Sunday, September 4, 2005

The Hanlan's Point Debate

I'm not sure how many world cities have by-laws about being topless in public. Forget about Europe, they enjoy nudity and they don't care who knows it. I'm talking about North America right now. I mean, can I walk down a street in "liberal" New York City wearing nothing but a pair of Levi's and a smile on my face and not get arrested?

Of course, Toronto's public parks, beaches and festivals have seen boobies before - women in Ontario won the right to go topless in 1996, thanks to Gwen Jacobs. And yet, not many women (including myself) exercise their right to bare more than just their arms.

I went to Hanlans' Point yesterday - a beach divided figuratively by personal choice, and literally by a rickety wood slat fence. On one side, the general public wears clothing. On the other side, the nudists have better tans.

I was with about a dozen friends - half of whom had no interest in baring all, while the other half wanted to work on their tanlines. Suddenly a debate arose: was it rude or disrespectful to hang out on a nude beach fully clothed, or is it more offensive to sunbathe au naturel on a public beach with (gasp!) children present?
Figuring it would be more fun to piss off the public than it would be to ire a boatload of nudists, we chose the latter, and frankly, found the lack of confrontation mildly disappointing. Despite some of the best semi-nude frolicking performances of the summer, we generated very little interest on the public beach.
So I think Toronto's getting over itself. Thirty years of City-TV Baby Blue movies and ignoring people in elevators and line-ups have brought us to a new level of acceptance. Perhaps in future years, the women of Toronto will beat the heat as their men always have: topless. Grocery shopping, driving the kids to school, washing the car in the driveway, buying packs of smokes at the corner store.... the possibilities are endless.