Maryland City Ordinance Proves That Society Is Still A-Scared of Boobies For Some Reason

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Ocean City, MD passed an emergency ordinance yesterday. Did this “emergency” have to do with ensuring that the basic needs or physical safety of its constituents are met? No. It had to do with protecting the citizens of Ocean City…from seeing breasts.

It all started last summer when, according to Jezebel, “‘Topfreedom’ advocate Chelsea Covington filed a brief with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office demanding she be allowed freedom from her top.” In her brief, she cited the state constitution’s “absolute prohibition” of discrimination based on gender.

After her brief was filed, the city told beach employees not to approach any women they saw topless until the Attorney General made a ruling. They were simply to register complaints. However, Ocean City really wanted its citizens to know that they would never actually have a “topless beach,” because God forbid:

So yesterday, the City Council had an emergency meeting (I really…I can’t get over it…this was an emergency? Like a “let’s come in on a Saturday” emergency?) and unanimously passed an ordinance “prohibiting public nudity, or those in a state of nudity.” So, this means men will have to keep their shirts on at the beach too, right? After all, a dude with his shirt off is in a state of nudity.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHA! No, of course not. That’s never what it means. Here’s a part of the official statement from Ocean City Mayor, Rick Meehan:

“The Council met on Saturday, June 10, to pass an emergency ordinance that prohibits offenses involving public nudity or those in a state of nudity. The ordinance states “there is no constitutional right for an individual to appear in public nude or in a state of nudity. Whatever personal right one has to be nude or in a state of nudity that right becomes subject to government interest and regulation when one seeks to exercise it in public.”

Further, the ordinance reads, “equal protection clause does not demand that things that are different in fact be treated the same in law, nor that a government pretend there are no physiological differences between men and women.”

The council voted unanimously in favor of the emergency ordinance.”

The mayor also says, “While we respect Ms. Covington’s desire to express what rights she believes she may have, Ocean City is a family resort and we intend to do whatever is within our ability to also protect the rights of those families that visit us each year.”

A couple of things:

  • “Topless” isn’t “nude.” Otherwise dudes need to put their shirts on.
  • As any heterosexual woman, homosexual man, or bi/pansexual anyone can tell you, male chests can be just as sexy and distracting as female chests when visible. And yet we’re only focusing on not “distracting” those who sexualize women. Why? Because straight men, lesbians, and bisexuals can’t control themselves around breasts? And if not, is that the problem of the woman baring her breasts? Or is that something that those men, lesbians, and bisexuals need to control on their end?
  • HAHAHAHAHA! I’m just kidding. I know that entirely zero thought is being given to LGBTQIA folks in all of this, because it never is. This is totally about not “distracting” straight dudes or offending women who buy into the idea that women need to alter their behavior to keep men in check, rather than believing that the impetus should be on men to learn how to fucking behave.
  • Breasts = “not family-friendly.” M’kay. Tell that to the mothers who breastfeed their kids. Perhaps those visiting families should teach their children that women’s breasts are no big deal, rather than continuing the cycle of sexualization and shame? Hmmm?

I’ll leave you with this awesome spoken word poem by Hollie McNish that touches on the hypocrisy of women being told to cover their breasts in public from a different perspective:

Women who want to be topless on beaches or in parks want to be topless for the same reasons men do. Because it’s so hot that even a layer of clothing is too much.  Or they want to feel the breeze on their skin. Or they don’t want bikini top-shaped tan lines any more than a dude wants a “farmer’s tan.”

And listen, I understand individual women choosing to not go topless. Because yes, we are sexualized. We are often the victims of sexual harassment and assault. For many of us, it doesn’t feel safe. But that’s up to each woman to decide for herself. Perhaps, rather than policing what women do or don’t do with their breasts, Ocean City (and everywhere else with similar laws in place) should consider focusing on womens’ safety, rather than focusing on the “offense” caused by their bodies.

The world doesn’t need to be “protected” from the sight of women’s breasts. It needs to be protected from sexual violence and gender discrimination. Let’s keep our priorities in order, shall we?

(image: BLACKDAY/Shutterstock)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.