Americans have long had a love-hate relationship with breasts. While heavily used in advertisements; most balk when it comes public exposure. Berkeley lawmakers are making moves to remove this bias if Councilman Kriss Worthington gets his way.
Worthington has proposed a motion to review a local public indecency ordinance, which qualifies a woman showing “any portion of the breast at or below the areola,” as a misdemeanor, or at least an infraction. Under Worthington’s amendment, anyone would be allowed to go topless, regardless of gender.
Worthington’s proposal will go before the board on September 12, which hopes to expand Berkeley’s thankfully-sane breastfeeding policy. According to Worthington, “If a woman’s nipples are fit to be seen by the most innocent and impressionable portion of the population, babies, and toddlers, then it stands to reason that nipples are not inherently sexual and are fit to be seen by the rest of the population, if that woman so chooses.”
There have been increasing pressures to eliminate the double standard regarding bare torsos, starting with last year’s influential, but ultimately ineffectual, “Free The Nipple” movement. Despite going viral in 2016, most of the United States maintains public indecency laws against topless women – even in the Bay Area, one of the most progressive parts of the country.
Oakland has an “immoral dress law” on the books, stating women cannot legally wear “any type of clothing so that any portion of such part of the breast may be observed.” San Jose doesn’t allow for “less than completely and opaquely covered” breasts.
Worthington feels that the double standard perpetuates fear and misunderstanding between the genders, as well as being worryingly transphobic. “I don’t think there’s a rational public policy to justify having the double standard for men and women,” Worthington state. “There’s a lot of male fear of women and women’s bodies, and we shouldn’t be part of that.”