Friday, December 15, 2006

Women Fight to Decriminalize the Breast

A few years ago, Cathy Stanton -- a direct descendant of legendary feminist, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton -- joined with ten other women in Florida to sue for a woman's right to take off her shirt -- without being arrested.

The women "sued for the simple right to remove their shirts when and where men enjoy the privilege."

The plaintiffs included a 14 year old girl and the 63-year old great-great-granddaughter of first-wave feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

One of the plaintiffs, Kayla Sosnow, endured arrest and 20 days in jail for the 'crime' of taking her shirt off in the 90 degree Florida heat in a forest. Meanwhile her male companion was deliberately allowed his comfortable topfreedom by police! (Click here for Kayla's story)

Renowned Civil Rights attorney team Mark and Lisa Tietig filed suit in the Middle District of Florida to challenge county and state laws which allow women to uncover their breasts to feed babies and to serve male desires in commercial sexual contexts, but never women to be topfree for their own benefit and comfort. Meanwhile Brevard County and state laws continue to allow men the privilege of baring their breasts whenever and wherever they wish.

More recently, and also in Florida, Elizabeth Book, 44, of Ormond Beach, has been acquited of the crime of taking off her shirt:

DAYTONA BEACH - (AP) -- A woman did not break the law when she exposed her breasts to protest laws that bar women from publicly going bare breasted, a judge has ruled. County Judge David B. Beck said Thursday that Elizabeth Book, 44, of Ormond Beach, did not violate disorderly conduct laws. Book was arrested by Daytona Beach police July 2, 2005, for disrobing in public.

Elizabeth Book writes:

"When I started this crusade against Daytona, it was to decriminalize women's breasts. I have not achieved that goal. I have succeeded in forcing them to recognize our (women's) rights to constitutional protection during a political protest. [But] I say, if we are equal in war and taxation, we should be equal in all things. We will not be denigrated for our breasts! . . . This photo is a protest against women's breasts always being considered sexual. We really must have rights to our own bodies."

The Breast Law:

Section 4(b)(3) of the Brevard County ordinance 95-21 defines illegally "nude" breasts as:

"the portion of the human female breast directly or laterally below a point immediately above the top of the areola with less than a fully opaque covering. This definition shall include the entire lower portion of the human female breast, including the areola and nipple, but shall not include any portion of the cleavage of the human female breast exhibited by a dress, blouse, shirt leotard, bathing suit or other clothing, provided the areola is not exposed;"

It's interesting that women are fighting this battle, but I think it's going to take a very long time, maybe forever. After all, women are still fighting for the right to breastfeed in public.

Photo: "A high school in Sweden surreptitiously pulled a photo of topfree girls from the school's yearbook. Some girls from Hjalmar Lundbohmsskolan had wanted to parody a previous year's photo which showed topfree boys in hockey gear. So they posed in the same pads, skates, and nothing else, covering their breasts with their hands."