A deep philosophic argument that needs thorough discussion


Apparently, according to advocates of female toplessness, current laws enforce damaging views of women’s bodies.

A thorough understanding of pro-topless advocates’ concerns requires going beyond the issue of legal consistency. Part of what topless advocates object to in gender unequal topless laws are the implications of the underlying messages the laws could be (perhaps unwittingly) reinforcing.

The problem, as Reena Glazer wrote in the Duke Law Journal in 1993, is that laws like that in the 1986 case are “written solely to take into account potential viewers. The focus is on the male response to viewing topless women; there is no focus on the female actor herself.” The implication, she argued, particularly when laid next to the statute’s “exemption for topless entertainment” is that “what might arouse men can only be displayed when men want to be aroused.” By contrast, “men are free to expose their chests … with no consideration of the impact on possible viewers.”

Yeah, it is outrageous that women find themselves constrained in this manner by the law. 

That’s where the real damage of these laws comes in: Though it’s unlikely that many men, if suddenly forced to don a shirt while, say, out for a jog, would find their worlds or senses of self greatly affected, the disparity in treatment of the genders appears to offer legal validation that a man’s view of a woman’s body is the only one that matters. The underlying message to the public is that women’s bodies are inherently sexual, and thus inappropriate to be seen in public.

Some men should cover up…like David Farrar…no way he should be topless with those moobs.

The question then becomes much more basic than whether or not being topless in public is permissible. The issue becomes a matter of women being able to exist and be seen as something other than sexual creatures. The thinking which fuels laws against female toplessness supports the attitude that women are in a perpetual state of sexual engagement, whereas men are allowed to exist in a whole range of bodily states, some of them benign enough to permit the exposure of their chests without it being considered automatically indecent. Proponents of topless equality assert that laws that single out women are effectively perpetuating a degrading cultural norm towards sexualizing women’s bodies without their consent. The concern is that the laws incidentally support a larger mentality of objectifying women.

I’m a big fan of boobs.

One of the curiosities of the debate, then, is that both sides argue that they are combatting objectification. Those opposed to public female toplessness say it is the exposure of breasts that will sexualize the women baring them. The question, finally, has much to do with how you think laws should relate to society: Is it more advisable to use laws to protect women (and the public) in a society that already views their bodies as sexual? Or should laws challenge preconceptions and foster an evolution in the perception of female bodies? Given that in the US, there are over 200,000 occurrences of sexual assault annually, with 9 out of 10 victims being women, both sides understandably feel that the sexualization of the female body is a high-stakes issue.

Vexing issues…I’m sure readers will have something to say.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.