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the men who stare at boobs
an open letter to ty mcdowell
by jeffrey d. walker

Dear Ms. McDowell:

First off, forgive me for not sending this letter via traditional methods. Despite my efforts, I was unable to find your contact information. So, I am using the most public forum I have access to in the hopes this message reaches you.

Second, forgive me for jumping straight in with a pun, but I have been keeping abreast of the news reports regarding the march that took place on April third, dubbed "Portland's First Ever Female-Bodied and Allied Topless Adventure" by thewestendnews.com. I mean no disrespect if this was not the title, but most other news accounts didn't mention a title at all. Most news reports did indicate that the march went from Longfellow Square to Tommy's Park in Portland, Maine. Most reports indicate that it transpired with little incident (a/k/a no arrests). A few reports indicate that participants included topless males and females; however, most reports negate the participation of males by only reporting that roughly two dozen women marched topless. The reports vary as to the number of onlookers, ranging from "as many as 500" (advocate.com) to "as many as a thousand" (thewestendnews.com). All reports seem to mention that you were the organizer of the event, although no report I saw indicates that you did this as part of, or in conjunction with, any larger organization. Therefore, I assume you organized this all on your own. That is impressive, and I applaud your efforts.

What prompted me to write this letter was the last bit of the story, as printed first at pressherald.com on same the afternoon as the march:

Ty McDowell, who organized the march, said she was "enraged" by the turnout of men attracted to the demonstration. The purpose, she said, was for society to have the same reaction to a woman walking around topless as it does to men without shirts on. However, McDowell said she plans to organize similar demonstrations in the future and said she would be more "aggressive" in discouraging oglers.

As you know, that bit of reporting resulted in a fairly wide scale public besmirching of your reputation. By the middle of last week, I had already seen the above quoted pressherald.com column republished on two popular online websites, complete with jokes and disparaging remarks aimed at you in their respective public comment sections, before then hearing Rush Limbaugh mocking you on his radio program (I listen to him because he's a good compass for gauging conservative politics in America). It was at that point I decided to try to contact you, and since that happened, I've read several other accounts of the April third march, most all of which cite the above italicized passage verbatim, which then queues the would-be comedians to chime with their particular brand of ridicule.

In my opinion, all that mockery came as a direct result of the spin that miscreant pressherald.com reporter put on what certainly was your honest reaction to plain old creepy people gawking, etc., at exposed female boob-flesh. The above passage was carefully worded so as to make you the butt of a joke: the quotes around "enraged" and "aggressive" – sure, you maybe used those words, but not exactly like that, because if you had, there would be quotes around them all in order. And, after the reporter carefully stacked the wording, he then placed that worked section at the very end of the article, so it would be the last thing people read. As far as I am concerned, the whole thing was designed by the author to make you look foolish, which, frankly, I find insulting. Worse, the resulting slander, or, what was referred to as the "fallout" by the exact same reporter at the pressherald.com who had in-advance crafted said "fallout" by writing the above passage on April third, then came back eight days later presumably to give you a brief opportunity to explain yourself, while still employing his same subtle disparaging technique by using quotes around "naive" in the same paragraph as "enraged" in a description of you. In my opinion, that writer should be ashamed of himself, and has intentionally set out to belittle your efforts.

But I'm not writing solely to console you on your recent public turmoil, nor merely run down what I view as an opportunistic "journalist" using your event for his own advantage at your expense. I'm writing to you because I think we share a common goal. As has been noted, the purpose of your march was to point out the inequality in the social acceptance of male toplessness as compared to female toplessness, and your aim is to erase the double standard on male and female nudity. I am writing because I share in this desire.

Your belief, as I understand it, is that an exposed female breast should draw little to no reaction from people (as a topless man would). However, it appears obvious from the recent press, as well as the video of the march, that this was not the case. Like you, I feel this is a shame. The issue here, as I see it, is the typical male reaction to the female breast. So let's explore that briefly.

In case you don't know, most men are obsessed with breasts. You'll find articles like this one that suggests nine reasons why this is so, but there are many other theories. I could give you many others I didn't even find listed somewhere, but I won't go through a list of the possible reasons (which you can certainly find using Google or the like for yourself). Instead, I'll simply rely on the depth of material describing mens' obsession with breasts, my personal experiences, as well as your recent newsworthy experience, and use those to confirm that men are breast obsessed. The underlying reason doesn't necessarily matter; Joan Rivers may have said it best in the title of her book, Men Are Stupid . . . And They Like Big Boobs.

