Topless roller-blading: The next big thing? - Brooklyn Paper

Topless roller-blading: The next big thing?

Censorship: Toplessness may be legal in New York, but we still are not allowed to show you shirt-free roller-blading enthusiast Rachel Yaeger’s nipples.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Bra-averse female rollerbladers need our support.

A pair of women have spent the past seven months trying to dash the stigma surrounding their two favorite things, toplessness and rollerblading, by aggregating images of ladies in-line skating, sans shirts, and posting the results online, tan lines and all.

“It’s empowering and feminist and takes what could be a joke and makes it real,” said Rachel Yaeger, co-owner of Williamsburg’s Human Gallery.

Yaeger and her cousin, Elizabeth Siematkowski, say that despite the 1990s connotations of the single-track skates and the 19th-century prudishness surrounding the public display of breasts, their project is nothing if not cool.

It all started in April, when the pair were commiserating about how both activities are socially unacceptable in certain circles and decided to make every day a topless rollerblade-in. They started Twitter and Instagram accounts the very next day to spread the gospel of nudity and locomotion by sharing their favorite free-wheeling pics, and, soon thereafter, they launched a website called Topless Blading.

Within days, their goofy, anti-prudery web presence had thousands of fans, because who can resist admiring those who are not afraid to let it all hang out? But the adulation was not enough for Siematkowski, who, on a few sunny mornings this summer, opted to put her derring-do to the test by strapping on her skates, shedding her shirt, and taking a spin over the Williamsburg Bridge.

“At first I was like ‘Oh my God, is this really happening?’ but then it felt natural and I was totally comfortable with it,” said Siematkowski.

Surprisingly, very few of the hundreds-if-not-thousands of passersby she encountered seemed to notice.

Strapping young fad: Elizabeth Siematkowski squeezes into her roller-blades. When it gets warm again, she hopes that her shirtless skating will inspire others to feel the breeze.
Elizabeth Siematkowski

“One girl gave me a high-five, but other than that, I got surprisingly few reactions,” she said.

Since the campaign began, Siematkowski said she has been shocked to discover that eight out of every 10 women she talks to do not know that it is their right to go topless in public in New York state.

The pair say they want to get as many women as possible comfortable with the concept.

“If you are a confident woman and you are proud of what you do, being topless is not a big deal,” said Yaeger.

And when it gets warm again, the two plan to host top-optional skates around Brooklyn.

“Our goal is to get a massive crew of topless bladers rolling through the streets,” said Siematkowski. “Of all the messages women get about their bodies these days, this one is about fun and freedom.”

Now that the weather is a bit nippy, the pair have taken the campaign indoors. Last Thursday, Human Gallery hosted Topless, which featured photos of Yaeger, Siematkowski, and two other women navigating Brooklyn au naturel. This time around, the display turned heads.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.
Toptional: Photographer Kava Gorna and topless roller-blader Rachel Yaeger get meta in front of a picture one took of the other. They hope that shirtless skating will inspire a fourth wave of feminism.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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