One of the ongoing debates in Argentinean society is the relative influence of Italian and Spanish values. And when it comes to the place of women, Italy’s conservative mores would seem to have the edge. Spaniards who visit the country’s beaches are often surprised to discover that while women can sport the tiniest of bikinis, topless bathing, widespread in Spain since the death of General Francisco Franco four decades ago, is still very much taboo.
On Saturday, three women who broke that taboo on one of Buenos Aires’ most popular beaches, Necochea, found themselves threatened with arrest and handcuffs after other bathers called the police.
Initially officers attempted to pressure the three women to cover themselves up, who responded by vociferously defending their right to sunbathe topless, pointing out that men are entitled to do so, and shouting “¡Machistas!” as a crowd gathered around them, some in support, and the majority seemingly opposed. The row was filmed and later posted on social networks, prompting widespread discussion.
To make the tit-phobes happy, we’re leaving this fascist beach One of the three women involved in the incident
Police officers continued to harangue the three, but they refused to back down. Eventually around 20 officers from some six patrol cars were called to the scene, taking an increasingly aggressive approach, insisting that the women were nudists.
“They are tits, like the ones that fed you when you were small,” said one of the women to an officer.
As more people joined the fray, with shouts of support and criticism in equal measure, the officers said they would have to handcuff the three, a move that was greeted with cheers by some onlookers, who called for them to be thrown in the cells.
“To make the tit-phobes happy, we’re leaving this fascist beach,” said one of the three women before finally packing up her things and leaving.
Facundo López, the mayor of Necochea, has come out in support of the three. “We all know that this contravenes the law, but it is not serious enough to warrant what has gone on around it. The law is obsolete, and I am prepared for it to be modernized. We need to have an open mind,” he said. To judge by the response on the social networks to his comments, Argentina has a long way go to when it comes to eradicating sexism.
In response to the incident, a march demanding the right for topless bathing to be allowed on Argentina’s beaches has reportedly been planned for February 11.
English version by Nick Lyne.