Actually, they don't even have to be big. Just boobs. I can say with great certainty that boobs are not one of those things that falls into the "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" category. I've seen hundreds (if not thousands) of boobs at this point in my life, and there's no stopping me from taking a few moments to see more should the opportunity present itself. I'd like to think that I wouldn't be a creepy, space-invading dude were I to find myself at an event similar to yours, but I'd be lying if I said that I wouldn't be compelled by will to at least check out the passing naked tits. There would be no helping it.

I believe this compulsion to be universal to males: American
men; British men; Japanese men; German men; boys; older men, younger boys; older men. Even the highly successful are guilty, such as: Dustin Hoffman; P. Diddy; Woody Allen; Bruce Willis; Jake Gyllenhal; Santa Claus; John Kerry; Prince Charles; other Leaders of the Free World. It doesn't even have to be a real woman - mannequins or a picture of boobs will do.

I'm not going into this detail simply to prove that the problem is too great; on the contrary, I'm demonstrating the great need to address this dilemma. While there have been some reports lately that the male ogling of breasts is allegedly good for men's health, I would tend to believe that this is junk science developed by men who wish to justify their ogling, and that the real science lies in the reports that boobs turn men into "boobs"; take for example this blog I found where one woman describes an office party, wherein a woman she refers to as "BOOBS" reduced the male workers in her firm to "... the equivalent of 7th grade boys – unable to focus on anything but the crease above her dress." I know this happens, because it can even happen to me. Boobs can turn even the most intelligent man into a gawking, drooling mess.

It is my understanding of this phenomenon of boobs crippling men like Kryptonite cripples Superman that prompted me to support your cause. I know that my life would be so much more focused and successful if I could break the hypnotizing effect that a jiggling pair of boobs holds over me. I shake my fist at your power over me shaking boobs! Why won't you let me go!

I don't know what it's going to take. Perhaps some method of wide scale exposure therapy, where men are forced to confront boobs on a daily basis while at the same time continuing their daily activities with success. Maybe it's going to take some drug therapy, or maybe something more dramatic. I'm no doctor, so I can't prescribe a correct course of action.

But I agree with you, it is a course of action worth exploring. I want to be a part of the solution to this problem of public reaction to female boobs. This is a serious problem that requires serious solutions. I want to commend you again on working to address this matter. Were it not for you, I may never have gotten the nerve to confront boobs and their hold over me. So help me, I'll do everything in my power to resist the tractor-beam that boobs constantly use on my eyes. If there's anything you can think of that I can do to help you achieve yours (and my) goal of crushing boob inequality, or should you wish to continue this dialogue, I welcome you to contact me here at Intrepid Media.

Jeffrey D. Walker, esq.


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

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adam kraemer
4.14.10 @ 9:23a

I'm not saying that it's a distinctly American thing (men everywhere like boobs), but haven't most European countries moved past the topless women thing already?

Of course topless women are actually totally within their rights in New York City, a law which I don't believe enough of them take advantage of. A couple years ago, I saw a middle-aged woman posing topless for some calendar on 9th Avenue, insisting to every passerby "It's not porn." Trust me, it wasn't porn. I don't think anyone questioned that. However, the barrista who came out to tell her to go somewhere else had a good point that topless people in general weren't allowed at Starbucks.


jeffrey walker
4.14.10 @ 9:31a

Well, it's not a free-for-all in Europe. As I understand, Europe has more places designated for female toplessness (i.e. beaches, etc.) than in the U.S., but it's still generally prohibited... or, at minimum, will probably raise a couple of eyebrows even in Europe. But Europe is slightly more relaxed about other things, too (alcohol, for one).

katherine (aka clevertitania)
4.14.10 @ 9:58a

I think this is where we fail the biggest in trying to get 'gender equality'; we forget girls have tits. It will probably never be universally accepted that women walk around topless anymore than it would be ok for men to walk around bottomless. People ogle; it's in their nature. That's why we all kick ourselves for tossing glances at people w with scars/deformities, but we still look. Men's chests are nice, but most of them aren't really ogle-worthy. Long as we have squishy bits, they'll look.

richard cole
4.19.10 @ 3:58a

Familiarity breeds total lack of interest, in my experience. Cultures who are not embarassed by their bodies and who, for pragmatic reasons, wear minimal or no clothing don't face this issue.

jeffrey walker
4.19.10 @ 11:09a

yes, hence my suggestion of "wide scale exposure therapy" to solve the problem. Still, not sure it works. Take for example: money. I know many people who are very familiar with it, but only some have lost interest, while others still act like rich a**holes. just an example.

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