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 double standard allowing male toplessness but barring female toplessness needs to end. My brother can walk outside and feel the warm sun on his bare chest without shame, hesitation, humiliation or fear. Yet I am prohibited from experiencing this simply because I am female. To condemn me for my gender and anatomy, neither of which I chose, is wrong and keeps me and millions of other women from living our lives to the fullest. Laws prohibiting women from enjoying the same rights as men not only perpetuate gender inequality and rape culture, but they also violate the 14th Amendment which guarantees equal protection of the law regardless of gender.
Until the day I can legally walk outside without having to censor my ‘indecent’ 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 only obliged to cover their genitalia; women should be obliged to do the same. This is what is fair and equal. A chest is a chest, nipples are nipples, and genitalia is genitalia. To mix or conflate these is a veiled attempt to further oppress women and their right to equality guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Additionally, nipple exposure does not negatively affect other people. The only reason these laws exist to is to continue the flawed and outdated demonization of the female gender.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 to suppress women’s rights in the present.
If our culture implored boys to respect women instead of shame and humiliate them for their body parts, it would help remove the negative stigma attached to women’s bodies that promulgates suffering. The encumbering stress that society places on women to censor themselves creates a needless fear of ‘nip slips,’ ‘wardrobe malfunctions,’ shame, and humiliation. This is a tool of 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, and normalizing female nipples and respecting that they are just part of the normal chest anatomy of a woman is the future.
Every morning in school growing up, I recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and the last line, ‘With Liberty and Justice for all,’ always spoke to me. Liberty is ‘the state of being free from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.’ Justice is ‘fairness,’ ‘equity,’ and ‘impartiality.’ Criminalizing female toplessness while allowing male toplessness is in defiance of these terms, which are concepts on which the foundation of this country was built. Our laws deny women their full due Liberty and Justice as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. They discriminatorily impose ‘oppressive restrictions’ on women due to their gender, yet, 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, are vastly outdated and must be rectified for Justice to be served.
Demeaning women by not granting them the same rights and privileges that men enjoy everyday of their lives perpetuates the abusive, unlawful and sexist culture that perpetuates the dangerous and false idea that women are not worthy of the same respect and dignity that men are. This archaic and inhumane double standard poisonously preserves gender inequality, dehumanizes women, sexually objectifies 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. I look forward to organizing action on this matter with you to achieve social justice reform and bring long overdue liberty to Women.
Lindsey H. Green