For nearly two years, Kate Chiplinsky has cheerfully photographed women — and men — exposing their breasts. It began in May 2013, when the oppressive heat of summer was beginning to afford New Yorkers more than the usual leeway regarding clothing choices. “We’re all hipsters here, so we cut the sleeves off everything we own,” Chiplinsky says of her friends. “So there’s a lot of side-boob going on, a lot of cleavage, a lot of getting a little drunk and flashing your boobs. I was like, ‘Oh my God! We should start a blog.'”
Thus began Boobs of Bushwick, a Tumblr whose title tells you pretty much all you need to know. Breasts of all shapes, sizes, and colors beam out from the photos, with the occasional hairy man-chest included, “for posterity’s sake,” Chiplinsky says. Tonight, Chiplinsky, 27, is hosting the blog’s first official event at the Rookery, a bar in — where else — Bushwick.
Maybe think of it as the nightlife cousin to the city’s Topless Book Club.
Although Boobs of Bushwick’s posts date back to May 2013, it’s only recently picked up steam online, mostly thanks to a Reddit thread that drew attention to the blog in January. And more eyeballs on the site means more trolls. “They were passing public judgment on women’s bodies, saying they were unattractive,” Chiplinsky says of people who have commented on the blog via social media. “I was just like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Everybody on that blog is my friend, and all my friends are gorgeous.”
Chiplinsky, who manages a Brooklyn band and tends bar at the Rookery, has also been fending off online attacks by people who believe the blog puts women in danger. In response to a post about her Tumblr on Brooklyn Magazine‘s website, one woman tweeted, “I know it’s legal 4 women 2 be topless in NYC, but I’d be afraid of being stalked & raped.”
I’m old. I know it’s legal 4 women 2 be topless in NYC, but I’d be afraid of being stalked & raped
Boobs of Bushwick. http://t.co/Xm7sqw7BqB
— Alida Antonia (@ArtByAlida) February 27, 2015
Chiplinsky scoffs at that notion, explaining that women shouldn’t be blaming one another for rape. “It’s time that we actually start blaming rapists for rape,” she says. She rejects the notion that showing off her body puts a woman at risk for sexual assault — and she speaks from experience. Chiplinsky says she herself has been raped on two occasions. “Previous to those rapes I was not topless in a bar. I was actually in what I considered a very safe environment. It was by two different men who I knew and who I thought were my friends. So it really has nothing to do with women exposing their breasts and arousing men.”
Boobs of Bushwick may recall the SlutWalk marches that began in 2011, prompted by a Toronto police officer who suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts” to avoid unwanted sexual contact. In response, thousands took to the streets, most of them were women in various states of undress, and the movement spread to cities across the globe. But Boobs of Bushwick is not a social commentary or a protest movement–it’s just fun, Chiplinsky says. “There really is no agenda. Honestly, it’s just a party.”
The photos on Boobs of Bushwick are surprisingly endearing rather than creepy and voyeuristic. They’re not glamor shots, and the women who choose to participate are not models. They’re just having fun while expressing their legal right to take off their shirts. And nobody’s photo — or face — goes on the blog if she doesn’t want it there.
But if you do want your bare chest to be immortalized forever on Chiplinsky’s blog, tonight’s party will definitely be a good chance for that to happen. The event begins at 8pm at the Rookery (425 Troutman Street), and will feature a photo booth (surprised?), and, inevitably, some boobs. Take off your top, or leave it on, and reminisce about the days when it was just too hot for clothes.
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