Sleepless in Seattle? Or Topless in Manhattan?

As I told you last week, in New York City, it’s perfectly legal (and apparently it has been since the 1990s) for women to walk around topless because they have the same rights as men.  This is thanks to the “Topfreedom Political Movement” which seeks to advance gender equality.  I understand that it’s legal for women to be topless in Canada, too, though I’ve never actually seen it in action during my many visits.  Do any Canadians care to weigh in on this?

I was only made aware of this law because of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter, Scout, pictured here, having made news recently to promote this movement to legalize topless women.

Some news articles I’ve heard or read on this subject indicate that part of this movement is because of people complaining about mothers who breastfeed in public.  My personal feelings on the women topless thing is that breastfeeding in public does not bother me at all.  Maybe if I had young children with me, I’d prefer that the nursing mom put a baby blanket over her shoulder until the baby is attached at least.  But my pet peeve is two-fold.

First of all, part of it comes from when there are activists that want a law amended to allow for these types of things, yet said laws, once passed, don’t seem to consider the possible or probable repercussions.  (Having been a paralegal for more than a dozen years, I tend to look at a lot of situations as how their potential for legal issues might unfold.)

For example, does the woman have to be at least a legal adult?  Because, if not, how many teenage girls look to be a lot older than they are?  So, how is the city going to police this movement?

A potential problem is, if for example, a tourist takes a photo of a topless  16 or 17 year old who looks to be 23, the tourist now technically owns child porn.  If he innocently posts this on his Facebook account, just to say, “Hey, look at how women don’t wear shirts here in the Big Apple!” he has now distributed child porn.  Technically, he could have just had sealed his fate of having to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life, when really he was just guilty of culture shock (okay and maybe exploiting women), once he left his small town life for the weekend.

Furthermore, if or when one of these topless women gets raped, how negatively will it play in that she was half naked and therefore “coerced” the rapist?  (No, I do not believe her attire, or lack thereof, has a thing to do with the heinous crime of rape, but you’d better believe there are plenty of jurors that do, not to mention clever defense attorneys that will use it to the rapist’s advantage.)

What if one of these ladies who simply want to “let the puppies breathe” is a school teacher?  How many parents will see her out shopping for some produce or a book, and will then become irate and write letters of complaint to the schools where the women work?  And now, if these women lose their job over doing something that, according to the city statute, is within their rights, how difficult will it be for them to be accepted at their next job because of the obvious taboo associated with the combination of nudity and teaching children?

Now, keep in mind, this statute allows topless women to walk anywhere in the city.  It isn’t just a designated area such as at a topless beach or park.  So, while certain retailers may have a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” restriction, the sidewalk and street, as well as the numerous sidewalk vendors and open markets there, are fair game.  And while it may be within the “limits of the law,” I can tell you that I definitely wouldn’t have wanted my kids (when they were young) to, pardon the pun, be exposed to topless women.

The second part of my pet peeve on this subject I guess stems from another place in me. I want to know, do the women who support this movement really want to walk around without a shirt on, or do  they just want the right to do it because men do?  I know it may sound like it, but I’m not trying to be a prude here.  Because honestly, yeah, if there’s a good looking, buff man without his shirt on, I’ll look (or ogle).  But most of the time that’s not the case.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, when I see men without a shirt on, I’m not thinking, “I wish I could do that, too,” I’m thinking, “Eww!  I wish he’d cover that up!”  I don’t even want to entertain the thought of my grandma or yours walking around the city topless, much less our daughters.  (Of course, please keep in mind that I live in the retirement capital of the country, Florida, and not only do we have a lot of topless and nude beaches, but even our regular beaches often have the over-90 crowd in their speedos and thongs.  I don’t want to make fun, but as a mom, I’ve been embarrassed on numerous occasions when my kids were small and one of them stopped to point and stare at great-grandma and grandpa’s semi-nudity.)

There are plenty of places for people to go where there is a designated spot to be either topless or completely nude if someone chooses.  And in those places, we don’t have to worry about our children accidentally seeing something that they wouldn’t be allowed to see in a Rated R or NC movie.  Furthermore, while I absolutely believe in gender equality for things such as equal pay for equal work, or opportunity for advancement in the workplace, there are some things that will never be equal — and shouldn’t be.  For instance, men will never have to fight to be allowed to breastfeed in public.

So, tell me, do you think this law has the potential to cause problems?  If you’re a lady, would you go topless in Manhattan?  If you’re a man, would you find topless women distracting?  If you’re a parent, would you have a problem with topless women being around your children in public?  Or would you have a problem if your children’s teacher or your church’s minister went around topless in public?