Lauran Sharkey 
Member since Dec 11, 2019


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Re: “Top Down

In the discussion of women’s rights, one controversial issue has been whether women have the right to be bare-chested in public. Journalist Heidi Walters argues it is an act of lewd behavior. On the other hand, equal rights activists believe if men have such a right, women should too. I believe the right to be bare-chested in public is a human right that we all should possess. It’s time to stand up to the fight for women’s right to make their own decisions about their body and free will.
“Free will” by definition is the ability to act at one's own discretion. However, our societal beliefs dictate what actions are to be left to free will. All across the globe, ancient societal norms allowed women to carry on their regular lives in and out of public, all while exposing their breasts. Until the 1890’s, women weren’t allowed to work, before the 1920’s, women didn’t have the right to vote for their president. The law hid behind the excuse of preserving female morality then too. Now it’s 2019 and women are still being denied their human rights.
America displays a grey area on the legality of bare-chested women. Federally, there is no such law neither allowing nor forbidding women from the right to bare their chest in public. However states and regions possess the right to determine if women are violating their laws pertaining to indecent exposure, which can lead to legal consequences. The Penal Code prohibiting indecent exposure reads as “Willfully exposing your genitals to someone else, motivated by a desire to sexually gratify yourself or the other person.”
Heidi Walters of the North Coast Journal claims three bare-chested women hula-hooping on the Arcata Plaza during a farmer’s market violated those laws and were guilty of indecent exposure. Walters argues “…[a woman] hula-hooping and bouncing their naked breasts around is certainly lewd, especially with children around.” In making this comment, Walters urges us to avoid traumatizing the youth. While I understand her concern for the children, I believe the more important concern is why we as a society hyper-sexualize women’s bodies. Of the children Walters is concerned about protecting, the CDC recorded 83% of them were breastfed. From the first moment of life, infants are exposed to breasts. Children are not traumatized by bare-chests. The trauma occurs through our society’s overwhelming sexualization of the female body.
Our society begins sexualizing women before their breasts are even developed. Young girls are told to cover their chests to protect the sake of female modesty. This issue may seem to affect only females, but the perpetuation of the idea that the female body is inherently sexual, contributes to objectification of women. This perversion has lasting effects on our society and females by teaching little girls and adult women to hide their bodies out of shame. Although not all people share the same beliefs, some religious followers may argue women must cover themselves not to avoid shame, but to protect religious modesty. My own view however, is breasts are of nature, which gods of all religions are responsible for creating. Religious or not, women should have the right to their own free will.
The right for women to be in charge of their own bodies should be their own. Although fighting for the right for women to be bare-chested in public may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in today’s progression of gender equality. Women and men should have equal rights. In the hopes of achieving such a dream, like so many brave activists in the history of women’s rights, we need to recognize the devastating consequences of sexualizing someone else’s body. Everyone, male and female, of all ages, should have the right to be comfortable in any setting, without feeling objectified or risking the threat of arrest.




Works Cited

Walters, Heidi. “Heidi Walters.” North Coast Journal, 29 Sept. 2017, https://www.northcoastjournal.com/author/heidi-walters.

“Breastfeeding Report Card.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 Aug. 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.

“Code Section.” Law Section, http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN§ionNum., Last Accessed 18 November 2019

Posted by Lauran Sharkey on 12/11/2019 at 7:22 PM

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