December 10, 2018
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Women to go topless at Hampton Beach and nobody seems to mind. Advocates say that’s progress

Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Rich Beauchesne | Portsmouth Herald
Scout Lyons, left, and her mother, Mary Lyons, of Rumford, Rhode Island, approach Hampton Beach in New Hampshire for Go Topless Day in late August, 2016. Organizers of the event this year it seems to be uncontroversial, unlike during the day's earlier years, which shows their efforts to de-sexualize the female nipple are working.

HAMPTON, New Hampshire — Go Topless Day returns to Hampton Beach this month, but its organizers say its status as a non-controversial event indicates their work to desexualize the female nipple has been a success.

Kia Sinclair, who for three years has encouraged women to remove their tops in public places like the beach, said she plans to enjoy a low-key day at Hampton Beach on Sunday, Aug. 26.

“That was definitely our goal. It does seem it’s a non-issue,” said Sinclair. “I don’t notice many people becoming angry and focusing on it like they did the first year. That is exactly what we want.”

The day is celebrated at numerous locations nationally each August as part of the Free the Nipple movement, which originated with a movie of the same name that spotlighted a belief that the female nipple should not be sexualized.

New Hampshire state law does not prohibit women from going topless in public, though many were surprised to learn this in 2015, when Sinclair and others became vocal in protesting the cultural norm that only men can show their nipples in public.

Ioanna Raptis | Seacoast Online
Ioanna Raptis | Seacoast Online
Two women walk along Hampton Beach in New Hampshire during Go Topless Day 2017.

New Hampshire Free the Nipple supporters have faced some opposition, including an arrest in Laconia that has gone before the state Supreme Court. There was also a failed attempt in the state Legislature to ban public toplessness in New Hampshire. At Hampton Beach, however, Sinclair and other supporters say the shock expressed by beachgoers and local officials has dwindled since the first year they appeared without their tops at the popular vacation spot.

Now, Sinclair said, topless women seem to be blending in comfortably with the general public. She is encouraging women to remove their tops as they please but is suggesting no rally point or set time to gather on Aug. 26.

Beach officials agreed this week Go Topless Day appears to have become a non-issue. Hampton Beach Village District Marketing Director John Kane said the Village District’s Facebook page was bombarded by topless photos the first year. Last year, Kane said the event was “not a big deal.”

Hampton Police Deputy Chief David Hobbs said last summer Go Topless Day did not factor into whether his department increased staffing for the day, a change from the event’s beginnings.

Sinclair and two other supporters, Heidi Lilley and Ginger Pierro, are waiting for the Supreme Court to issue a ruling on the appeal of their 2016 arrests in Laconia for being topless, a violation of the city’s ordinance. They took their case to the Supreme Court in February.

The three women argued there’s no state law forbidding female toplessness and that the ordinance is discriminatory since men are allowed to go shirtless. They also contended their constitutional rights to freedom of expression were violated.

Sinclair said she will be disappointed if the ruling is not in her favor and she is unsure what her next course of action would be if it is not.

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