Topless Rights

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Apparently some students at the University of Maine at Farmington are really, really concerned with their right to go topless. According to an article by Christopher Cousins in the Bangor Daily News:

About two dozen men and women bared their torsos in downtown Farmington Friday to make the statement that if men can go shirtless, women should be able to as well.

“I was inspired and liberated by the Portland march and what it was trying to accomplish,” said [University of Farmington student Andrea] Simoneau on Thursday. “This is about women’s rights and equal rights. This is America, and I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.”

She’s got nothing to be ashamed of; she’s also got nothing to worry about. While the topless protest in Farmington may have garnered a lot of attention, in fact women can go shirtless in Maine, if they’re so inclined. There’s no state law prohibiting them from doing so and there’s not going to be one. Many towns have ordinances prohibiting women from appearing topless in public, the same way they prohibit people from painting historic buildings certain colors or taking dogs out without a leash.

Local resident Walter Gooley, who is also a Republican member of the Maine State Senate, was apparently somewhat irritated by the topless display. He sent a letter to local media in which he called on the university to do a better job informing its students about the dangers of exposed breasts. According to the Cousins article, Gooley said:

The way our society is going today, we seem to be losing our dignity. I think the University of Maine at Farmington needs to look at its programs in that respect. It’s basically the college communities that are where something like this is happening.

The university pointed out that it has campus rules about nudity and it enforces them. It has no jurisdiction over its students when they’re off campus.

In fact “something like this” doesn’t happen very much anywhere. Frankly, the current situation seems to be working pretty well. Women are allowed to appear topless and they rarely do.

This may have something to do with the climate in Maine. For most of the year going shirtless is terribly impractical for both men and women. The people who marched in Farmington last week just look, well, chilly. The temperature that day never got above 64 degrees. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer