Women have had the right to be topless in public since the 1990’s but rarely do women choose to exercise this right. The choice to exercise this right is so rare that when it was exercised, a police officer told the topless sisters in the region of Waterloo, Ontario to put their shirts back on because it was against the law. Confused? You aren’t the only one!
The Mohamed sisters are well informed feminists who chose to practice their right to be topless in public. When the officer cited that it was against the law, the sisters asked him to make the same comment on video camera – at this time the officer changed his tone and asked if the bicycles were properly equipped with lights and bells. The sisters voiced their concern stating that the police officer genuinely didn’t know law or they were being prohibited from exercising their rights – both scenarios did not sit well with them.
It’s no surprise that a woman’s body is far more sexualized than a man’s body in society but many women are having trouble coming to terms with how to deal with this issue. Upon stopping the sisters, the officer stated that there had been complaints and there were children around; thus the women should put their tops back on. Some individuals agreed with the officer as the sisters were riding their bikes in a residential area while others argued that the sisters should be allowed to exercise their rights.
Some feminists have argued that riding topless on a bike in residential areas will not desexualize women but rather contributes to the problem. They go on to suggest that women should dress modestly, to combat hypersexualizing women. Conversely, other individuals argue that it is a woman’s right to bare her breasts and they should be able to exercise it as they please.
Some supporters are largely motivated by their belief that women are hypersexualized in society regardless of what their actions maybe. In this past year alone there have been multiple cases of young ladies taking action to speak up against hypersexualizing women. For instance, there was a recent case of a woman in British Columbia who chose to sun bathe topless at a beach and was asked to put her bikini top back on due to bylaw violations but then was informed that no such bylaws existed. Similarly, there was a case of an eight year old girl swimming topless at a community pool that was told by the lifeguard to put her bikini top back on as it was inappropriate.
Another young lady in high school arranged a protest to speak out against school dress codes. She initiated a “crop top day” where young ladies wore crop tops to school and protested against the sexualisation of female bodies. They went on to argue that it is degrading to men and women to suggest that males can become distracted and unable to control themselves because of what a woman is wearing.
Furthermore, there have been cases where mothers have been told to leave restaurants for not using a cover while breast-feeding their infants. These cases usually result in human right violation cases and the plaintiff is usually compensated. However, men and women alike have argued that these cases are frivolous and the plaintiffs are “too sensitive”.
Laws are often put in place to reflect and reinforce social norms but there are clearly differing views in respect to women’s rights. The three sisters from Waterloo will be hosting a protest “Bare with us” at the Waterloo Town Centre. What’s your take?
Points of Discussion:
1. From the cases provided above, which cases do you think constitute legal action and which cases do you believe should not receive the same attention?
2. Do you believe individuals are just too sensitive?
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