As a proud feminist who respects Ms. Ty McDowell’s right to demonstrate topless, I don’t understand her shock that men would ogle these women.

Unfortunately, we live in a society of “girls gone wild,” where young women in particular are suffering from an epidemic of eating disorders, teen pregnancy and sexual assault.

Mothers who breast-feed are shunned in most public places and women are constantly pressured to balance career with child-rearing in ways that men rarely are. Simply put, ours is not a culture that celebrates the female form or respects women as autonomous human beings with a value other than for their bodies.

Instead of spending their time marching for the right to bare breasts, I would much prefer to see these women who have been transformed by the experience volunteer for a domestic violence shelter, escort patients and providers outside an abortion clinic when there are anti-choice protesters harassing them, or the many other myriad ways to demonstrate a commitment to women’s equality.

This is one feminist who will never go topless in public but will always seek ways to empower women to pursue their independence and freedom through pragmatic yet effective means.

Given our limited resources and precious time off from raising our kids and breaking the glass ceiling, I hope these women will try to do the same.

Andrea L. Irwin

Portland

Dear Ty MacDowell and friends (aka Topless Marchers):

If you want to march in public without a top I don’t really care (I have more important things to do), but don’t do it unless you enjoy being ogled by lechers, because that is just the way the world is. Women have been trying unsuccessfully for a long time to get rid of that male mindset.

Be thankful you don’t live in Afghanistan, where women are frequently stoned for showing not their breasts but pretty much any body part.

The reasoning behind this seems to be that it is women’s fault that men feel lust for them and somehow the women are considered evil for causing this, while the men are exempt from guilt. You are very young, so you can’t be expected to understand how some things work in the real world.

However, it would definitely be more productive to spend your protest time and energy calling attention to some of the other much more serious problems of discrimination women face in the world, instead of something as silly as this. Good luck.

C.R. Rhoads

Denmark

Press Herald, where is your courage?

Why didn’t you take frontal pictures of the bare-breasted protest march? All this time I thought you were a “progressive liberal” paper.

I was entertained by the writer of a letter to the editor and some of the march participants who were outraged at all the men with cameras taking pictures. My only response is what I told my two daughters every day as they grew up. Always remember, girls, men are scum.

I was in Portland on that day; my wife and I were in the ferry line for Peaks Island when she pointed out a number of topless women on the pier. Unfortunately, I had undergone eye surgery the day before and was unable to gander, ogle or gawk at the protesters.

I think such parades are a must for such a liberal city as Portland, as it puts us right up there with Vermont and the West Coast. In fact, I say more parades of topless women, more participants and more men with cameras.

Then we could change the name of Portland from the Forest City to Boob Town — thereby covering all participants, spectators and body parts.

Larry Davis

Hallowell and Peaks Island

Lawmakers act to help teachers, not students

At the urging of the Maine Education Association, the Maine Legislature ignores the need for reform of the public education system, thus assuring that many children in public schools will continue to receive a substandard education.

The MEA has a serious conflict in educational matters, as it is a union advocating for the benefit of its members (teachers). It does not represent the interest of students, parents or taxpayers, and in many instances its actions are contrary to the public interest. For example, it:

Opposes charter schools (school choice) while the countries that are surpassing us in education do in fact have much greater “school choice” than offered here in the United States.

Opposes market-driven pay for teachers, requiring that the pay for the science teacher be the same as that for the gym teacher. Consequently we have trouble getting people who are strong in math and science to become teachers thus perpetuating that weakness in our educational system.

Opposes teacher evaluations, thus requiring that we pay great teachers and incompetent teachers at the same rate. Some of the best teachers leave for better jobs, while the poor performers frequently stay.

Advocates for more spending and bigger school budgets while there are many instances of private schools doing a better job than the public schools for substantially less cost per student.

The sheeplike lawmakers in Augusta have proven they are only too happy to accommodate the MEA at the expense of our kids.

The auto workers’ unions advocated for the interest of their members and rode the car companies all the way to bankruptcy. It appears the teachers’ unions are happy to do the same to public education, and the Legislature is happy to allow it to happen.

