Today is National Women’s Equality Day. It marks the great stride made by women toward equality, including the right to vote, but also how far we still need to go. Which brings us to Sunday, which is Go Topless Day, which, in its own way, pokes fun at the patriarchal inequality that surrounds women’s bodies in society, a topic that informs how we consider a woman’s place in the world.
In celebration of the two intrinsically linked holidays, we feel the need to discuss Rudi Gernreich’s Monokini. The swimsuit (which, for all intents and purposes, is just bottoms), was designed in 1964 as a political statement, and was not initially meant for sale. But after a picture of the suit appeared in WWD (an iconic image of Peggy Moffit at that), orders began coming in, and its popularity led to production.
Gernreich was quite the progressive thinker, with work that shed restrictive design elements and structure, promoted gender equality—if not complete androgyny—and in one collection (as his Museum at FIT biography points out) he proposed a future in which “nudity would be equated with freedom, rather than sexuality.”
Thumbs up for Gernreich, the feminist, sex-positive designer that helped define the ‘60s. If anyone deserved to have a political joke become a runaway “It” bathing suit, it’s you, buddy! So Sunday, if the weather permits in your neck of the woods, go grab a Monokini, and express your right to expose your body without it being defined by sexuality!
Unless, of course, you don’t want to. That’s cool too. No seriously, that’s totally cool, and don’t let anyone—including, let’s say, your town’s mayor—tell you otherwise.
In case you missed it, beaches in France this week made headlines when they banned the Burkini (a garment that conceals the body except for the hands, feet, and face) from beaches. Ridiculous rationales were given, including that they are “unhygienic,” and there are some pretty disgusting images of police officials ordering women to remove them in public.
CNN reported the good news today that the ban had been suspended by the French courts, although it doesn’t change the fact that officials tried to institute these policies in the first place, nor does it help the poor women who had to go through that public humiliation.
If you’re all riled up about celebrating women’s ability to choose to bear their breasts in public, you should also, in the name of true equality, defend a woman’s right to conceal her body as well. Because being either completely nude or completely covered-up is a personal choice, and freedom is not the garment itself, it’s the choice and autonomy to be able to wear or not wear the garment in the first place.