It’s been a summer of bare breasts in Canada – and outrage, and complaints, and moral entitlement.
It started a couple of weeks ago, in Guelph, ON. An 8-year-old girl at the splash pad of a municipal pool was told by a teenage male attendant, that she had to put a top on. The pool’s rules insisted on it for any female over 4. Her mother was aghast, and angry, that she had been discriminated and sexualized.
The next day, with a lawyer’s aid, and serious discussion with various local bureaucrats, it was admitted that a public pool had no legal right to enact such a rule. In a spin-doctor defense of the life-guard, the Recreational Department claimed that he was probably just trying to prevent any complaints.
This is the city where, in 1991, three 19-year-old males, returning from the park, stripped off their shirts on a hot muggy day. The 19-year-old female with them did the same, and was stopped and charged with ‘committing a lewd act.’
Angered more by the double standard than the possibility of a $170 fine, she went to court with a prepared lawyer, and what was expected to be a five minute, Pay-The-Damn-Fine hearing, turned into a two-day, he-said-she-said trial, where the language of the law was shown to be sexist, moralistic, and so sufficiently vague as to be unenforceable. It was reported that the law was in place to prevent complaints.
Suddenly, a precedent had been set, that women in Canada could legally bare their breasts in public, as long as it was not for commercial gain.
Somewhat more recently, three local sisters, in their early 20s, set out for a bicycle ride around town. On their way home at dusk, on a warm, muggy evening, they also decided to remove their shirts to get cool. Wouldn’t you know it; not one of them was wearing a bra.
They were stopped by a female police officer, who maintained eye contact, and warned them to be careful riding through some road-construction areas. Several blocks further on, they were stopped by a male police officer, who ordered them to put their shirts back on, insisting that there was a bylaw, and that police had received complaints.
When one of them denied that they were breaking any law, and another pulled out a cell-phone and started recording the proceedings, suddenly it became all about whether they had lights and bells on their bikes. They did!
The next day brought an hour-long phone-call to the Police Department, where they were put on hold three times, till someone actually found out that there is no such bylaw. They have lodged an official complaint. Why am I not surprised to find that the oldest is a Grammy-nominated singer/performer, with a career to support? Local TV, radio and newspapers were soon notified.
Two young mothers in British Columbia, left the kids with the dads, and headed to the beach for an afternoon of sun, sand and freedom. They found a secluded dune, spread their towels and dropped their bikini tops. Fifteen minutes later, a young RCMP officer marched a quarter-mile across the Sahara beach in his shiny shoes, to order them to cover up, because there had been complaints.
They also are bringing an official complaint for embarrassment and harassment, because there is no bylaw prohibiting topless sunbathing.
You have to be very careful how you speak to a police officer, because they take themselves very seriously. Most don’t care about obedience to legislation; they care about social peace and quiet. It disturbs and angers me that so much time and effort is spent ‘assuaging complaints’ instead of enforcing laws. I am supremely disappointed that police officers either don’t know the laws they claim they’re enforcing, or that they intentionally lie to civilians to get their way.
Were I one of the beach ladies, I’d have been very tempted to reply that I was already obeying the law, and was not the Complaints Department. If my daughter decides that she requires an abortion, we don’t care if you and your Fundamentalist Church complain; we will obey the law that says she can have one. If the wife and I decide that divorce is a better solution to our problems than murder, we don’t care if you and the guy with the funny hat in Rome complain; we will render unto Caesar, and get one.
I know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but I don’t want it to be at the expense of my legal rights. There is nothing intrinsically evil or psychologically damaging about naked female breasts in public. “But what about the children??! 😯 ” Perhaps if children learned to view them as natural, and not as lures into sin, we would have less sex crime and psychiatric counselling. I know I’d be happy. 😀