Dennis T. Caron

Cumberland Center

Citizenship not required to be an intelligent voter

A public forum on the Portland Charter Commission offered a preview of the debates to come as we approach the November ballot. The issue of non-citizen voting promises to be the most contentious. It is problematic and will be hotly debated.

To clarify, the question pertains only to legal permanent residents and only on municipal ballot questions. Two arguments against it ought to be put to rest right now.

The most straightforward objection is that voting is a privilege of citizenship; residents should prove their commitment to citizenship in order to earn the vote. Fine.

It’s worth noting, though, that most Americans take the right to vote for granted. I didn’t do a blessed thing to engineer my birth in this country. Many Americans like me have the right to vote yet don’t, or vote based on prejudices, misinformation or fixation on a single issue.

Did they earn this right? Let’s not pretend that we have earned anything by the accident of our birth.

The second objection — that we will open the floodgates to the intervention of “foreigners” at every level of government — rings equally hollow. Non-citizen, municipal voting was long the practice in many parts of this country, before new waves of European immigration threatened a comfortable native majority.

At the local level, all residents have an intimate stake in the effects of public policy. Nearly all legal residents pay taxes here.

And all are affected by issues from sanitation to policing to public education. In fact, many non-citizen residents have children in the Portland schools who are citizens.

They deserve a voice in decisions that directly affect their families. Moreover, these residents and their children may come to feel pulled toward American citizenship and political participation precisely because they have practiced it at home.

Non-citizen voting won’t give away the store to outsiders.

Passing this measure at the local level will engage many more stakeholders in civic life, and potentially strengthen our democracy by making full citizenship even more desirable.

Alex Endy

Portland

Les Otten has experience Maine needs for governor

We are supporting Les Otten for governor for a number of reasons.

We met Les 38 years ago when he moved to Maine to work at Sunday River when he was a lanky, skinny 22-year-old who had his Ithaca College diploma under his belt, a strong work ethic and a great love for the ski industry.

Through the years we have come to appreciate Les for his bright mind; honesty; ability to focus on a problem and find the best solution to it; generosity; strong business abilities; perseverance in the face of setbacks; and his many philanthropic endeavors.

We watched him transform Sunday River into an internationally recognized ski area that created 1,200 jobs.

Most of the candidates are talking about jobs but none has stated a plan to create these jobs. Les knows that in order to attract businesses to the state, there are five main problems that must be corrected first:

1. Taxes: Our taxes are among the highest in the country and until that is overhauled businesses will go elsewhere.

2. Insurance: Until we find ways to lower our insurance rates, businesses will locate outside of Maine.

3. Rules and regulations: Maine’s regulation system is much too restrictive and cumbersome.

4. Energy: Maine must become energy independent and keep the energy dollars here in the state.

5. Education: We must try new ideas to solve our education problems. Maine is too diverse and sparsely populated to treat all areas alike. We must explore ideas such as charter schools and give the power back to local communities.

Only a good business person with experience in tough situations will be able to lead the state out of the present situation.

The people who have focused on political experience have had their turn and clearly their methods aren’t working.

Jim and Pat Hudson

Newcastle

How can military continue to discriminate against gays?

Legal discrimination? Surely not in 2010!

Our military has engaged in legal discrimination behind the guise of “protection for homosexuals” against their bigoted comrades for more 17 years.

Over the lengthy existence of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” it has been nothing more than a free pass for the military to discharge soldiers who have done nothing but serve their country and to turn a blind eye to the abuse of gay soldiers or those suspected of being gay.

This is the lesson to our kids: You’re allowed to be all you can be in this great, free country but only if you pretend to be something you’re not while others are looking.

Proponents of DADT might say that it’s for the protection of the soldiers from being harassed and abused, but in the end that translates to, “We’d rather stifle the victim than stifle the perpetrator.”

I find it hard to believe that anyone in this modern era would actually want to keep so many people underfoot, preventing them from being productive human beings and from helping move our country toward greatness.

Jennifer Eastman

Sanford