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Topless Swedish bathers: 'They're just breasts'

Paul O'Mahony · 12 Nov 2007, 18:45

Published: 12 Nov 2007 18:45 GMT+01:00

A new wave of feminists have been angered by an incident in September in which two bare-breasted young women were called ashore by a lifeguard at a swimming pool in Uppsala. When they refused to cover up, they were asked to leave the premises.

Speaking to The Local, Ragnhild Karlsson , 22, explained the womens' motives for swimming without bikini tops.

"It's a question of equality. I think it's a problem that women are sexualized in this way. If women are forced to wear a top, shouldn't men also have to?"

Outraged by what they regarded as discrimination, a group of women in southern Sweden made a show of solidarity by establishing the Bara Bröst network. (The name translates both as 'Bare Breasts' and 'Just Breasts'.)

"We want our breasts to be as 'normal' and desexualized as men's, so that we too can pull off our shirts at football matches," spokeswomen Astrid Hellroth och Liv Ambjörnsson told Ottar, a magazine published by the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education.

In a preliminary action in the middle of last month, seven members of the Bara Bröst network hopped into a pool in Malmö wearing only bikini bottoms. Before long, they were whistled to the side and asked to leave.

Two weeks later, seven more women repeated the feat at Högevallsbadet in Lund. After half an hour's discussion, the women went back to the dressing room before claiming a full refund at the cash desk.

A spokeswoman for the leisure complex in Uppsala articulated why the women were not allowed to bathe topless.

Story continues below…

"Swimming pools generally require men to wear swimming trunks and women to wear either bikinis or one piece swimsuits," Inger Grotteblad told The Local.

"There are three reasons for this. First, there is a security aspect, then there is a hygiene issue and finally there is what we call 'prevailing manners and customs'. It is above all this last point which is important here," she added.

Sweden's Equal Opportunities Ombudsman is expected to decide later this month whether or not to take up the case of the topless bathers.

"Our aim is to start a debate about the unwritten social and cultural rules that sexualize and discriminate against the female body," said Astrid Hellroth and Liv Ambjörnsson.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

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