Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Posts Tagged ‘freedom

Allowing female nipples to be seen means total equal freedom

leave a comment »

We have the freedom to believe whatever we think freedom should be even if we think other people’s definition of freedom interferes in our right to have freedom.

Men have had the right to be topless for about 80 years. Men can’t be topless everywhere, of course. “No shirt …” is standard in private establishments, especially around food. Outside in public places, walking down the sidewalk, at the beach, in a park: men have the right to be free and not wear a shirt.

With very few exceptions, women do not have the right to be topless in the United States. We have freedom unless you’re a woman on a hot day who wants to feel cool air on her upper torso.

The upper torso isn’t the issue. Backs, stomachs, collarbones: just fine to be on display in public. The problem, as it were, is breasts.

Actually these days, breasts are not the issue. You can see the majesty of the female breasts through cleavage. The underside of the female breasts is also pretty rare, but not technically illegal.

What is illegal to display in the vast majority of the United States … is the nipple.

Female nipples are very powerful: they are the source of life for babies. But their strongest force, apparently, is to freak people out.

People are scared and nervous about the idea of female nipples being seen in public. But if we think back to the idea of freedom, let’s see where the freedom of women choosing to expose their nipples interferes in the freedom of others.

    • Children

“Will somebody think of the children?” — Helen Lovejoy, The Simpsons. Let’s think of the children. Children 5 and under likely get to see their mother’s nipples quite often, either through breastfeeding or the practical element of intimacy between mother and child. Young children can be scared at an early age but chances are nipples won’t be their greatest fear.

We have a society that strongly encourages women to keep their baby under a blanket when being breastfed in public. Associating a blanket over a head while getting nutrition would scare a child more than the exposure of the source of that nutrition.

Children 6-11 would be intrigued by female nipples. Girls would be curious to see what will eventually happen to them. Girls are more likely to wonder why at that age, they have to keep their nipples covered but their boy counterparts get to run around without a shirt.

Boys at a similar age who, if they aren’t paying attention to girls, are still likely to notice women who don’t have on a shirt. “Why does that woman not have a shirt on?” a boy might ask. A simple “adults are allowed in certain situations to be allowed to go without a shirt” will suffice. Children are curious but if breasts are out in the open, they are less likely to think of them as being a big deal.

    • Teenagers

Children who eventually will become teenagers won’t think too much of a woman on a beach without a shirt or a bikini top. Teenagers who are already teenagers will have an adjustment period.

Girls who are in this age group might be shy to join in adult women who choose the topless option. Other girls may not care and will be some of the first adopters. They will learn quickly that freedom can apply across gender lines, setting a positive example for young females.

Teenage boys tend to get swept up in hormones, so even a bra or a hint of a bra can be enough to set them off. If you take a poll of teenage boys who are straight, you will get very few votes against women going topless.

    • Adults

So far, we have groups that will need adjustment. But none of them have the slightest inclination of being offended by female nipples.

Clearly we have found our source of concern: adults. Most men aren’t offended by female nipples; they would welcome female nipples in the landscape.

Adult women have the most to gain. If enough women on a beach go this route, there isn’t just one direction to take notice.

We have to be realistic. Some adult men and women find female nipples to be offensive. To be fair, this is the same group that objected when male nipples were exposed. They object to nipples, mostly female but not always.

Religion, oddly enough, is an issue with some of them. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden until they eat the apple. According to the logic of the story, things were ideal when they were naked. Shame only came when they disobeyed God.

These people feel shame today for seeing bodies exposed. They are as likely to be upset by cleavage as nipples.

    • Freedom

One of the arguments for same-gender marriage is that their marriages don’t threaten “traditional marriages.” The freedom to marry doesn’t interfere with people who are already married or those who choose not to get married to anyone.

If a woman chooses to be topless in a park or on a beach, she doesn’t interfere in someone else’s preference to not go topless. Many men choose to not go topless even when they have the opportunity. Others do so every chance they can get to be topless.

A woman seeing another woman who is topless might be encouraged to join her but is under no obligation to do so. For all the “talk” about gays “recruiting” others, there also isn’t any agenda for those for topless freedom to force anyone to join in who is not comfortable.

