Saturday 21 April 2018

'Women have a right to be topless' - Woman defends 'topless protest' at music festival

Carina was escorted from the festival by gardaí last weekend. Photo: Facebook/Carina Fitzpatrick
Carina was escorted from the festival by gardaí last weekend. Photo: Facebook/Carina Fitzpatrick

Meadhbh McGrath

A young woman who was forcibly removed from a music festival for staging a “topless protest” at the weekend has said she was trying to fight social stigmas and send a message about gender equality.

Carina Fitzpatrick was escorted out of Knockstockan music festival, a family-friendly event attended by children, after she took off her top and ignored requests by gardai to put it back on.

Speaking to RTE Radio One’s Liveline, she described the scores of shirtless men at the festival who weren’t asked to put a top back on.

“There shouldn’t be one rule for me and another rule for you,” she said.

Ms Fitzpatrick said she was inspired by discussions about body confidence and feminist issues with other women at the festival, but an incidence of sexual harassment was the last straw.

“I dealt with a man who grabbed onto my breast, when I was fully dressed, and I decided to laugh it off, as we often do. He was just being a messer, it’s not such an uncommon thing for women to be groped, it’s certainly not uncommon for me,” she said.

“Every time you get sexually harassed, you have to weigh up your options. Do you say 'is this very dangerous?' or 'is this innocuous nonsense?'

“Just because somebody comes up to us being a creep, that doesn’t mean we have to educate them.”

She added: “It’s happened to me in public spaces, in broad daylight, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, that just happens to women.”

A few hours later, Carina and her friends were subject to a barrage of sexist comments as men at the festival asked them to “show their t***” while they were dancing.

Spurred on by the two encounters, she decided to take her top off while enjoying the music.

“I was saying, I’m a person, first and foremost, I’m not a sexual object,” she said.

“I wanted to take a stand and say I’m a human being, that’s all this is. Men have the right to take their tops off, it was a lovely day and the men were topless everywhere.”

At first, Carina said that there was no response from the people around her, but she attracted the attention of gardaí at the festival.

“The garda came over and asked me to put my top back on. Nobody said anything to me or batted an eyelid until the garda came over to me.

“At first when the garda came over, some of the topless men said ‘no, that’s a double standard, chill out, let’s discuss that’,” she said.

She added that she eventually put her top back on after a garda asked her to, but later decided to take it off again.

“I was riled up. I just stood there, doing nothing, having my top off, listening to music, and then boom,” Carina said.

“A lot of people around were booing and going mental, the men were taking their tops off, the women were asking what’s going on. There was a really intense, electric energy about the place.”

She was guided off the premises and gardaí confiscated her festival wristband, preventing her from re-entering the arena. Carina narrowly avoided getting arrested, as she repeatedly refused guards’ requests to put her top back on.

“There is a place where it’s acceptable for men to take off their tops, I’m not saying we should all be topless at the opera or the supermarket, but at the beach or a festival where men are topless, women have a right to be topless,” she said.

“Going back to Woodstock, there’s always been a connection between freedom of expression and women at music festivals taking off their tops.”

Carina added that her behaviour has been “stigmatised socially”, and argued that it shouldn’t be considered an act of promiscuity.

“A woman, no matter what she wears, is not signalling promiscuity. They are not ‘asking for it’,” she said.

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána told "Complaints were made by members of the public at approximately 7.30pm on July 23 concerning an offence under Section 18 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935 as amended by Section 18 of the Criminal Law (Rape)(Amendment) Act, 1990 i.e. committing public indecency.

"The offending female was escorted from the event and her name and address were taken. The matter is under investigation."

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