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The French Cover-up: Shifting Tides for Topless Beaches

According to a piece in today's Guardian, topless sunbathing in France, at one point a symbol of the nation's progressive culture, is falling out of fashion. It cites retail sales of traditional one-pieces and bikinis over "monokinis," concerns about skin cancer, and fines for topless female sunbathing that are levied at the Seine's Paris Plages, Paris's summer-long, imported-sand, faux beach near its major river.According to the Guardian piece, the French media maintains that the only women who currently favor topless sunbathing are those old enough to have fought for the right during post-1968 societal shift. It also quotes the writer, Christophe Granger, who says:In the 1960s and 1970s, toplessness was linked to the women's liberation movement, sexual liberation and a return to nature. Historical feminist writing details how the row over toplessness was a struggle for women to do what they liked with their bodies. What has been projected on to it today are different values, identified, not with equality but desire, sexualisation of the body, voluptuousness and the body perfect. It's less about women feeling at ease and free. It has been linked to the harsh cult of the body beautiful, where no imperfection is tolerated.The notion of changing cultural landscapes is ceaselessly fascinating, especially in battles between norms and taboo-and especially when the distance between liberation and objectification is impossibly short. Still, I wonder: If topless sunbathing falls entirely out of fashion, and out of legality, would the law apply to men as well?Story via Jezebel. Image by Pablo Picasso who, while not French, really liked painting topless women, sometimes on the beach.

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