Sunday, January 23, 2005

Lawyers Gone Wild!!! (???)

This article detailing the effort of Liana Johnsson, a female public defender, to legalize female toplessness in California parks and beaches (registration required) is almost unbelievably full of fascinating stuff:

First, "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." Something's wrong with a legal system that considers avoiding tan lines
equivalent to raping children.

"Johnsson — who wears a pink badge that reads, 'I support breast equality' — also has produced a two-minute video featuring obese men with large breasts lounging on California beaches, proof, she said, that the law is not applied equally to men and women, as required by the U.S. Constitution." This is a brilliant gambit, effortlessly tying together the sexualization of women's bodies, the ongoing villification of fatness, and the public-health crisis of obesity.

"Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families, called it a 'loopy idea' at a time when California needs to strengthen laws against public nudity. 'We already have too many sexual assaults in society. This will fuel that fire, and if the women don't understand, that's because they don't think like a man, Thomasson said." QED, men's considerations and predilections should always carry legal weight. What a dingbat.

Despite all these little snippets of cultural politics, the article doesn't assess whether Johnsson is actually interested in legalizing toplessness per se or in making a larger point about gender inequality - a sort of belated Golden State response to Ashcroft's embarrassment over the topless statues. Regardless, it'll be interesting to follow this story.