Image: Gypsy Taub

Editor’s note: The following story contains nudity and profanity. 

A naked activist unleashed a 5-minute tirade in a mostly empty City Council chamber in Berkeley on Tuesday night.

The woman, Berkeley resident Gypsy Taub, was upset after officials tabled a proposal to allow women to bare their breasts in public as part of a national campaign to “free the nipple.” The proposal is not currently slated to return to the agenda.

As the council meeting adjourned at 11:15 p.m., Taub disrobed, saying, “Let’s get arrested.… Let’s fucking get native.”

Taub called council members hypocrites, oppressors and “a joke,” adding: “I don’t care who you are, my body belongs to me.” Officials quickly filed out of the room while Taub continued speaking. One man took off his shirt in solidarity with the nipple liberation campaign.

“Your sex life is a joke because you never liberated yourself from body shame,” Taub shouted.

After making an expletive-laden speech on a wooden table for several minutes, Taub stepped onto the city manager’s desk and hopped over to the dais where she squatted down and banged the gavel repeatedly. She continued to excoriate the Berkeley City Council, in absentia, as fascists who are against “body freedom.”

Image: Gypsy Taub
Image: Gypsy Taub
Image: Gypsy Taub
Image: Gypsy Taub

After her speech, Taub returned to her seat as one audience member observed: “Holy shit, they didn’t arrest you.”

City manager Dee Williams-Ridley told Taub and others gently: “Guys, we’re closing down.”

A Berkeley police officer in disposable purple gloves — standard issue to avoid exposure to bodily fluids — gestured for Taub to leave the room.

The item originally came onto the agenda through Councilman Kriss Worthington’s office as an effort to decriminalize “the Display of Female Nipples.” The law sought to remove one line of the Berkeley Municipal Code “which specifically targets women by criminalizing only the display of female breasts or ‘any portion of the breast at or below the areola thereof of any female person’ in any place open to the public or any place visible from a place open to the public, while placing no such restriction upon males.”

A high school intern in Worthington’s office wrote the agenda item over the summer and told Berkeleyside on Wednesday that the issue of gender equality in this area has been gaining traction with youth. Celebrities, including Miley Cyrus, have also taken up the cause.

The student, Simone Stevens, said she was disappointed by lengthy remarks about the issue made by Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, who said supporters of the campaign were misguided and should focus on more important causes, such as sex trafficking and domestic violence. (Hahn did not reference female genital mutilation, as initially reported by Berkeleyside.)

Hahn spoke for 10 minutes Tuesday night after admitting she was breaking her own new rule for herself about avoiding lengthy comments. She said she had reviewed numerous feminist websites about their key issues and been unable to find toplessness among them.

“We have a lot of fake news,” she said. “I really question whether this might be a fake women’s movement.”

Hahn also equated penises with breasts, which speakers during public comment had said are not inherently sexual because they are used for breastfeeding.

“Penises are also very useful,” Hahn said, because they are used for urination. “They are very utilitarian and they are not here being liberated. And I mean it. I think this is a double standard.”

Hahn also took the proposal to task because none of the female council members were consulted about it and it was not sent to the city’s Commission on the Status of Women for review. She said the item could, perhaps, be sent to the commission to be ranked “among the many important women’s issues that they have in front of them,” though she added: “I think that it would not be ranked very highly.”

Hahn did not mention Tuesday night the fact that the item was developed by a young woman. Simone said it was ironic to hear Hahn argue about the importance of women in government, and then support the tabling of a proposal written by a woman who is trying to do just that. Simone, who does not live in Berkeley, said she spends a lot of her time in the city and is active in the Berkeley YMCA’s Youth & Government Program. She did a summer internship with Worthington and has continued in his office in that capacity.

Simone also said she found Hahn’s comments out of touch with some of the priorities of the younger generation.

“‘Free the Nipple’ is a movement that’s celebrated by lots of young women,” Simone said. “She seemed to think they couldn’t possibly be feminists themselves.”

Simone said Wednesday that serious issues confronting women, such as female genital mutilation, are not the type of problem Berkeley can readily solve — while allowing women to go topless without fear of reprisal is actually doable.

“Even if she disagrees with this, her comments were acerbic to the point where she wasn’t really trying to create good policy. She was trying to almost humiliate any supporters of this bill and tell them their opinions didn’t matter,” said the young woman, who is a senior at the Head-Royce School in Oakland.

“There’s always going to be another issue that’s going to come up,” Simone said. “For her, there’s probably never going to be a right time.”

Taub said, after publication Wednesday, that she too had been dismayed by Hahn’s remarks, which she described as “nonsensical.”

“She was pretty much talking to herself,” Taub said. “Hahn completely disregarded what most of the public comment was about as if she wasn’t even present in the chambers.… In the end she suggested that we should make men cover up their nipples to make it fair.”

Gypsy Taub posted several videos of her remarks at council. One of them appears below. It contains nudity and extensive profanity.

This story was updated after publication to correct an erroneous remark attributed to Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, and to add additional comments from Hahn into the record. Additional comments from Simone Stevens were also added to the story.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...