Well, the verdict is in: a woman’s nipple is different from a man’s.
At least in Springfield, Mo., anyway. In a legal dust-up that began in 2015, when a group of women took off their tops in a public park to protest what they saw as a double standard, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Thursday that a city ordinance requiring them to keep their nipples covered did not violate their constitutional rights.
“There is no denying that men’s and women’s breasts are different,” Judge Beth Phillips wrote in her opinion. “Nor is there any dispute that our society has long considered them to be different, particularly as related to matters of decency.”
Tony Rothert, legal director for the ACLU of Missouri, which sued the city on behalf of two women plaintiffs, said Friday the court decision would probably be appealed.
“It’s clear that the city trusts men and boys to decide when their nipples should be visible in public, but does not have the same respect for women and girls,” Rothert said.
The Springfield “Free the Nipple” rally on that summer evening probably would not have been such a big deal in the Ozark metropolis had a youth concert not been going on in the pavilion at Park Central Square when the women removed their tops. That led to gasps from parents, but the kids in the School of Rock played on.
Later came the moral outrage, town hall meetings and recall efforts.
The ACLU’s lawsuit against the city alleged the statute denied women equal protection under the law.
Rothert described this week’s ruling as sort of a split decision. In September, the court ordered the city to pay each of the women $750 and to pay their legal costs. Also, the judge ordered the city not to return to an even stricter rule that prohibited a woman from showing the side or bottom of her breast.
“So those are good, but it’s still disappointing,” Rothert said.
He added that years ago, laws across the country banned both sexes from showing their chests and it was only in the 1930s that changes allowed men to go topless.
“And today we are still treating men and women differently,” Rothert said.
In her opinion, Phillips also wrote: “The City has a legitimate interest in promoting decency and protecting morals by prohibiting public nudity, and this interest constitutes an important governmental objective.”
The “Free the Nipple” movement is a global campaign for equality. It touts itself as the premier voice for gender equity. Women have staged rallies and protests in cities around the world.
Donald Bradley: 816-234-4182