by Lily Liu

The Star Tribune‘s “A stand for dignity on public beaches” focuses on the ordinance of the Minneapolis Park Board preventing women from going topless in local parks. The editorial’s criticisms pose the question of what differentiates breasts on a woman to those of a man- so much so that the ordinance needed to specify that on top of the anticipated genitals, pubic area, and buttocks, the “female breast below the top of the areola” could not be exposed “with less than a fully opaque covering in or upon any park or parkway.” Evidently, the Minneapolis Park Board didn’t take offense to the male breast or areolas, nor a nipple itself. Even the size of the breast wasn’t a point of contention: as specified with its formal-to-the-point-of-uncomfy word choice, it was the nipple of a female breast that was to be shielded from the eyes Minneapolis through layers of nylon-Lycra blend.

So what’s the reasoning behind this idea of the indecency of a woman’s breast? As the Star Tribune so eloquently states, “Women have nipples; men have nipples. Women have areolas; men have areolas. Women have breasts; many men have them, too.” Is it because of the objectification of women, where our bodies are sexualized and seen only as parts of someone else’s desire? Is it from the influences of purity culture, where women are pressured by society into fitting the role of a “good woman”? Is it both, something else, a combination of it all?

No matter what the answer is, the result is still the great difference in how we regard these same body parts on different bodies. The editorial compels a shift in perspective, to break out from the outdated constructions we’ve created. Allowing women to go topless on beaches (a note to those ten (10) years of age or older: as of 2020, the Minneapolis Park Board repealed a section of the discussed ordinance, so feel free to expose your female breast and areolas without fear of getting ticketed) is another step taken towards desexualizing women’s bodies. #FreeTheNipple isn’t just about getting rid of summer tan lines, but changing the ways we allow gender to influence our views in the process of working towards equity. 

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