This morning I went to the dog beach with two of my very close friends, who happen to be men (and their dogs, of course, who are incidentally also males). I live in Chicago where it was almost 90 degrees mid-morning when we headed to Lake Michigan, and I was already working up a sweat. My buddies reached to yank their shirts off when we found a spot to drop our things on the beach, and my instinct was to follow suit and take my own shirt off. But as I reached for the hem of my tank-top I suddenly remembered: "Dammit. I have boobs. And there are no boobs allowed at the beach!" At least in most public places here in the good old U.S. of A., women's chests must be completely restricted from view, but that morning, I wanted to be topless at the beach.
Yes, it's true that as a society we have sexualized women's breasts into oblivion, and that to many, breasts are objects to be gaped at, rather than body parts that quite honestly just want to catch a little breeze from time to time. Supposing that it's legitimate to defer to the historical objectification of women's bodies (it isn't), I still want to ask why, oh why, does that mean that it has to be illegal to go bare-boobs in public?
The bare chests of my male beach buddies are probably not even noticed by others, but if I went full (top) frontal, there would be stares, yelling, and if I made enough of a scene about it, grounds for arrest. In Chicago (and plenty of other cities around the U.S.), it's illegal for women to go topless. Dismissing a lawsuit against this statute in January 2015, the court ruled that "female breasts are considered erogenous in a way that male breasts are not." Well, yes, women are completely objectified and often treated as sexual objects, but I still fail to see why that means I have to deal with boob sweat and my guy buddies don't.
This argument is essentially, "Women are objectified, and therefore we must continue to objectify them." Never mind the fact that the sole censorship of women's chests is sexist, and the roots of this sexism extend to issues much deeper than wanting to strip down a little more when it's hot outside. No, no, what's more important is the fact that women's breasts have been overly-eroticized, and therefore must stay tightly and neatly bundled up.
I know that efforts such as the Free the Nipple movement are working hard to de-stigmatize breasts and make it so that both men and women are able to enjoy the freedom that comes with not having a part of your body essentially made illegal contraband. But in the meantime, it's hot, I'm sweaty, and I just want to be as naked as my guy friends when I hit the beach.
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