In late September, two events shook the western U.S.:
- The Nomadic Nudists returned from a 16-month journey across the country to set down winter roots in Arizona. This was such a remarkable event that when we showed up at our favorite watering hole, after all that time, the bartender scratched her head and said “You’ve been gone?”
- Top-free equality advocates won big time when Fort Collins, Colorado dropped their fight protecting a ban on women appearing topless in public. Back in February, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s decision that the law amounted to unconstitutional discrimination. With Fort Collins dropping their fight, women could now legally go topless in the six states under the court’s jurisdiction.
Now I may not understand how all that habeus rippus corpulent law stuff works, but it seemed to me that at least a couple of those states — Utah and Oklahoma — were going to have a problem with to decision. Turns out Oklahoma was the first to step up to the plate.
No top-free for you!
In fact, only a week or two after Fort Collins’ decision to drop their ban, Oklahoma’s Attorney General gave a statement that basically said, “Oh hell no, not on my watch!”
And State Rep. Jim Olsen reaffirmed the attorney general’s stance that the Fort Collins case has no bearing on Oklahoma’s laws, declaring, “If the need should ever arise, I will do all I possibly can to keep this reprehensible conduct illegal!”
Wow. If being top-free in public is “reprehensible conduct,” what does he think about people afflicted with nudism?
But perhaps the most bizarre response came from the city of Sand Springs, a satellite city of Tulsa. On October 2, the Sand Springs Police Chief said they would side with the Fort Collins decision and not be ticketing any women going topless, as long as it didn’t break any local ordinances about lewd or lascivious behavior. But on October 9, the City of Sand Springs changed their tune to wacky.
They issued an emergency modification to their city’s decency ordinance requiring ALL people over the age of 10, regardless of gender be top-covered. Unless you were breastfeeding or having a medical emergency. They reasoned that this was to prevent any discrimination. So now men, as well as women needed to cover up. There, you got your top-free equality dammit!
What if I want to go swimming?
Of course, the emergency modification is vague and I immediately had some questions. So, I composed an email to Sand Springs Mayor James “Jim” O. Spoon. This is what I sent him:
“Dear Mr. Mayor,
As a frequent traveler to Oklahoma and the Tulsa area (love the art scene there!) I have a couple of questions about the recent ordinance prohibiting anyone over the age of 10 to expose their chests in public. I’m an adult male and I was hoping to get some clarification to prevent me from running afoul of the law when visiting. My questions are:
1) Do I need to wear a shirt (or bikini top) when swimming in public?
2) I know how humid and hot it gets there, and I like to take my shirt off to be comfortable. I’ve seen sometimes where women have covered their nipples with a black X made out of electrical tape. Similar to pasties, I guess. Is something like that acceptable for men in Sand Springs? (I would have to shave my chest though lol).
I appreciate your time answering my questions. Have a great day!”
Well, I waited a couple of days but didn’t see a response. I assumed he was busy, being the mayor and all, and I forgot about my email until I was cleaning out my spam folder three days later. (Remember folks, always check your spam folder!)
Here is the mayor’s response which was sent the day I first contacted him:
“You have the Letter of the law correct. But the intention is somewhat different.
1). The person with a bare chest has to have an intent to disturb the public as a motive for not wearing a shirt.
2). The police will only act on a complaint by a citizen and the bare-chested person is actually disturbing the peace.
I know it is a fine line but our police force has had lengthy discussions about how to handle the new ordinance. It is an attempt to stay within the law and still be a little practical. It might take a little tweaking, but I think we are on the right track.
Mayor, Sand Springs, OK”
It’s still pretty vague but I take this response to say that woman can go top-free in public, as long as they don’t intend to disturb the peace. But I wanted to be sure so I responded to the mayor’s response:
“Thank you for your quick response. This somehow ended up in my spam folder and I just saw it.
So then a woman, theoretically, could be topless as long as she is not intending to disturb the public?”
I sent that response 6 days ago and have not received a reply. Now, it’s possible that they are just ignoring me, thinking my response was intentionally provocative and assuming I’m just a troll. Of course it’s possible they are not responding because their response could be used as a reason to challenge the ordinance. Or maybe they haven’t checked their spam folder.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
Here’s the thing. The ordinance change just doesn’t freakin’ make sense. If it was truly about equality, then why not just say “Everybody can take off their shirt in public as long as they aren’t doing it to disturb the peace.”
Instead it’s punitive and here’s why I think so.
Religiously conservative communities, of which I’m sure Sand Springs is one, consider female breasts as sexual parts of the body. Because of that, just the act of an adult female exposing her breasts in public is considered lewd and lascivious and consequentially an intent to disturb the peace.
Of course this belief is considered discriminatory by those who are fighting for women’s top-free rights. But rather than get involved in another battle like Fort Collins, and stay on the good side of the state attorney general and State Rep. Jim “Reprehensible” Olsen, Sand Springs has come up with a poorly-thought-out workaround. It’s vague enough that it’s open to interpretation for law enforcement who have to make the decision whether or not a topless act is disturbing the peace. It might be easy to say a topless woman is disturbing the public if there’s a hysterical parent nearby screaming “Think of the children!”
To me the ordinance change is also mean-spirited and bigoted because Sand Springs is basically telling women, “Aha, so you want equality? We’ll give you equality! Of course, you’re just going to piss off all the men. Do you really want to piss off the men, ladies?”
Mr. Mayor, am I wrong with this interpretation? Is it truly promoting equality for all genders? Can women take their tops off in public as long as they are not intending to disturb that public?
I’ll keep checking my spam folder and update this post if I hear a response to my question.