Same-gender marriage and topless freedom both are about the freedom to do something that doesn’t threaten other people.

Pride Weekend is always a grand celebration, but especially this year. Chances are in attending a Pride Parade that you will see a woman wearing bandages or stickers over her nipples, but otherwise have their breasts exposed.

The women who do this are beautiful for taking the bold step, even if the stickers and bandages seem a bit silly. When you see a woman’s breasts, the whole breast except for the nipple, you truly realize how immature we are for being obsessed with keeping the nipple covered.

We aren’t trying to compare the two movements, but just that they come together on Pride Weekend and they are both about freedom. They are asking for rights already being given to other people; they aren’t asking for something that doesn’t already exist.

People can be offended if a man takes off his shirt, either because they are concerned about all men who are topless or a particular male chest. Yet men are allowed to be topless.

Movements such as Free The Nipple have done a lot to expose people to this cause. Teenagers taking selfies and sexting has opened up a generation that isn’t as afraid to show nipples.

When a young woman from Iceland was cyberbullied after posting a topless picture, a number of Icelandic women went to Twitter and posted pictures showing a nipple or two in solidarity. One of those Icelandic participants was a female politician.

With all those nipples floating around the Internet, the world didn’t suddenly freeze. People who chose to look did so. Those that didn’t chose to look were not harmed by having pictures of nipples all around the Internet.

Freedom and tolerance requires us to respect the feelings and views of those who think topless females do harm to society. That has to be weighed against the harm to society that comes from not allowing women that option. Bad body images, low self-esteem, feeling not equal for reasons that feel trivial: being denied total equal freedom comes at a price. The question is whether that price is costlier and whether we want to keep paying that price for a lack of total equal freedom.


Written by democracysoup

July 3, 2015 at 6:00 am

Everyone loves freedom, except for Mississippi on abortion

leave a comment »

We celebrated freedom in these United States this week. Freedom in Mississippi is hanging by a legal thread, as the state’s draconian laws that essentially eliminates abortion in the state are temporarily put on hold.

If you needed to get an abortion in Mississippi, you only had one option — in the capital, Jackson — which still meant a significant drive from anywhere else in the state.

The Republicans in Mississippi decided that one abortion provider in its state was one too many, and passed laws making it virtually impossible to perform the medical procedure. Requiring hospital privileges, something that isn’t necessary, was the key point of the Mississippi legislation.

The old stat that gets tossed around is that 85% of all U.S. counties have no abortion services; that statistic hasn’t improved. Roe v. Wade might still be the law of the land, but in many parts of these United States, the Supreme Court decision doesn’t even apply.

Mississippi isn’t surrounded by the most enlightened of states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. Factor in laws that require an overnight stay or limit teenagers from crossing state lines and women in that part of the South really have it rough.

You can get an abortion, especially an early-term abortion, in the United States, but getting that abortion is not as simple as wanting one.

This law, and the other similar laws, hurt sexual freedom in Mississippi and other states, but they also hurt economic freedom. If you can’t use your freedom to plan your family, you can end up with kids when you can’t afford them. Given the low benefits people in Mississippi and surrounding states receive, poor is as poor does.

We have learned throughout American history that even if laws are passed in Washington, often they come to the South and die. Black men had the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment, though the South got away with not allowing many blacks to be able to vote for the next 100 years.

Thanks to a judge’s ruling, the lone Mississippi abortion clinic can stay open, though little has been done before this point. One is too few, but still better than none.

Americans are good at talking about the idea of freedoms, but in reality, people aren’t nearly as free as they should be, especially compared to the rest of the First World. The European Union allows its citizens to go freely to live and work in another country; Americans, Canadians and Mexicans don’t have that freedom. Single-payer health care allows Canadians, Europeans, and others to pursue their own dreams without having to be tied down to a job for health insurance.

Poor Americans who are conservative want to keep taxes low on the off-chance that they might someday be rich. But they live in the First World country where that is the least likely to happen. And that was true long before the Great Recession of 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that states cannot pass laws posing substantial obstacles or undue burdens on a woman’s right to an abortion. Having one abortion provider in a state larger than Rhode Island would seem to be an undue burden. having none would definitely be an undue burden.

