“I Support Breast Equality”

Woman Promotes the Right to Go Topless (Los Angeles Times)

As a Ventura County public defender, Liana Johnsson has handled many life-changing cases, but her biggest public crusade these days has been going topless.

For months, Johnsson has been fighting to allow topless women at California beaches and parks, and now the issue has made its way to the Capitol.

A group of lawyers, at Johnsson’s request, has asked the Legislature to make topless sunbathing legal, saying the ban is the last criminal sanction that treats women differently than men.

The new movement has urgency: Because of a December court ruling, Johnsson and other attorneys contend, women convicted of indecent exposure could find themselves listed as sex offenders under Megan’s Law, alongside rapists and child molesters.

“At some point, men’s breasts became liberated and women’s didn’t,” Johnsson said Friday. “This is the only thing left that men are legally allowed to do and, for women, they have to register as a sex offender. The real issue is there should be equal protection under the law.”

The office of state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said women should not be concerned about being identified as sex offenders, given that California law considers topless sunbathing to be indecent but not lewd. Lawmakers may soon be tackling the issue to remove any chance of misinterpretation by local prosecutors.

I’ll let the legal experts tackle the substance of this issue. Instead, I’ll simply note that the Times fumbles the discussion of its political implications:

The office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to comment on the possible legislation, and it was unclear if the governor would rank this effort as one of the “silly” bills he says the Legislature often dreams up. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” spokeswoman Margita Thompson said in an e-mail when asked to comment.

After publishing a controversial late-breaking report on Schwarzenegger’s improper conduct toward women, you can’t tell me that “‘silly’ bills” is the best that the Times can do. Beyond this obvious aspect, the governor can’t afford to be associated in any way to seemingly salacious issues. If, in fact, he has higher political ambitions — ones that may require him to attract or at least contain the social conservatives — then he’ll need to make sure that his public record reflects an abandonment of his wild Hollywood days. That means steering entirely clear of such causes as “breast equality,” however well-intentioned.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Law and the Courts, , , , , ,
Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


  1. Attila Girl says:

    I guess I just don’t see the point in going topless at a beach, unless you’re a model worried about tan lines or a new mother trying to breastfeed.

    I mean, in the situations that drive men to take their shirts off, most women are more comfy in a bra anyway, and sports bras are looking more and more like mini-tops that people won’t stare at one for wearing in public.

    I’m pretty socially liberal, but I have the same reaction to this that others I know of have to the marijuana-legalization issue: don’t we have more pressing concerns? (In the case of marijuana, I can justify working for change, though I won’t take the time and space to do so here.)

  2. Kathy K says:

    Well, early on I got a lot of people upset by commenting that the burqa was a difference in degree, not in kind.

    Or, in short, yes, such laws are discriminatory.

  3. McGehee says:

    I’ll be happy to keep my shirt on in public, if that’s what it takes.

  4. Crerar says:

    In Onatrio it recently became legal for women to go topless. Unfortunately very few women take advantage of the rights we fought so hard to win for them.

  5. Kathy K says:

    Crerar, it’s not how many avail themselves of the legality (most men wear shirts). It’s the fact of _having_ the choice that matters. In the US, the burqa is a choice, in other countries it isn’t.

    McGehee, that would be equally acceptable. What’s good for the goose…

  6. Sgt. B. says:

    For some reason, the “purpose” female breast has been lost (it contains milk glands, surrounded by fatty tissue, with some enhanced nerve endings that cause a favorable sensation for the owner, better to encourage her to continue to provide nourishment to her child), in favor of some overhyped sex organ…
    I really don’t care whether my next door neighbor goes topless or not. I have enough control over myself not to immeadiatly leap over the fence and assault her on the spot, nor will Satan suddenly whisper into my ear that she must be “punished” for some crime…
    Go for it!

  7. Amy says:

    Just because there is a law that says women can go topless, doesnt require them to. Maybe for some big breasted women, they rather have a top on in hot situations, some small chested women would rather be shirtless.

  8. Go for it ! Women who are not allowed to show their faces are discriminated on the same way as women who are not allowed to show their breasts – I will repeat, ON THE SAME WAY !