Feeds

US women protest for the right to bare

Changing definitions of lewdness from the top down

Top three mobile application threats

American women are preparing for protests this weekend against laws which allow men to remove their shirts in public, but treat women who do the same as guilty of misdemeanour.

The action will take place on Sunday 23 August when, according to the gotopless website (PNSFW), "topless women will rally in great numbers across the USA to protest this gross inequality in the law and will demand that they be granted the fundamental right to be topless where men already enjoy that right according to the 14th amendment of the Constitution".

The event is timed to coincide with the month in which the US constitution was amended to grant women the right to vote, and while bound to cause some amusement, there are grave stories behind it.

In 2002, young mother and Peruvian immigrant Jacqueline Mercado had her children taken into care after family pictures of her bathing and breastfeeding them were flagged as "suspicious" by a photo lab technician. Police raided the family home, and Ms Mercado and her partner were investigated in respect of child porn charges.

The indictment clearly characterised breastfeeding as sexual. It charged Ms Mercado with "actual lewd exhibition of... a portion of the female breast below the top of the areola, and the said defendant did and then employ, authorize and induce Rodrigo Fernandez, a child younger than 18 years of age, to engage in said sexual conduct and sexual performance". The case was eventually dropped and the family reunited.

Evidence of this blind sexualisation - even pornification - of breasts in any context is widespread. Any public exposure (such as Janet Jackson's infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction) is apt to cause outrage, clamours for apology and a flurry of legal action. The Facebook ban on breastfeeding pictures, which has evoked a lengthy and at times virulent protest on its own pages, continues. According to Facebook, it does "allow mothers to... share photos of themselves breast-feeding" but not photos of a fully exposed breast - clearly this crosses a line of acceptability.

The gotopless site provides a long list of similar, lower profile stories. Most recently it wrote about Gloria Stovell, a 27-year-old Portland State University student who claims that two male Wackenhut security officers harassed her for attempting to ride the city's light railway while topless. This alleged incident occurred just a day after Portland police mostly turned a blind eye to the World Naked Bike Ride's parade of nudes of both sexes on June 13. A week later, a San Diego art festival banned nipples from display.

While the focus of the gotopless campaign is legal discrimination against women, in the smut-averse US even male nipples can occasionally come in for censure, as one Cincinnatti man discovered to his cost a few years back, when he was charged with indecency for displaying his breasts in public.

Clearly the US has issues here; but Europe, while historically more tolerant and broadminded, is also now displaying worrying tendencies to that end. There is the case of Harrow council, echoed in other council interventions across the country, deeming female nudity not fit for family viewing. Similarly, faux outrage (PNSFW) filled The Sun when model Kirsten Varley appeared nude on a Channel 4 lunchtime show Life Class, although the moral point was somewhat dimmed by the copious photographs with which the paper illustrated the piece.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, can be achieved by the US campaign, but if nothing else it indicates a growing backlash against stubborn puritanical attitudes which can cause real damage to the people they claim to be protecting. ®

Bootnote

However worthy the gotopless campaign, we are rather puzzled as to why it is underwritten by the Raelian Foundation, who appear to be acting under direct orders from "our human creators from outer space".

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Spanish village called 'Kill the Jews' mulls rebranding exercise
Not exactly attractive to the Israeli tourist demographic
Oz bank in comedy Heartbleed blog FAIL
Bank: 'We are now safely patched.' Customers: 'You were using OpenSSL?'
Happy 40th Playmobil: Reg looks back at small, rude world of our favourite tiny toys
Little men straddle LOHAN, attend tiny G20 Summit... ah, sweet memories...
Forget the beach 'n' boardwalk, check out the Santa Cruz STEVE JOBS FOUNTAIN
Reg reader snaps shot of touching tribute to Apple icon
Lego is the TOOL OF SATAN, thunders Polish priest
New minifigs like Monster Fighters are turning kids to the dark side
Dark SITH LORD 'Darth Vader' joins battle to rule, er, Ukraine
Only I can 'make an empire out of a republic' intones presidential candidate
Chinese company counters pollution by importing fresh air
Citizens line up for bags of that sweet, sweet mountain air
Google asks April Fools: Want a job? Be our 'Pokemon Master'
Mountain View is prankin' like it's 1999...
prev story

Whitepapers

SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.