Toplessness and Equality


I was driving the other day and listening to Here & Now on NPR. Since making the conscious decision to give up cable, I watch very little broadcast TV and radio is where I get my news of the day. Back to the program...I happened on an current story about Sonoko Tagami, a supporter and participant in the "GoTopless Day" in Chicago who was issued a ticket for baring her breasts in public. She is now suing the city on the basis of a violation of free speech and equal protection for women under the law. 

If you're not familiar with the story, read the details here

The Here & Now story documented the facts of the case, straightforward and informatively, but here is what concerned me and why toplessness, equality and the rights of women are still important in the year 2014.

In the broadcast, the Here & Now hosts giggled at the mention of breasts, toplessness, nipples...Finally, the clip ends with Robin Young, the female host, stating "Just make men where shirts in public done with it."

Relatively benign, right? I disagree. You've missed the point of Tagami's argument and the crux of the toplessness cause. The issue at hand is a law that unfairly (and unconstitutionally) requires one gender to cover up, while the other is excluded. To expand beyond the legality and constitutionality of the topic, we as a society have over-sexualized women's breasts, to the point where everyday actions like breastfeeding in public and the open and unadulterated discussion of breast cancer have become taboo and subject to controversy. 

Giggles aside, it's not about whether you're an A cup or a double D. And it's not about whether you want to go topless to the park or wear a tank top. It's about the right to choose to do so and equal protection under the law. Freedoms and equality are not inherent, they are fought for, tirelessly and over time. And they can be chipped away, piece by piece, in the name of morality, safety and security. 

I love you NPR, but I would like to live in a world where one day soon the words "breasts" "nipples" and "areola" are not a laughing matter.