Franklin Countys First News

Topless woman downtown causes a stir; her march is coming

FARMINGTON - A topless woman standing on the corner of Main and Broadway Saturday morning brought several complaints to the Franklin County dispatch center and more to town and state officials.

Farmington Police Department Officers Bill Tanner and Kim Bates responded to the first complaint at 11:22 a.m. On arrival they found Andrea Simoneau, a University of Maine at Farmington history major, topless and handing out flyers advertising an upcoming topless march from 1 to 2 p.m. on April 30 at Meetinghouse Park on Main Street. According to Tanner's report, several pedestrians stopped and looked at the woman, with many taking flyers from her.

"A lot of people were supportive," Simoneau said. "And some weren't." She credits Officers Tanner and Bates with helping those who weren't so supportive in clarifying that it's legal in Maine for women to go bare chested in public.

"The Farmington police were my greatest ally, backing me up a couple  of times," she said.   

The officers did advise  Simoneau that if rubber necking causes an accident because of the unusual sight, she may be held accountable. 

"I would put my shirt back on if I thought someone might get hurt. I don't want anyone to get hurt," she said.

In Portland on April 3, a topless march of between 20 to 30 people was held to protest society's gender bias that holds men can take their shirts off in public but women can't. Simoneau of Brooks, Maine, said she participated in that march and was inspired by it to organize a march in Farmington. She plans to advertise her April 30 march again on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.

She believes her handing out flyers and marching topless will help break the social taboo that women have to keep their shirts on in public and men don't. It's an important message for all those who oppose it, she said, "it's doing something good for them and for future generations."  

After an hour and half of handing out flyers on Saturday, Simoneau left, but the incident continues to be the talk of the town. Selectmen have received complaints and calls to action, according to Town Manager Richard Davis, who fielded one complaint first thing this morning.

"No laws were broken," Davis said. "There's nothing selectmen can do; it shouldn't be a matter for them." Instead he advises people to call their local state legislator if they want to get a law on the books prohibiting topless women in public places.

Lots of people have taken that advice, because State Rep. Lance Harvell, R-Farmington, said as of Sunday night, he'd fielded 30 calls so far from people complaining of a topless woman on Main Street.

Davis said a march held at Meetinghouse Park wouldn't need a permit approved by selectmen, as some events require, because the event would not be using any facilities and would not be occurring over a sustained period of time. Freedom of assembly in a public place is a guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, he noted.

"Some of those opposed said they had a moral objection to it, after they were told no law had been broken," Simoneau said. In the end she hopes her political activism will help those who have a moral issue with it to ask themselves why and give more women who want to take their shirts off, the freedom to do so without objection.

She believes, so far, she has 15 people signed up to march with her on April 30.

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116 Responses »

  1. I don't get this whole men are attracted to perfection argument or the double standard argument. The fact is men and women are different. Emotionally and physically and therefore they cannot, and should not be treated exactly the same. End of story. And as for society portraying a need for women to be perfect, does not this society also portray that of men. How many of you women admire a man with a nice six pack. How many times are men subjected to half clothed men with bulging muscles and washboard abs? What about men who starve themselves, use laxatives or have low self-esteem because of those ads based on perfection. I am a man who has struggled with these issues and know dozens of others who have too. This isn't a gender biased issue, sorry. I also disagree with the fact that the European argument is being used. First of all this isn't Europe. Our society has a completely different attitude towards nudity than the Europeans do. We are not going to change societies view point from farmington, Maine either. Second of all, as someone who has been to Europe you do not often see a topless/nude person just walking down the street. Finally I know many of the people in this march and I really like and admire some of them. But I have to respectfully say that this country, this state, and this town are not ready for such a march and as non-resident college students I do not feel we have the right to hold a march like this in others' hometown. People have the right to raise their children, conduct their business and live their life as they want and the whole don't come downtown or don't look argument is absolute crud. People should not have to adjust their lifestyle to accomplish those things. Like Casey I will apologize in advance for the spelling/grammar mistakes and for the same reasons.

  2. Go girl go. Thank you for organizing this! Time for gender equality and freedom. Rock ON!!

  3. I do not want my children exposed to this! If I wanted that I would just purchase a playboy and hand it to my son! I don't want my daughter exposed to this either! My family and I will NOT be doing ANY business in the downtown Farmington area until this is taking care of! I do not want to see a man walking around without his pants on and I do not want to see a woman walking around without her top! Quite frankly I dont want to see a man walking around without a shirt on! I love what Wilton man and the UMF student said, they both summed it up nicely. There are just people who live to protest and if there is nothing political to protest they will find something and that's all she is doing! Doesn't she have anything better to do with her time? Last time I checked there was still hungry and homeless who could use our attention!

  4. How about every business in Farmington post a sign saying "Shirts and Shoes Required?" It won't stop the march but it will express most residents' opinions about this issue and do so without violating gender equality.

  5. I am not jamie cummings from mississippi but I think you misunderstood her remark. I do not think she meant that in an insulting way. I believe she just meant if you want to live like that move somewhere that it is the cultural norm but this is not that place. I got this from the way she said or some other country where that is the societal norm. She did not talk about uncivilized or anything else. That statement could well apply to many continents and countries. As many supporters have pointed out Europe would fit the mold, to an extent. In other words, while her argument was not eloquently stated, I do not think it was meant to be insulting. Finally you are assuming she has not taken any classes on Africa or United States culture, when she very well may have. Plus does taking a class necessarily make you more knowledgeable about a subject? I really don't think it does. You have to realize that there is far more diversity in the south, so it is also quite likely that ms. cummings has numerous minority friends and has at least passing experiences with immigrants from other countries and therefore first hand experience with foreign cultures. I know this from experience, I have spent numerous years and summers in the South.

