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A CALL TO BARE BREASTS, X-plicit Players' Trial Protest

by Deb Moore, May 1996

It's weird to be preparing to go to trial for an activity that is as natural and harmless as being outdoors with chests exposed. The feeling we have while exposing our breasts is blissful and impacts us in ways I will describe. Most of the folks we go by are so encouraging, that each breast free stroll turns into a collaborative celebration. The act of taking off shirts feels like stepping out of a make-believe world and into a world made more real. The make-believe world is the one where women have to hide something that men don't. The more real world is one where we are seen and not hated, idealized, or feared for how we look. We are more really ourselves without the clothing that is forced upon us by others...

After having experienced the state that I'm in while breast free, I must return to it. It is a state of mind where my vulnerability and fragile feelings show up. My breasts and chest carry feelings straight from my heart. Some kind of antenna works better when my shirt is off. I usually let my body tune itself to the bodies of others as a natural way of moving through the streets. But when more of my body is exposed, especially my chest and belly, I can tune into others more. I feel raw and investigative with my whole torso and can "read" the natural forces and vibes from others more clearly.

Breast exposure is a tool for me. Being uncovered lets me feel the breezes and tiny changes of temperature and sunlight. The nature of tree life and plant life is more perceptible. The nature of people's feelings, emotions and changes in mind state are more perceptible. Some people call this way of experiencing natural phenomena "Eros". Ancient people have found it more possible to commune with nature or speak with their gods while undressed. Perhaps the human body is considered a thing of beauty because when unveiled it naturally draws information from you, the viewer. I am drinking in my world more fully through all my pores when breast free.

Those who go walking breast free with me are more perceptible to me because more of their body is available to me. Just seeing Nina all day with her breasts as well as her face, shoulders, arms, navel, is one of the most important gifts of my life. I can sense her more when her body is there as well as her face. The act of sensing Nina has been one of my main occupations for several decades. I believe I will never tire of it and will go to my grave wanting more of it. I will not let some stupid law take this precious gift from me, it would be like letting a conservative council take away my taste buds.

This desire to sense each other throughout the day with most of our bodies exposed was a major reason we tried breast freedom many years ago. But another reason that we first ventured out undressed was far less personal. The first time we went out into the public arena breast exposed and also completely naked was in January of 1991. We were scared and felt quite vulnerable to go to an anti-war demonstration naked, but I felt I must. I could not get the impulse out of my mind to utilize my naked body as a reminder of the value of each part of the human body.

Our stated message during the Gulf War was "no spare body parts for the war machine", "you need your body more than Bush", and "tits not targets" which was clearly printed on placards that we carried with us. But the statement was our nakedness. The vulnerability of several women and men in gentle embrace made clear that bodies are made for tenderness. We chanted statements like, "keep your bodies for yourselves, don't give up your bodies to war". But the slow gentle gestures we made toward each others bodies, the curling and uncurling embraces, as we turned from walking caterpillars into the fallen dead in embryo positions made the statement riveting. Everywhere we went in the crowd of 250,000, people stopped and formed circles around us staring, treating us with intense tenderness, like gentle deer. This event showed me that acts of love made by naked bodies are understood by most of our people.

We brought our walking body sculpture indoors to the Adobe Bookstore in March of '91 and called our performance "The Body of Peace". From then on, we gave ourselves the freedom to make art and performance pieces indoors and outdoors with the free use of our bodies. We consulted with Bill Simpich, David Nick, and David Kahn, lawyers who later defended us and won three court cases when our events were stopped. But for all these five years, we have performed nationwide, utilizing scripts that heighten the standards of body expression.

When Andy Martinez went naked to classes at U.C. we were going on breast free walks. Andy asked us to participate on Free Speech Plaza in front of Sproul Hall, in a Nude-In. We drew about a dozen nude audience members from the crowd of one thousand into a "body sculpture" that was painted and touched by other audience participants. There was no law denying us this artistic freedom. I warned the crowd that they had to watch over Andy and the X-plicit Players to make sure we could keep the freedoms we were then exercising together..."Our Bodies are Freedom of Speech". This statement became a well-known slogan, and Andy a national symbol.

Then the powers of bureaucratic repression and political correctness struck back at Andy. Chancellor Tien of U.C. wrote an edict barring any nudity on campus. The head of the drama department decided that must mean that no nudity is allowed on any stage in U.C theaters. The dean of the drama department had our X-plicit Players' "Act of Intimacy" performance thrown out of Durham theater where it was booked.

We protested the banning of our indoor nude performance by beginning the performance naked in front of campus. We were arrested and subsequently beat the city of Berkeley at the beginning of our trial, even before jury selection could begin. The grounds for dismissal were that performance and art must be allowed to confront. Because it was a performance, our lawyers succeeded in convincing the judge not to give the jury instructions to look at affrontive behavior as a crime. When the DA. saw that he couldn't nab us for nudity that affronts, he admitted he had no case. He was smart enough to know that our touch during performance was not genitally focused and therefore lewd conduct would not apply.

