The goal of this work was to test how gender equality works in practise and to point out grey areas in the law. I made a long-lasting performance, where I walked 161 km bare breasted and monitored people’s reaction on my way. Everybody was calm until I spent longer time in a small town Väike-Maarja, where the TV news filmed me in front of the Municipality Government building. Governor saw me from his window and called police. I didn’t get punishment but police stated I still had violated public space. In Estonia we haven’t got law against bare breasted women in public space. Arresting me was violation of Gender Equality Act. I made a complaint to The Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner. She said she is going to look at it and then gives me feedback but she never did. After two years, in October 2013 I met her and asked about my complaint. She said she is not going to give her opinion at all because it is a weird topic - breasts! - and we have got more important problems in Estonia.
Performance contained 161 km long walk from South Estonia, Tartu town where I live to Karepa village in North Estonia by the sea. When weather allowed, I was bare breasted. The walk took 5 days. I arrived on 12th of Aug and presented my final act on Performance Evening “Angst” on 13th of Aug at Karepa, R. Sagrits’ house-museum. My act contained flag hoisting, putting shirt back on and showing video, shot on the route. I designed the flag by myself and it depicts simplified breasts.
I monitored people’s reaction on my way. Since bare breasted women are rare, I wanted to know how people react if they see one in public space. Everybody was calm until we spent longer time in a small town Väike-Maarja, where the TV news filmed me in front of the Municipality Government building. Governor saw me from his window and called police. I spent two hours in police station, explaining why I was walking bare breasted. Since there is no law against bare breasted men or women in public space, police pondered upon my case for a long time, thinking how to punish me. Finally they did not punish me at all but stated that I still have violated public space. I have complained to The Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner.
Men and women are equal in Estonia, so women should have the same right to be bare breasted in public space as men. There is no law in Estonia against it. Men are using their right all the time but women don’t. Female breast is considered mysterious and sexual, men and women are told to be different in nature. These are cultural explanations.
Biologically men’s and women’s breasts are made of the same tissue and parts. In all over the world women want to decide by themselves, what part of their body is sexual and what is not and when. As long as female breasts are sexual, capitalistic society can sell them. Thus, bare breasted women work against the system and are seen as criminals. Police arrests them, fines them and puts them in jail even in NYC where bare breasts are legal.
J. Butler writes, that gender is performative: we are performing our gender day after day. E. Fox Keller and P. Bourdieu claim that gender roles are rooted deeply in our brains thus it is difficult to change that performance.
In 20th century it was illegal for men to show their chest but they fighted until they won. In 21th century women will achieve right to rule over their own bodies. They will decide whether to use their breasts for selling cars, feeding babies or letting the wind to cool them on hot day. The mystery will vanish and breasts will be seen as harmless normal body part.
After the police arrested me and I was on TV news, my action was the subject of discussion both in media and in private conversations every single day during the following week and later I was invited to different TV shows. I had got many Facebook friend request, but most of them were from men who simply liked my breasts. In Facebook a guy who has got small breast fetish, even created a group "We Believe in Fideelia-Signe". That much about desexualization of breasts in Estonia.
News in English about my action
http://www.topfree.ca/ - scroll down for my performance
News in Finnish portal Findance.com
News in Norwegian portal Abcnyheter
Topfree Living - scroll down for my performance