  6. Several corrections- men do have breasts and(while the rate is much lower than in women) do experience breast cancer.
    Not everyone enjoys the site of a male nude publicly displayed chest.
    I truly hope that if a nudity ordinance is taken up by elected officials local, state or otherwise, that the ordinance include men as well.
    Not all residents are white, not all residents are conservative and not all residents are christian. That does not mean we are without morals, ethics and thoughtful judgments. Culture goes well beyond the surface images. It seems to me that the issue is being lost and hostilities have taken control.
    While I reserve nudity to comfort of home and trusted loved ones, I do respect women (not just Simoneau) who are brave enough to take on the inequality of the topic in an attempt to dispel the media's objectification of women's bodies. Female mammorary glands should not be for sale!

  7. To the men who are thinking of attending the march:

    Why go out for hamburger, when you have steak at home(Paul Newman quote)

  8. The more I think about this and read the comments and talk to others, the clearer it is that this has nothing to do with "equal rights." Exposing one's breasts in public is exhibitionism and violates most people's sense of decency.
    Women's bodies are nothing to be ashamed of, but disrobing in public is shameful. It will set back legitimate efforts for equal treatment and respect. This behavior will generate disrespect toward women.

  9. Bare-breasted women are beautiful, whether they are a perfect 10 or not. Many people seem to be jealous of them. You can tell by many of the comments. Have a great march next week.

  10. Ann D.
    Very well said, I think people keep screaming equal rights but are forgetting what is right.

  11. I apologize for railing at Cummings, but her statements were very black and white and could in fact be considered very insulting. I admit that I was angry at the time and didn't think things through and realize I could have been insulting to her, but her comments were very insulting in there nature.

  12. Ummm... Provazeney? I think we were actually arguing from the same side.
    What's your justification for lumping me together with the knuckle-draggers, and why do you claim that I don't understand this term?

  13. Isn’t it curious that it is not enough in our society that something not be illegal but instead must be made specifically legal in order to be enjoyed freely? In North America a woman going topfree risks being charged with anything from ‘causing a disturbance’ to a sex crime. Breastfeeding women faced, and in some cases still face, the same discrimination and many States and Provinces had to enact laws to make breastfeeding a child in public specifically legal. In some cases even this was found to be insufficient and laws had to be enacted to make harassment of a nursing mother (by passers-by, business owners, police) illegal. In this case the attending constables were a great help in protecting Ms Simoneau's legal right and informing the public that she was doing nothing illegal. In my opinion, it isn’t topfreedom that is immoral but the systemic discrimination of women that surrounds it.

    To put it in perspective, it is not illegal in North America for a woman, like a man, to go about in public without a head covering. If someone were to complain to the police or mall-security about such a woman it would be very unlikely that she would be arrested, accosted, harassed or told to cover-up or get out. In fact, the complainer would be informed that this is not illegal and that they had the option not looking. Should they confront the woman or women offending them in this way it would be they, and not the women in question, who would be arrested or asked to leave. Yet should a woman, like a man, choose to go about in public without a breast covering the complete opposite reaction is not only likely but expected and accepted. It wouldn’t matter that breasts are not genitalia, that their exposure is non-sexual and not illegal, that men can do so freely or even that they are being used for their natural function. In our society, unlike in Europe, the primary purpose of the female breast is to please men or generate profit, often both together. Their accepted role is to titillate and they, and therefore women, are treated accordingly. Please, tell me how that is NOT systemic gender discrimination and objectification of women.

  14. I would support this "topless" march if it's goal to help a specific cause such as animal shelters, women and children of sexual and domestic abuse, etc., but nooooooooo...not to support the right for women to be able to go topless in public. Shameful, no...ridiculous, yes!

  15. I think if girls want to walk around with their shirts off, that's fine. Sometimes I walk around with mine off when it's hot, and of course at the beach. I don't think someone exposing their breasts is harmful to anyone. Everyone has similar equipment up there; mens' are generally hairy, womens' are generally gooshy (although many males fall in to this category as well). Besides which, there are many dudes out there I don't want to see walking around with their shirts off, like a 300 pound guy with the natural sweater and the plumbers crack; a topless girl would honestly be more visually appealing to me. My two cents. However, please consider that if you're doing this all the time just to prove a point, your boobs are going to get all gross and aborigine-looking. Then you'll fall into the same category as the 300 pound dude mentioned above, and won't get support from even the horniest high school kids. Food for thought.

  16. Listen Up! I'm going to organize a march to protest the exposure of male dogs' testicles in public. PPPLLLLEEEZZZZZ---this is so stupid. There are people right here in good old Franklin County that can't even put decent food on their tables! Who gives a "Fiddler's F--t" if a bunch of unconscious girls want to march around with their breasts exposed for a bunch of men to drool over?
    I'm just thankful that I'm not a "Proud Parent" of one of them, shoveling money into their college tuition!!! Just my opinion, and I'm sticking to it. God Bless America!