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Margo Brooks and Kimberly Ingoldsby stand together Sunday at the Go Topless Day rally, voicing their desire for equality at the Town Square Pavilion in Carbondale.

CARBONDALE -- Men and women should be treated equally, including when it comes to going topless, a Benton woman said Thursday.

Kimberly Ingoldsby founded Go Topless in Southern Illinois three months ago and has lured about 100 members of men and women across the region to the group.

On Sunday, they will be participating in Go Topless Day in Carbondale to bring attention to inequality and human rights violation, Ingoldsby said.

“Men can go out and expose their areola without getting in trouble. Women do it, they get arrested,” she said. “It’s discriminating simply against women’s breasts. As long as men are allowed to be topless in public, women should have the same constitutional rights.”

For Ingoldsby, the issue is symbolic of prejudices against women that still exists today, whether in their jobs or breastfeeding in public.

She claims she has been discriminated against by a former employer and has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It also comes down to respect, or the lack of it, and the prevalence of sexual objectification of women even when clothed, she added. She said she believes those behaviors would change in a topless society.

“By empowering women and their femininity, men will learn how to deal with their consciousness,” she said.

Though a first for Southern Illinois and the St. Louis area, Go Topless Day is in its seventh year with participation in 60 cities across the globe. The events coincide with National Equality Day.

New York, Texas and North Carolina are three states that allow women to bare their chests under equal rights protections of the 14th Amendment, though many cities in those states prohibit it, according to Go Topless information.

Local women participants will adhere to state and city laws by covering up with body paint or tape for a demonstration along Illinois 13 to change those laws, Ingoldsby said.

Men will wear the same, or bikinis. The point is, either prohibit men from baring their chests or allow women the same legal rights men have, she said.

The group is meeting at 11 a.m. at the Carbondale Pavilion and will be demonstrating through much of the day.

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