FARMINGTON — A bare-chested university coed handed out fliers last weekend announcing a march April 30 to expose the double standard between men and women and to point out it's legal for women to go topless in public.
Andrea Simoneau, 22, of Brooks, a University of Maine at Farmington senior, said she was inspired to create the Farmington First Topless March for Gender Equity, as listed on Facebook, after she and several friends participated in a similar walk April 3 in Portland.
"It was empowering and I figured I'd extend it to women in Farmington as well," she said Monday.
On Saturday morning, she distributed fliers in front of TD Bank at Main Street and Broadway, prompting several 911 calls, Farmington Police secretary Rachel Heseltine said.
“There's no law against being topless unless it impedes traffic safety,” she said.
The fliers announced the topless march from 1 to 2 p.m. Friday, April 30, starting at Meetinghouse Park on Main Street and going nearly half a mile to Abbott Park. It also notes that electrical tape will be provided for anyone who is shy.
Simoneau said she wants to accomplish two things: Let women know it's not illegal to go topless in the state of Maine; and "we're trying to help lift the social stigma of women going topless that men don't face, and expose the double standard."
"I've always been angered by the double standard. On a hot day I've wanted to strip off my shirt like men do," she said. "Women should be able to go topless everywhere that men can."
She said men are encouraged to march as long as it's not just to leer or be gross. As for cameras, she's working with the Portland march organizers to see how they handled pictures taken without consent but figures marchers will have to basically ignore it.
She said the catcalls and comments have to be ignored, she said, but police will protect marchers from any touching or threats.
"Ive already cleared it with police and they have been wonderful," she added.
She began advertising the march over the weekend because she felt the Portland march, which drew about three dozen participants, was not advertised well enough. She said some people were very offended by her topless advertising on the street corner, several called police, and still others were supportive.
"A few shouted mean things but that's to be expected. It's a very deeply ingrained social taboo," she said.
However, it won't stop her from trying it again this Saturday. The aspiring political activist said she's hoping for change.