What You Need to Know About Denver Go Topless Day (NSFW)

Participants in Denver Go Topless Day 2015. Additional NSFW photos below.
Participants in Denver Go Topless Day 2015. Additional NSFW photos below.
Courtesy of Mia Jean/Denver Go Topless Day

Tomorrow, August 26, marks the 95th anniversary of what most historians see as the signature victory of the women's suffrage movement: the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

What's that got to do with Denver Go Topless Day, which takes place two days later, on Sunday, August 28 (details below), with a crowd in the hundreds (or larger) expected to take part in, among other things, a march down the 16th Street Mall? According to Mia Jean, one of the event's organizers, just about everything.

"This all snowballs into women's equality," she says. "I find it hard to believe that it's 2016 and women still have to deal with these kinds of issues. It's a slow process — and this is just one piece of the pie."

Supporters of Denver Go Topless Day and other events associated with the national Free the Nipple movement see the notion that it's okay for men to appear topless in public but either distasteful or (in some locations, including Fort Collins) illegal for the average woman to do likewise as inherently unfair and unconscionable. But that doesn't mean Denver Go Topless Day is a heavy event in which fun is forbidden owing to the seriousness of the situation.

Denver Go Topless Day 2015 participants on the 16th Street Mall.
Denver Go Topless Day 2015 participants on the 16th Street Mall.
Courtesy of Mia Jean/Denver Go Topless Day

"The event is so amazing," Mia Jean stresses. "It gives you such a positive feeling."

Since she was young, Mia Jean, who lives in the Colorado Springs area, has rebelled against double standards when it comes to standards of dress for men and women. But she says her current participation in Denver Go Topless Day started "when I watched the Free the Nipple movie and got really, really inspired. I thought, I wonder if they have one of these events here — and it turned out they did in, like, three weeks."

That was last year's Denver Go Topless Day — the largest such event in the Mile High City to date, though Mia Jean thinks this year's version will top it. One of the things she liked best about it was an atmosphere that made it clear to everyone present that they could participate in any way they wished.

"Not all of the women were topless," she says. "Some of them didn't feel comfortable with that, so they'd wear pasties or even regular shirts, and that's fine. And most of the guys covered up their nipples or put pasties on, or they'd wear bra tops, just to show their support for the day."

A group portrait from Denver Go Topless Day 2015.
A group portrait from Denver Go Topless Day 2015.
Courtesy of Mia Jean/Denver Go Topless Day

The event began, as it will this year, "with everyone gathering at a park and hanging out and educating the public — because, of course, there were people who walked by and wanted to know why nobody had a shirt on. So we'd tell them about the cause and about how it's legal for women to be topless in Denver when you're on public property. And people were taking pictures, which was fine, as long as they weren't being creepy. Luckily, we have plenty of guys who support the cause, and they all made sure we looked out for each other, looked out for the well-being of the group."

Then came the march down the 16th Street Mall, during which Mia Jean saw indications that the movement is gaining greater popular acceptance.

"People would be on the patios of restaurants and bars, and they'd ask, 'What is this? What's going on?'" she says. "Which makes sense, because it does draw a lot of attention. That's its purpose — to draw positive attention. And when we'd tell them, some of the women would literally run out of the patio, or out the front door of whatever establishment they were at, and take their shirt and bra off and join us. It was amazing."

There was some negative commentary, too, she concedes, "but it was very minimal. Most people were respectful, just curious — and even when there were snide comments or things like that, we tried to answer in a nice way, because we don't want to give it a negative connotation."

Another look at Denver Go Topless Day 2015 marchers on the 16th Street Mall.
Another look at Denver Go Topless Day 2015 marchers on the 16th Street Mall.
Courtesy of Mia Jean/Denver Go Topless Day

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The rudest remarks tended to be from women, not men, Mia Jean continues. "There were like, 'Do you want to get raped?' And I said, 'That's exactly why we have these events — to deal with this kind of misinformation.' This doesn't increase rape. It actually decreases rape, because it normalizes the idea of being exposed in public.... European countries don't seem to have a problem with this. It really comes down to respect and equality."

Thus far, the response to the Denver Go Topless 2016 Facebook event page has been mammoth, with more than 1,000 people listing themselves as planning to attend. They may not all do so, but Mia Jean has no doubt that the growth of the event and the Free the Nipple movement as a whole is real.

"People say, 'Minds won't change about this,'" she says, "but they will. Men used to have to wear tops on the beach until they protested about it, so it's the exact same kind of thing. To me, some of the most dangerous words in the English language are, 'We're doing it like this because that's the way it's always been done.' And that's unacceptable."

Denver Go Topless Day is scheduled to get under way at 1 p.m on Sunday the 28th at Civic Center Park, followed by a 16th Street Mall parade prior to a return to the park for group photographs. Click to get more information.


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