Topless Inventory

By Beth Hartmann

There was a new rule at the co-op. This was in the early 1980s when the only store was the westside. It was a warm summer, and men were regularly coming into the store without shirts on. Now this was troublesome for some of the women who saw inequality and  male privilege in this display. After much discussion, the staff decided that the only fair thing to do was to make a new policy requiring everyone to wear a shirt in the store. Needless to say, this was highly controversial.There was even a column in the Seattle Times ridiculing us.

The time came to do inventory, a quarterly counting and weighing of everything in the store. This was done one night after closing with a team of working members and all staff on hand. On this night we had quite a surprise when three women came to do inventory with shirts painted on their bare torsos. No one challenged them when they arrived. The staff gathered to discuss the dilemma with no small sense of amusement. We decided to leave well enough alone this time. We didn’t challenge the women. They happily stayed and did inventory. I wonder if that policy is still in place.