This isn’t to say that the American dream is an abortion provider on every corner. Reasonable access can be in the eyes of the beholder, though the largest city and capital of a U.S. state should have more than one provider, and political intimidation shouldn’t be used to reduce Americans freedom.

The next step comes July 11 when a federal judge hears from both sides on continuing the temporary injunction. If not, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be put out of business and more than just symbolically, Mississippi will become the first state in the country where economic and sexual freedom don’t exist.

Canadians more free for ‘pursuit of happiness’ than Americans

with one comment

Today is Canada Day, the day where the Great White North celebrates the birth of its country. Fireworks, picnics, and beach trips dominate the landscape, and this year, the country has the newest Royal Couple, Will and Kate, visiting Canada.

The sense of “freedom” isn’t as dominant in Canada as in the United States for the Independence Day. As excited as people are about the expanded freedom of gay marriage in New York state, there are more provinces (10) that allow gay marriage in Canada than states (6) in the United States. Which country has more freedoms?

Throw in 3 Canadian territories and gay marriage covers way more ground in Canada than the United States.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is in the U.S. lexicon, not Canada’s. But Canadians have freedom that most Americans can only wish for having.

President Barack Obama is slowly warming up to the idea of gay marriage along the lines of a frog in water where the heat has just been turned on. Obama’s empathy for marriages not in the mainstream should stem from his parents mixed marriage, an illegal act in some parts of the United States when his parents were married. Unfortunately, that hasn’t helped his empathy level for gay marriage.

What little freedom that exists in the United States is extremely limited. A few states allow for gay marriage, but the vast majority of states have some barrier to recognition. Freedom also means the freedom to move around a country, especially in uncertain economic times. If you are gay married, you don’t have the freedom to move to another part of your own country.

Federal law in the United States doesn’t recognize gay marriage, so just because you’re American and gay married doesn’t mean you are in most of the country.

A lesbian married couple who lives in Ontario and gets married in Ontario, and one of them gets a better job in Alberta due to oil production, that couple has the freedom to move to Alberta and still have their marriage legitimately recognized because they’re Canadian.

Think about couples that have moved from New York to California over the last few years. Gay married? Not gay married? Some people who care would be confused about the Golden State in the last few years.

Canadians, gay or straight, are also free to pursue jobs that suit them best. Americans? Not so much.

Americans aren’t free to do so if they are tied to their health care plan based on their employment location. Want to be an entrepreneur in the United States? Better not have any health issues for you or your family.

In fact, some American couples, gay or straight, have divorced not from animosity but from financial practicality where being married is a drawback for getting insurance. And other American couples have been tempted or actual got married to get health care from their spouse. Is that what they mean by the Defense of Marriage Act?

Freedom can’t be just about the freedom to grill meat outdoors, shop at Wal-Mart, and blow up body parts with fireworks.”Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has to mean something in Americans’ everyday lives instead of being a patriotic slogan that doesn’t translate in the 21st century.

One freedom that Americans have than Canadians don’t is freedom of speech. Canadians tend to limit speech based on hate, but you could easily argue that hate is rather difficult to define. But since Canadians have freedom to say mostly what they want, have freedom to move around based on marriage and health care, they are a lot more free than their Southern counterparts.

And the freedom of speech that Americans have and Canadians don’t has been damaged since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that money is speech, average Americans now have less freedom to make an impact in the political process, unless they’re rich. And average Americans aren’t getting rich these days. For full disclosure, the majority conservative government of Canada wants to strip political parties of federal funding, making corporate money a stronger player in Canadian federal elections.

Freedom needs to be a 365-day part of people’s lives, not just on the Canadian holiday (July 1) or the American holiday (July 4). The pursuit of happiness doesn’t guarantee happiness, but the pursuit does require maximum freedom to pursue happiness. Right now, neither Canadians nor Americans live in the ideal, but in a head-to-head North American matchup, Canadians would win it running away.

So enjoy your grilled meats, potato salad, and other picnic fare this weekend, Canadian or American. But once your holiday is over, think about what freedom really means to you, and do what you can to put pressure on your politicians so that you can pursue happiness.