On July 4, 2017, I sent every democratic US Senator the following letter (and only them because I knew I had no chance with anyone in the Republican party):
The fact that men are allowed to be topless in public but women are not is sexist and cruel. My brother can walk outside and feel the warm sun on his bare chest without fear of shame or humiliation. But because I am female, I am condemned for doing the exact same thing strictly because of my gender, which I did not choose at birth. That is wrong and keeps me and millions of other women from living our lives to the fullest. Discriminatory laws prohibiting women from being topless wherever men are allowed to be perpetuates gender inequality and rape culture and violates the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution which guarantees equal protection under the law regardless of gender.
Until the day I can walk outside without having to censor my nipples, I am being discriminated against because I am female, and that is the true indecency. These laws forbidding female toplessness hyper-sexualize and objectify my nipples by equating them with genitalia. Men are obligated to only cover their genitalia, not their nipples; women should be allowed the same. That is what is fair. A chest is a chest, nipples are nipples, and genitalia is genitalia, and to mix or conflate these anatomies is a veiled attempt to further oppress women. Further, nipple exposure does not negatively affect anyone, and the only reason they must be hidden is to perpetuate the flawed demonization of the female gender.
It perplexes me why we have learned so much about the historical hardships women have faced throughout history only to continue them into the future. If our culture implored boys and children to respect women instead of trying to control them and their bodies, it would remove the systemic oppression that women continue to face. The encumbering stress that society places on women to censor themselves but not on boys creates the needless fear of ‘nip slips’ and ‘wardrobe malfunctions’. Fear and shame are tools of control and disempowerment. Juxtapose this experience with men who are completely free to be bare chested without consequence. Our laws and culture are structured to rip apart a woman’s self esteem while building up a man’s.
Society brainwashes people that women are emotionally, mentally, physically and psychologically inadequate and not worthy of the same dignity and respect that men are. If our laws and society actually honored and respected women instead of suffocating and disempowering them, it would lead to the closure of the inequality gap and help move society forward into the future. Further, every morning in school growing up, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and the last line, ‘With Liberty and Justice for all,’ was always my favorite. Liberty is defined as ‘the state of being free from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views’ and justice is ‘fairness,’ ‘equity,’ and ‘impartiality.’
Criminalizing female toplessness while allowing male toplessness defies these concepts on which the foundation of this country stands, and thus our laws deny women their full due Liberty and Justice and must be changed. They do this by discriminatorily imposing ‘oppressive restrictions’ on women due to their gender. According to the 14th Amendment, (1) no state shall deprive any person of Liberty and (2) no state shall deny any person equal protection of the laws. Therefore, criminalizing female toplessness denies women their due rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States; they are vastly outdated and this must be rectified. Demeaning women by not granting them the same rights and privileges that men have perpetuates an abusive sexist culture which creates the false idea that women are not worthy of the same respect and dignity that men are.
This inhumane and cruel double standard poisonously preserves gender inequality, dehumanizes women and makes women second class citizens in their own country. My whole life I have felt like I have been punished for being a girl and treated like a second class citizen, and that is not fair or right. I hope together we can free women from these sexist, discriminatory, disrespectful and unconstitutional laws. I dream of the day when I can live with the same basic liberty, freedom, dignity and respect that men enjoy every day of their lives and I look forward to organizing action on this matter to bring long overdue liberty, equality and justice to the women of this great country.
Lindsey H. Green