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Call Ed: Shirts off for equality
Women in New York have had the equal right to be topless since 1992. For nearly 25 years, women have been able to freely breastfeed, sunbathe and feel comfortable in their own skin. This issue, TKC decided to take a stance on gender equality within our written law. Seeing the unjust discrimination, 89 percent of staff (79/89) believe women should have the right to be topless in places where it is appropriate for men to be.
December 5, 2016
According to the founders of Atlantic City, the 42 arrested men were “gorillas.” In front of women and children, they were hauled off the beaches and fined for their unthinkable crime: indecent exposure. Their actions seem inconsiderate, twisted and disgusting. Yet, nearly every living male in the United States has mirrored the actions of these 42 men. Why? Because the men were arrested in 1935 for being shirtless on the beach, one year before they legally could. At the time, it would have been a humiliation to be seen topless in such a public place. Now, topless males are a normality.
Nearly a century later, many women feel they deserve the same freedom, yet the country withholds it from them. The topless equality movement isn’t about encouraging all women to go shirtless; it’s about fighting back against gender discrimination within the law. Topless equality activists want women to have the same choice as men every time they go into a public area.
Society has sexualized breasts to the point where it feels awkward or wrong to merely talk about them. Children are taught that public female toplessness is inappropriate and undignified. Even mothers receive judgmental stares when they publicly breastfeed their young children. Topless equality opposers argue topless women will be over-sexualized and have their dignity stripped away. But that’s farfetched. In our society, the male upper body is also sexualized. Every romance movie and Abercrombie advertisement capitalizes on it. And true dignity is dependent on how a woman carries herself, not how she dresses. Despite the fact that topless men were once met with similar opposition, state legislatures won’t budge because of these unconscious social norms.
This cannot be the case. This blatant form of discrimination is so intertwined in society that the majority of people are willing to turn a blind eye to this injustice. The societal norm is so prevalent, people can’t even question topless inequality without raising a room full of eyebrows. To put this absurdity into perspective, think of it this way: imagine a situation where the government enacts a law requiring African-American citizens to wear a shirt at all times. Supporters of this hypothetical legislation argue that technically, because of their different color, their nipples are technically different. What would happen? The country would rightfully explode into a frenzy. Men and women of all races would join to justly protest this overt, discriminatory act. This hypothetical law seems outrageous, but it directly parallels the oppression women face every day. Yet, the laws aren’t changing at the rate they need to. If legislatures stay on this regressive and random path, they might as well pass laws requiring anyone with a “J’ in their name to wear purple socks.
The topless equality movement is about more than simply giving women equality in regard to dress, it’s about removing the words “male” and female” from written law and establishing gender equality across the board. Under no circumstance is it moral to create regulations restricting a single gender. Gender-defined law prevents equality in regard to wage, drafting, maternity/paternity leave, abuse, transgender issues and more. Opposers will attempt to argue this issue is insignificant, that it is merely symbolic and unnecessary. But beyond the change, the symbol the movement stands for is crucial. Our society cannot fix large-scale gender equality issues while clear differentiations exist within our written law, the building blocks of our country.
In 1935, 42 men were able to start a movement that obtained topless equality within a year. In 2016, nearly a century later, women are still unable to obtain the same privilege. Men don’t think twice about their topless freedom. If we give equality a chance, in a couple decades, the female top could be normalized just the same. TKC isn’t encouraging every woman to take her shirt off, we simply believe they should have a right to do so. Instead of caging women as gorillas, we need to reevaluate our laws to surpass the belittling social norms of today to form a more equal world for our children tomorrow.
art by Erica Miget and Bridget Killian
photo by Chloe Hooker