FARMINGTON, Maine — A forecast of sunny skies in April seems like the perfect time to put the top down. But a drive in a convertible isn't what some Maine women had in mind Friday.
Nearly two dozen of them marched topless through this college town to protest what they call a double standard that allows men to take off their shirts on a hot summer day. Many men joined the women, taking off their shirts and marching side by side. Joining the scrum were gawkers snapping photos.
It's already legal under state law for women to go topless in public in Maine. But the protesters in Farmington want it to become socially acceptable, too.
"It's about gender equality," said Tia Jacques of West Gardiner, joined by husband Charles Jacques, as a mob of people moved through downtown Farmington, causing a traffic backup.
Added Charles: "Whether you choose to do this or not, I want you to be free to do this." He also offered some advice: "Keep making a big deal about it until it's not a big deal."
Friday's event was organized by 22-year-old Andrea Simoneau, a student at the University of Maine at Farmington who was inspired by her participation in a topless march April 3 in Portland. She'd been going topless downtown and near campus for the past couple of weeks to drum up interest in the march.
Thanks to the back-to-back events and ensuing Internet buzz, Maine is fast earning a reputation as a place where women can let down their hair – and their tops.
Not everyone is happy with the display of skin.
"Men shouldn't be half-naked in public, either," said Heidi Marshall of Weld, who held a sign that said "Tops for All" as the mass of people marched past.
And Al Thurlow of New Vineyard cautioned that the tactic could backfire by causing towns to consider restrictive ordinances. "It's going to open up a can of worms," he said.
Simoneau, for one, had no regrets. She encouraged other women to take up the cause. And she said she wasn't going to let camera-toting men ruin her day, either.
"Unfortunately, there's no way to deal with people taking pictures for prurient interest, but I feel the best way to deal with that is to just ignore it," she said.