I just received an E-mail from a female Marylander which opened with, “Hello… today I saw the OC Coastal Dispatch article regarding [topfreedom] and it mentioned you…”
And I was like… the what??
Because that’s one of my local papers!
And then I was like, well that would explain the blog metrics today 🙂
Sure enough, Shaun Soper (who I have always respected as a professional journalist, and still do) of the Coastal Dispatch wrote a factual, non-sensational, accurate article about the Attorney General of Maryland’s pending opinion regarding the legality and constitutionality of female bare-chestedness and equal protection.
So… for all of you Ocean City/Eastern Shore residents visiting my blog for the first time as a result of Mr. Soper’s article, welcome! Thank you for stopping by.
A couple things about this blog… first is that we pride ourselves on a civil conversational tone in the comments section. You will find people with differing opinions, but we respect each other and refrain from name-calling or vitriol. I have never not published a non-spam comment I’ve received, no matter how hostile or mean, but people will hear your opinion much better if it is delivered with considered and mannerly language. If you “yell” all they will hear is the volume.
Second is that many states around the country already allow women to go bare-chested and in these places a lot of women are indeed going bare-chested. It’s not really that big of a deal any more, to be honest, even though it felt new at first. It normalizes and gets boring very quickly, as it should.
Anyway, nutshelling the situation in Maryland, basically Maryland’s constitution protects gender equality with the highest standard in the nation, namely with an “absolute prohibition” on gender discrimination. This means there exists no justification for treating genders differently when making or enforcing the law. None. Only a few other state high courts uphold this standard, and in each of those states, women can and do go bare-chested, including Pennsylvania (and Washington D.C. which doesn’t even use that high standard.) You can see photos of yours truly walking through Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and the District elsewhere on this blog.
Maryland’s indecent exposure statute, which keeps being characterized as “vague” really isn’t vague at all, legally speaking. It simply says indecent exposure is a misdemeanor without defining the crime. That is on purpose, and was made that way in 2001 by the Maryland legislature to revert the code back to something called English Common Law, which is basically what the law said at the time of our country’s founding in the late 1700’s. Lawmakers do this when they want to “reset” or “reboot” a law, and basically wipe out preexisting court cases. In this case, indecent exposure cases had gotten conflicting results over the years so they just started over. There is no precedent at all, before or after the reboot, in which a female has been charged, tried or convicted of being simply bare-chested without some other criminal behavior (like being high and assaulting a police officer or something knuckle-headed like that.)
Thing is, the constitution precluded state lawmakers from making gender designations, so they wrote it in this purposefully gender neutral language. That’s awesome for topfreedom supporters, but the troubling thing is that law enforcement officials I have talked to over the last two years have actually contended that because it is not written that female bare-chestedness is expressly legal, it must be illegal.
Where else in all of American law is something not defined as legal or illegal assumed to be illegal, as opposed to legal? The law doesn’t say you can swim in a pool…which means that behavior is legal. Criminal code describes crimes. If it isn’t written, it isn’t a crime.
Anyway, old habits die hard. Police would neither agree that bare-chestedness was legal, nor arrest me so I could test it in court, so we’ve been in this weird limbo for two years. Which is why I have spent the last two years trying to find a way to have the Maryland Office of the Attorney General render an opinion on the topic. I won’t bore you with the process (someday I will, but not tonight), but finally about a month ago the OAG agreed to render an opinion at the request of the local State’s Attorney. They said it would take several months to complete.
It all boiled down to the fact that I basically kept going out bare-chested and telling the authorities about it, fully willing to be arrested. But each time I did, I also offered the more mature and reasonable alternative available in the OAG opinion process and so finally they agreed and requested the opinion.
Maryland constitutional protections of course apply to state and local laws, meaning if the state can’t discriminate, neither can local governments. I suspect the local governments will still try, or have some serious conversations about how to create discriminatory laws, but the fact remains that the Maryland constitution and high court says clearly men and women are to be treated equally under the law. No exceptions.
So to the Marylanders here for the first time, thank you for visiting and reading. Please feel free to read through other articles. I especially recommend watching my unedited YouTube videos of me walking and biking through Georgetown in Washington D.C. or playing catch at Assateague National Seashore because you will find a public almost completely unaffected by my appearance, which is my goal. At its core, topfreedom is about creating equality, reducing victim blaming, bullying and body-shaming and to promote body positivity and autonomy in girls and women. No one is saying women should go bare-chested. We are saying we should have the choice, as men freely do.
Neither Maryland nor Ocean City will be remotely inventing the wheel on topfreedom or gender equality. Female breasts are healthy, nurturing body parts. It will feel new at first, but it will be normal and okay very quickly.