A monumental ruling recently occurred when U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson granted an injunction halting a Fort Collins ordinance that prohibits women from showing their breasts in public. Essentially, the judge ruled that there is no absolute difference between male and female breasts and that barring women from going shirtless is discrimination.
"I find that the ordinance discriminates against women based on the generalized notion that, regardless of a woman's intent, the exposure of her breasts in public (or even in her private home if viewable by the public) is necessarily a sexualized act. Thus, it perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not."
The news is being celebrated by advocates of the 'Free the Nipple' campaign who believe barring women from showing their breasts in public is unconstitutional. The movement was founded in 2016 after Fort Collins enacted ordinance No. 134 which bans girls and women older than ten years old from exposing their nipples in public spaces. That is, unless they are breastfeeding. At the time, city officials argued that allowing females to publicly expose themselves would cause distractions among drivers and pedestrians, resulting in "public disorder." Those who broke the ordinance faced up to a $2,650 fine and imprisonment for 180 days.
Shortly after, 'Free the Nipple' founder, Brittiany Hoagland, and member Samantha Six filed for a preliminary injunction "alleging that the public nudity ordinance was one of the most restrictive in the nation," reports the Denver Post.
The federal judge ruled against the city's claim that the ordinance protected children and maintained public order. He also ruled that the order did not discriminate, as male and female breasts are different. In effect, an equal protection issue was not raised.
Jackson wrote that glimpsing a female breast does not endanger children because due to breastfeeding, it is the first thing a child sees. He also mentioned that a child of any age could possibly see a woman's breast while she breastfeeds, which is allowed by the ordinance. No one suggested they are harmed by that experience, however.
"It seems, then, that children do not need to be protected from the naked female breast itself but from the negative societal norms, expectations, and stereotypes associated with it," wrote Jackson.