Is Going Shirtless a Necessary Freedom?
By Joe Jarvis - January 14, 2018

Should women be allowed to take off their shirts in public?

Men can do it without legal restrictions. And although it may not seem like a big deal, it is one of those lingering inequalities that give fodder to otherwise over-the-top feminist movements.

It would be better to fix the few actual inequalities that still exist.

Women around the world participate in the “free the nipple” movement. They challenge local laws which restrict women from going topless while allowing men that freedom.

Three women in New Hampshire are challenging a Laconia town ordinance that bans women from going topless in public. They say that New Hampshire has no such law, and it is an unconstitutional restriction of their freedom to stop women from doing an activity perfectly legal for men.

They were arrested in 2016 after refusing to put their shirts back on while sunbathing. Of course, New Hampshire is really too cold for anyone to take their shirt off, even in the summer. But hey, to each their own.

In the U.S. there have been mixed results challenging local laws that ban women from going topless.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled in October that a public indecency ordinance in Missouri didn’t violate the state constitution by allowing men, but not women, to show their nipples. But in February, a U.S. District Court judge blocked the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, from enforcing a law against women going topless, arguing it was based on gender discrimination.

Arguments in favor of the ban seem largely be based on tradition. It is clearly different treatment for men and women.

Most of the women challenging these laws go topless only at beaches or other places where men would typically go shirtless as well. But that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers from resorting to an amusing variation of the slippery slope fallacy to make their point.

The New Hampshire legislature considered a bill to ban women from taking their shirts off in public.

Supporters of the bill warned that allowing women to go bare breasted at beaches could lead to scenes of topless women at libraries and Little League games. They said they were trying to protect families and children. Opponents said such a ban violates the state constitution.

But the problem women have is not with the ban on shirtlessness itself in certain places. The problem is that women are banned from going topless, while men are not. Libraries should require all patrons to wear shirts. I’ve never seen a shirtless man in a library.

I’ve always been a bit perplexed at the usual, “for the children,” argument when it comes to women’s exposed breasts. What are we protecting children from? They know what breasts are. Many of them were nursed by their mothers. I’m unaware of any psychological harm this would do to children.

And although breastfeeding in public is a different issue, it is related. Women should be able to breastfeed in public. There should be no shame associated with such a normal function of human life. In that sense, some women have a better reason than men to be partially exposed in public.

Otherwise, there are certain places that are appropriate in public for everyone to take off their shirts, like beaches and parks. Other places no one should go shirtless, like libraries and little league games I suppose. And on private property, the rules should be up to the property owner.

I support freedom in the sense that if you aren’t hurting anyone, your actions shouldn’t be restricted.

True that sometimes it hurts to look at certain people who have their shirts off. Even so, a consistent position would be to ban men from taking their shirts off in public.

But why go in a more restrictive direction? Freedom means putting up with others’ freedom as well, even when you don’t necessarily like it.

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