes Crocker, are allowed to make their own rules (as long as those rules don't discriminate against race or sex), so anything other than having a nice jaunt through the city and maybe picking up and creamsicle from an ice cream cart would seem too inconvenient for toplessnes. It's one thing to walk around the streets in a state of undress, but it's another to try and pull a shirt over your head on the morning rush to work.
Johnston, formerly a topless dancer in Philadelphia, was arrested earlier in the spring when she refused to put a top on outside of a children's park in Union Square. Since then, she's filed 13 complaints against yoga studios (which would seem to count as private, but yoga people can be really supercilious so screw them and their prudish stretching). She says that she's supporting a woman's choice to go topless and thinks that "every woman should do it on her own terms." And even though things can get creepy, — one passerby told Johnston he'd just gotten out of prison and was going to hurt her — Johnston hasn't had too much trouble with street harassment.