Outrage – Women’s Constitutional Right to Go Topless Still Largely Unrecognized

October 17, 2012 | Posted by Enrique

[Enrique is on assignment this week, i.e., he’s tied up with his day job, and will return next week. In recognition of October being National Breast (Cancer) Awareness Month, please enjoy this “classic” Story Time with E that originally appeared September 1, 2010.]

Last week, some guy with a TV show named Glenn Beck hosted a big rally in Washington DC. It was about “Restoring America” or something, and most the people in attendance happened to be white Christians. This Glenn Beck character really gets under some people’s skin, which makes me want to like him. I’ve listened to his radio show a few times over the years, and I think it’s amusing. Of course, I don’t really take him seriously, which makes it easier to enjoy Beck’s shtick. It also keeps me from feeling threatened by him. But it’s amazing what people take seriously these days.

For example – topless women. Well, obviously we all take topless women very seriously in certain circumstances, but have you ever thought about what’s wrong with women exposing their breasts in public? August 22nd was National Go Topless Day, on which we lamented that a woman’s right to air her girls out on a hot summer day remains severely restricted throughout the U.S. But it was also a time for celebration. For our story this week, let’s have a look at tits. (Not literally.)

The story so far…

Technically, this is safe for work. Explain that to your boss who JUST WALKED UP BEHIND YOU!

As you may be aware, government regulation of topless women in public is a touchy subject. *rimshot* But seriously, folks – it’s been a bloody hot summer, so it’s understandable to see how a lady could get miffed about the double standard. Since men tend to be less, shall we say, competitive about our physical appearance than the fair sex, one could argue some men who go topless are behaving indecently. Custom requires I insert a gratuitous man-boob picture here to illustrate the injustice. I’m sure you understand.

Too soon?

On the merits of comfort alone, you have to admit topless rights’ activists have an argument. Anyway, who really wants to get in the way of girls standing up for their right to go wild? And maybe this whole thing is more than just an excuse to talk about boobs – maybe it’s a serious civil rights issue. Conveniently, it’s also a highly amusing civil rights issue:

As part of National Topless Day, protesters will march topless to make a statement against laws that allow men to parade around shirtless, but require women to cover up.

Under this chest-case scenario, women will go topless and men will march clad in bikini tops. Latex nipple covers (they look like actual nipples) will be handed out to women at the beach.

Ooh la la, how cheeky! Although I admire topless women as much as the next man, it’s not as if Americans are total puritans when it comes to displaying female breasts in plain view. In fact, the website of some group called the National Conference of State Legislatures (which I never heard of until Google led me to them just now) says that the vast majority of states permit public breastfeeding. Apparently this NCSL is a lobbying organization for state governments, so I think we can trust them.

For another thing, you may be surprised to know that some of Obamacare’s thousands of pages were devoted to expanding the rights of nursing mothers in the workplace. In a victory for social justice, employers can no longer deny female employees a private place to use a breast pump. So being an American boob ain’t all bad.

Of course, it’s not really fair to compare breastfeeding and going topless for it’s own sake. While I’m truly sympathetic to the interests of topless women, I have to acknowledge that a move toward unrestricted toplessness could have unintended consequences. (Fun fact: Microsoft Word doesn’t think “toplessness” is a proper word.) Just last week in Canada, a rally in support of topless women was met with some awkwardly enthusiastic support:

About 50 observers — mostly male — sat in brilliant sunshine in St. George’s Square Saturday afternoon and waited for the event to begin.

Organizers Andrea Crinklaw and Lindsay Webb, both University of Guelph students, were among the first to peel off their tops in what started out as a shy event. Only a handful of women took their shirts off in the first hour.

The people with cameras and dark glasses may have had something to do with it.

“If you are here just to see boobs and be creepy, we encourage you to move on,” Webb told the crowd.

There’s always a few bad apples who spoil it for everyone, no? Speaking as a grown-up, I think it’s just a bit silly and very rude to gawk at boobs in a “real world” scenario. Speaking as someone who was once a teenage boy, I have to admit women’s breasts can be substantially disruptive to social order.

Occasionally, some academic study will come out that reinforces something we already knew. In a book that was published earlier this year called The Male Brain, a psychiatrist named Dr. Louann Brizendine argues that the inability to ignore girls’ tits is a man’s default setting:

“It’s a reflex that’s built into the brain circuits,” [Brizendine] said in an interview. “At its core biological basis, it’s unfair to criticize men for that initial unconscious circuitry.”

In light of this, male ogling must henceforth be considered genetic destiny rather than anti-social creepiness. […]

When we finally do look away, the experience fades quickly for men, Brizendine writes.

Man trances are fleeting moments of unconscious aesthetic appreciation that disappear from the mind as quickly as they emerge.

I’m sure we can all agree this is conclusive evidence that women need to lighten up about men’s innate wandering eye. Ladies, please – focus on the “experience fades quickly” aspect; don’t take it as an insult.

In fairness, there’s no excuse for men behaving like douchebags in the presence of visible breasts. I imagine if laws prohibiting female toplessness were repealed, boobs would become ordinary, and eventually dull. A lot of the naughtiness surrounding plain, non-sexual breast-baring comes from it being restricted. If boobs were freed, within a few years they would be so totally normal no one would make a fuss about them.

Well, we’d still make a fuss about them, but privately.

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