In 2016, three Free the Nipple protestors were arrested in Laconia, New Hampshire, for going topless at a beach. Earlier this year, in a narrow 3-2 ruling, that state’s highest court upheld their convictions and the topless ban. The prevailing justices ruled that the women’s rights to free speech were not violated and that they were not victims of gender discrimination. In dissent, justices noted the unconstitutionality of the rule because it provides different standards for men and women.
Meanwhile, in the Midwest, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a topless ban in Ft. Collins, Colorado, after two women sued the city. Ft. Collins is not appealing the ruling. There was a wave of reaction that assumed that such a high court’s decision was going to apply to its whole jurisdiction – Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Wyoming – but that decision has yet to be interpreted that broadly.
Such a ruling, though, could prove helpful for a Utah woman’s case. She’s being charged for being seen topless by her stepchildren who stumbled upon her as she was changing. She used that blip in time to teach her kids that she needn’t be ashamed of being topless since they don’t recoil at her husband’s bare chest. The children’s mother reported the stepmother to child services and now a brief moment in time has her facing criminal charges. Despite the 10th Circuit’s ruling, Utah sadly presses on with these charges.
Meanwhile, Vermont’s 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Christine Hallquist, the Vermont-originated group Grab Them by the Ballot, which uses female nudity as political protest in these times of misogyny and sexism, and others are among people and groups advocating for the Supreme Court to take up an appeal in the New Hampshire case. The amicus brief argues against the law under Equal Protection premises. Additionally, as modern understandings of gender evolve from binary and places like New Hampshire allow for more than just male or female to be noted on driver’s licenses, the law becomes more confounding.
We are in interesting and troubling times, especially with the current Supreme Court being so unpredictable in interpreting rights, that I’m always concerned this will backfire. But here’s hoping that sanity can prevail about the human body and that we recognize that non-sexual nudity is just that. Non-sexual. Those judging non-sexual nudity to be anything but are the people who might need to be sanctioned. As Hallquist noted in an interview, “Why do we have these laws? Because men can’t control their drives and emotions.”
Let’s place the focus where it should be rather than outlawing that which makes us human.