When New Hampshire State Rep. Amanda Bouldin (D-Hillsborough) saw a copy of a new proposed bill that bans public toplessness for women only, she was outraged.
But after she posted her opposition to Facebook, she learned that the problem of sexism in state politics was far worse than she’d thought.
According to New Hampshire House Bill 1525-FN, which will be introduced in the 2016 legislative session, it should be illegal in the state for a person to expose “his or her anus or, if a woman… the areola or nipple of her breast or breasts in a public place and in the presence of another person with reckless disregard for whether a reasonable person would be offended or alarmed by such act.”
The bill flatly outlaws female nipples in public. But male nipples are free to roam openly all over the Live Free or Die state.
Bouldin on Tuesday posted her thoughts on her personal Facebook profile, writing that the bill would make it “A crime to expose your nipples – but ONLY if you’re female. MISDEMEANOR [sic]. As far as I understand, multiple convictions will result in being listed in the state Sex Offender Registry.” She then pointed out that all of the bill’s sponsors were male Republicans.
Bouldin tagged bill sponsor Josh Moore, a fellow state rep whose Facebook profile reveals a heightened interest in seeing conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) elected president, shutting down Planned Parenthood, and defending gun rights. Moore commented immediately, later deleting the comment when backlash built.
According to Moore, apparently a woman should expect to be sexually assaulted in public if she doesn’t wear what the state legislature tells her. For Bouldin that’s not just an outrageously sexist concept—it’s a direct violation of the state constitution to single out one class of people in any proposed legislation.
“In 2016, it’s stunning that anyone dares to file legislation that includes the words ‘a woman should not,'” Bouldin told the Daily Dot.
“If it was a bill that only applied to men, I’d fight it too,” said Bouldin. “The people defending this bill want us to keep our clothes on for our own protection, and if we fail to comply, they’re going to put us in jail. There’s no structure to this argument, it makes no sense.”
It would have been bad enough if just one elected member of the state legislature had chimed in with offensive comments. But Bouldin’s post also inspired Londonderry’s Rep. Al Baldasaro to add insult to injury.
While the comments were shocking, Bouldin wasn’t all that surprised at the boldness of her colleagues. She told the Daily Dot that New Hampshire’s government is unusually large, with more than 400 legislators representing areas that “go about five blocks from one end to another.” It’s common practice for a state representative there to publish their phone number and home address online so that neighbors can stop by and chat, and Bouldin said she fully expects to run into her fellow elected lawmakers “in their pajamas at the grocery store.”
But the Facebook comments have drawn media attention to a bill that may have otherwise slipped through the legislature without much fanfare.
“If this law passes, the governor—who is a woman—would have to sign it, then someone would break the law and that could cause some damage,” said Bouldin. “I don’t think this is a viable solution. I never want it to see the light of day.”
The nipple-banning law was announced the day that a local #FreeTheNipple activist, Heidi Lilley, appeared in court seeking to get public toplessness charges against her dropped. While the state doesn’t ban toplessness, Lilley took part in a September protest of a local ordinance in Gilford and a similar August protest that drew 50 topless women.
The #FreeTheNipple campaign gained steam throughout 2015 as women protested restrictions on Instagram and other social media platforms, that banned the display of female nipples but not those of males.
For Bouldin, the battle to keep women’s breasts under wraps is a losing one.
“Philosophically, if you’re trying to legislate culture you’re going to have a hard time,” Bouldin told the Daily Dot. “Culture is fluid, it’s always changing.”
Photo via cambodia4kidsorg/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III