We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news, but you missed out on an important national holiday on Sunday: GoTopless Day, which was held in cities across the country and is exactly what it sounds like. The festival of shirtlessness is sponsored by the Raelian Movement, a cheerful and publicity-hungry group of folks who believe that life on earth was created by aliens.
The Raelian Movement was founded by Claude Maurice Marcel Vorilhon, a French former sports-car journalist who says he encountered a divine alien being near a volcano in the ’70s. He changed his name to Rael and began spreading his belief that a group of extraterrestrial “scientists” came to earth thousands of years ago to create all living things and fashion human beings in their own image. When we last checked in with the Raelians a summer ago, they were flying a swastika banner over New York’s beaches in an effort to “reclaim” the swastika as a positive symbol, which didn’t go so well.
The Raelians have been holding GoTopless Day (yes, without a space in the name) since 2007. It’s designed to promote toplessness for all and urge states where it’s still illegal to ratify toplessness for women. It’s also, obviously, designed to bring some attention to the Raelians, who do a lot of publicity-friendly things: they’ve been promising for years to build a hospital in Burkina Faso to restore the clitorises of women who have undergone ritual genital mutilation. They also run a cloning company, which claims to have cloned a human baby in 2002, a full five years before actual scientists first cloned Dolly the sheep.
As for GoTopless Day, it’s a reliable annual headline-grabber, even in New York, where equal-opportunity shirtlessness has been legal for a long, long time and where people with breasts routinely stage top-free protests. The New York Post ran a sniggering write-up this morning, noting “men were very supportive of the event.” (Because men love staring at tits! Get it? Do you?)
One of the city’s best-known topless groups, though, has politely but firmly opted out of GoTopless Day. The Outdoor Co-Ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society is a book club that we’ve written about a few times before; they meet regularly in the summer months and less regularly in the winter to read fine pulp literature and encourage women to exercise their legal right to go without shirts. Topless Pulp issued a statement on their Facebook page last week saying they won’t ever participate in GoTopless Day. Their spokesperson, who uses the pseudonym Althea Andrews, tells the Voice that they’re leery of the motives of the Raelians as well as the crowd of onlookers GoTopless tends to draw.
“We’ve been approached (online) by people associated with the GoTopless event several times over the years, encouraging us to participate or trying to post something on our Facebook page,” she tells us in an email. “At first we were cordial — common goals and all — but the more we learned about the group behind it, the less comfortable we felt. The swastika nonsense was the last straw.” (On Facebook, Andrews called the Raelians’ belief system “harmless, but still not the sort of thing we want to throw ourselves behind.”)
Besides that, Andrews adds, “We also had some of our members who did take part in past years, and their description of their experience was negative enough that we couldn’t encourage people to take part even if it weren’t for the Raelian connection.” The unpleasantness, she says, was “due to being surrounded by a mob of very aggressive men with cameras, pushing and shouting and taking thousands of photos – maybe a dozen women surrounded by a hundred men. Completely different, obviously, from the experience at our events, which are generally serene and fun and relaxed.”
If extraterrestrials and mobs of photographers sounds like your speed, well, there’s always next year.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 25, 2014