All of the states in our country except Indiana have no laws barring simple nudity. And we lived here in town for quite some time before the City of Berkeley's conservative city council sat down and wrote their repressive little Ordinance. The writing of the Anti-Nudity Ordinance was triggered by a right wing Family Values councilwoman. Others on the council including our last mayor, the politically climbing Loni Hand-cock, decided they'd better make sure Berkeley got as cleaned up as Walnut Creek. Pressures to adopt the Ordinance came from the big monies on campus and the more conservative merchants in town who thought they knew how to get tourism to flourish. Their money, complaints and threats pushed to destroy the very reasons that tourists flock to Berkeley--the presence of radicals that carry on the spirit of this place.

We X-plicit Players have drawn attention to breasts. The freedom to a chesty dialect is just too much to give up, for the reasons I've said. Also, men have already won the right to take off their t-shirts. Back in the thirties it was just as taboo for men to go topless as it now is for women. "It Happened One Night" was a movie that starred Clark Gable. When he stripped off his little white shirt, the kind men wore even to beaches, other men all over the country followed suit. (No pun intended). Suddenly men on so many beaches and in such great numbers took off shirts that the jails couldn't hold them. Social taboos changed and we got used to men being able to be visible, sexy, and turned toward the sun with their tits enthused.

We have celebrated the beauty of women's breasts during six Breast Freedom Parades this last year. Some of those parades involved twenty-five women at a time and fifty men and kids to overflow Telegraph Ave. with breast free singing and dancing. Other parades started with quiet body sculptures under Moe's Bookstore awning and included a focus on "kids loving breasts" body painting of breast free women by kids. During our breast freedom parades and protests, the police have ignored the Anti-Nudity Ordinance. Or better still, maybe they were smart enough to let us be breast free because the Ordinance stipulates in Section 2, exception d,. that whatever activity is otherwise constitutionally protected is exempt.

But during our seventh, eighth and ninth protest/performances, Nina and I were arrested. During these events we had body-painted symbols of breasts being banned drawn on our bodies, we had instruments and even placards. We spoke emphatically to the police at the time of arrest about the protection provided us by our constitution and about the insult they made to our First Amendment rights by interrupting our protest/performances. We have videoed each arrest that we knew of at the time of arrest and have already been subpoenaed for that footage.

We can only guess what possible case the DA could invent. Why arrest us after so many police were documented on our videos as seeing us, saying hello, even radioing in and getting instructions to let us be? How can a case that so obviously denies us equal protection under the law, (14th Amendment) win in court? During one of our arrests a stranger stepped up to the police and took off his shirt asking if he would be arrested too. The police officer and the Berkeley Anti-Nudity Ordinance gave him the freedom to be breast free while criminalizing me and Nina.

We believe our case revolves around the 14th Amendment, equal protection, and the First Amendment, freedom of communicative speech in the arts. Each arrest did happen during communicative acts of performance and protest. However, a jury trial is a strange bit of theater itself, thrown about in the tides of personality and whim. Even though our friends put breast freedom on the books in the state of New York, we cannot be assured that our jury will be as smart about constitutional law as the New York State Appeals Court. We're gonna need something from some of you.

The best we could hope for from you is that many of you will hear this article as "a call to bare breasts". We will meet with you during the noon break of our court trial on Tuesday, June 18th, to step out across the street from the courtroom and greet you and your breasts. This will be a Breast Freedom Trial Protest and Performance where we'll sing our infamous Breast Freedom Song on stage in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Realize that whenever we have performed on an outdoor stage in Berkeley, and whenever our protests have included numerous people, the police have left us alone. This doesn't mean that there is no threat of arrest, but the ordinance stipulates that performances in a place "which is primarily devoted to theatrical performances" are exempt. The more women who appear and take their shirts off in solidarity with me and Nina, the more chance there is that our statement will be heard and taken seriously.

We'd like you to come breast free because women deserve the same freedoms as men. We'd like you to come breast free because our bodies must be held sacred as vehicles of communication and artistic expression as well as our voices. We'd like you to come breast free because it would protest our trial. We'd like you to come breast free because we don't wanna do any hard time. We'd like you to come breast free because it would be very, very fun.

If you can't be breast free, please come to the trial to watch and listen. The breast freedom trial needs to be watched because it will make the jury and judge feel watched. If they feel watched then there's much more chance they'll do the highest thing and make a decision that responds to all members of our community. Your presence in court will make a difference. If you want to come to watch our trial, please be sure to call us before coming, so we can fill you in on some important information!

Finally, if you can't get to any of these places, please keep an eye out for us during the months to come to make sure that we do not continue to be criminalized for breast freedom. We plan to keep this very dear freedom and appreciate the path that your watchfulness will pave for us.

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Last update 26 May 1996