If any of you have listened to my Voice of Vashon radio program, “The Mostly True Radio Show,” then you no doubt know that every week we talk about the weirdest news stories, both locally and from around the world.
Searching for these stories helps me keep abreast of burgeoning trends and I have found one that has given me pause. Groups in the U.S. and abroad are petitioning their governments to make it legal for a woman to be shirtless in public anywhere a man can do the same. A common name for this movement is called the “Free the Nipple Campaign.” If the movement isn’t here already, it probably will be once the weather warms up.
I have a couple of issues with this. But first, a bit of history. This controversy revolves around the mammary gland, which I guess makes sense because, you know, we’re mammals. During gestation, the mammary glands develop before gender and that’s why every mammal, including boars, bulls and boy bands, have said anatomy.
During our evolution, the enlarged mammary gland in the female is one sign to the male that she has reached sexual maturity. Don’t blame me. I don’t make the rules.
This is not a case of comparing apples to bigger apples. For men, it is a non-functioning organ, while the same organ in women is an identifier of sexual maturation and provider of life-giving nutrients to newborns. If men don’t have mammary glands, humanity will hum along much the same. If women are sans the glands, there is no humanity.
Now, I would be a hypocrite to say I would not look at, and enjoy, women running around topless, but a few points about this movement make me uncomfortable. And no, I am not a prude about breastfeeding in public. If your child is hungry, feed it, so what? However, I am disappointed to see so much time, effort and political capital spent on securing a right that few will exercise. I can’t imagine there are many ladies out there thinking, “Geez, I wish I could go grocery shopping with my boobs hanging out.”
My second problem is that this activity distracts from important issues that affect all females — not just those who live in societies that expect them to cover their breasts.
Women need an equal voice in the system that governs them.
Women need equal pay for equal work.
Women need control over their bodies. Think of it this way: if men had babies then dominion over one’s own body would be enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
Women, especially young women, need easy access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs. It is appalling how much human intellect lays fallow because women are overlooked or even discouraged from entering such programs.
It turns my stomach to see the media-saturated with women such as Kim Kardashian, who famously turned her self-starring pornographic movie into a cult of personality. She takes in millions from the world and gives back duck-face selfies and mascara advice. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow does the same with her pseudo-scientific “GOOP” brand. She makes her unseemly wealth through fear, specious facts and outright fraud.
Little girls need exposure to past and current heroes such as Mary Anning, a pioneer in paleontology (and the “she” in the tongue twister “she sells seashells…”).
Florence Nightingale — mother of modern nursing and statistical math whiz. She invented the pie chart, yes that chart, to explain the complexities of how people died during the Crimean War.
Donna Strickland — she is a Nobel Prize winner in physics for 2018, as well as wife, mother and inventor of the“chirped pulse amplification,” i.e., the most powerful laser in the world.
Christina Koch — the recently-landed astronaut who holds the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, 328 days. (Given what’s going on down here, it’s no surprise she stayed up there as long as she could.) Yet, she could not accomplish such an amazing record without degrees in electrical engineering and physics.
One of my favorite historical figures, Susan B. Anthony — suffragette and, like me, unabashed bicycle nerd — said it better than I ever could: “There is not a woman born who desires to eat the bread of dependence.”
While I would never oppose any movement with the goal of achieving equal rights for women, I would suggest folks keep their shirt on until more pressing issues are addressed.
Chris Austin is a Voice of Vashon radio host and local tour guide.