I grew up during the height of the women’s movement, so I tried to take Phoenix Feeley seriously. I really did. After all, Ms Feeley, self-proclaimed topless advocate, alleged sword swallower and recent inmate in Monmouth County Jail, was “willing to die” to ensure that women have “equal rights.” The least I could do was check out her website, “gotopless.org” and give her point of view a fair hearing. After all, in this day and age one does not want to be judgmental. Gotopless. org describes itself as “… a U.S.-based organization founded in 2007 by spiritual leader Rael and we claim that women have the same constitutional right that men have to go bare-chested in public.”
I’ve got my pocket Constitution right here and I can’t find a single reference to bare breasts. But, then, the Supreme Court has found a penumbra of rights in our Constitution, so I let that one go. My inner voice, what I affectionately refer to as my “bs meter” whispered, “who is Rael?” but I ignored it in the interests of properly expanding my mind.
The website proclaims: “Bare your breasts. Free your mind.” I’d never noticed that my mind was more free when my breasts were bare. But then again, in the 70s feminists burned their bras as a symbolic gesture of their fight to be free from the “chains” of a paternalistic society that viewed women as second class citizens. I wanted to know why Ms. Feeley and her followers think that bare breasts equal free minds and equal rights. After all, the Asbury Park Press covered the story to such an extent that even my 77 year old mother was familiar with the facts of the case. If she’s getting this much attention, Ms. Feeley’s cause must have some merit, and it’s important to respect the opinions of others, or so I’m told. My inner voice whispered, “who is Rael?” I ignored it.
Ms. Feeley thinks breasts are body parts like any other, it’s not fair that men can remove their shirts if women can’t, and if more women went topless (by choice of course), men wouldn’t view them as sexual objects. These ideas are inspired by Rael, and the “Raelian Movement.” (Who is Rael? Shhhh!)
I took an informal survey, arguing for Ms. Feeley’s cause as best I could. The women said, “That’s ridiculous!” None would consider baring their own breasts. The men joked, “How old is she?” and “Will she come over for an in-person interview?” Apparently men still find women and their breasts sexy. The most insightful response came from my 25 year old daughter –in-law, “In some cultures women walk around bare-chested; they don’t necessarily have equal rights. Showing boobs doesn’t make you equal.” She nailed it. We don’t have to be like men to be equal.
So, who is Rael? He’s a Frenchman who started an atheist religious movement inspired by his 1973 encounter with extra-terrestrials.
Call me judgmental. Some ideas are too ridiculous to respect.