Topless Issue A Simple Morality Challenge

Topless Issue A Simple Morality Challenge

Do most people think women should be able to go topless where men can? We think the answer is clearly no.

It’s a fundamental question at the heart of the ongoing case involving a challenge to the Town of Ocean City’s 2017 ordinance clarifying the government’s position topless women in public places is illegal. Though legal issues cloud the challenge to the town’s law, it’s actually a simple matter to consider. Should females be able to be barechested on the beach since men can?

Believing women should not expose their breasts in public places where men can does not make us old-fashioned or conservative. We believe it’s a practical view shared by most rational folks.

Plaintiffs in the case disagree and believe it’s an out-of-touch view. In their legal challenge, the women point to the testimony of Dr. Debra Herbenick, a professor and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University-Bloomington, as sufficient evidence to support their cause in court.

“The ordinance fails to acknowledge important similarities between the female and male breasts and the ordinance overstates differences between female and male breasts,” the report reads. “The notion that females baring their breasts in public ‘is still seen by society as unpalatable’ is not supported by peer-reviewed scientific research. Peer-reviewed scientific research supports the conclusion that by not treating females and males equally in regard to their ability to appear bare-chested may contribute to harmful secondary effects such as promoting a culture that over-sexualizes girls and women, thus harming and not protecting the public.”

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Despite this testimony, we believe a federal judge will rule the town’s ordinance next year is suitable and not unconstitutional. There’s little legal or moral grounds to support the plaintiffs’ assertions. We think this legal challenge was simply an exercise to bring publicity and awareness to the “topfreedom” crusade of “gender equality.” Topfreedom, according to its Wikipedia page, “a cultural and political movement seeking changes in laws to allow women to be topless in public places where men are permitted to be barechested, as a form of gender equality. Specifically, the movement seeks the repeal or overturning of laws which restrict a woman’s right not to have her chest covered at all times in public. In addition, topfreedom advocates seek allowing nursing mothers to openly breastfeed in public.”

We argue Ocean City’s beach is not ready for topless women because society is not. U.S. District Court Judge James Bredar’s ruling on the requested preliminary injunction last year confirms this opinion. In his order rejecting the injunction, Bredar wrote, “Although the plaintiffs believe public sensibilities have changed to the point of ready acceptance by the public of bare-breasted females in public, other than for breastfeeding infants, they failed to counter the quite convincing evidence presented by Ocean City to the contrary. That does not mean the public sensibilities recognized today will always be regarded as inappropriate, but for now, the court has seen no evidence that the public sensibilities are not what Ocean City’s representatives say they are in the ordinance.”

We expect the ruling on last week’s request for summary judgment will be consistent with this finding.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.