While the rest of the country argues over politics, Ocean City, Maryland has another type of battle brewing over women and their (lack of) bikinis. It’s an odd situation that will take some explaining, but the decision could possibly turn Ocean City beaches into a topless wonderland for some women seeking out the sun.
Recently, Ocean City authorities issued a memo that basically told the police to no longer treat topless women on the beach any different than topless men. In other words, police should no longer treat the showing of an areola by a female as a crime. In theory, this seems logical, but of course, bare breasts have a tendency to cause quite the ruckus. They bother some people and excite others, sometimes in ways that bother even more people.
The memo didn’t just come out of nowhere, it was the result of a “top freedom’ campaign brought about by locals that argued Maryland law should not discriminate against women in the matter of toplessness according to the The Baltimore Sun:
“It’s about equality, it’s about positivity, and it’s against body shaming and the forced sexualization of the female form,” said Chelsea Covington, a self-described “topfreedom” advocate who wrote a legal brief arguing that Maryland law allows women to go bare-chested in public. “It is most certainly about equality under the law.”
This, of course, is no open-and-shut issue. The city council is set to talk further about this issue this week, but until then, Ocean City is not suddenly going to become the new Naked City of the East. People — especially parents — will certainly push back on the thought of topless women running around on their beaches, in front of their kids. One very important person in the matter is Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, who has already gone out of his way to assure residents there will be no bare chests on his watch.
Mehan posted on Facebook a link to a memo on the city’s official site that makes it clear he doesn’t plan on abiding by the temporary ruling and that parents should have no cause for concern:
“The Mayor and City Council are unanimously opposed to women being topless on our beach or in any public area in Ocean City,” stated Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan.“While we respect Ms. Covington’s desire to express what rights she believes she may have, Ocean City is a family resort and we intend to do whatever is within our ability to also protect the rights of those families that visit us each year.”
When it comes down to it, though, police will be the ones to decide how the law is enforced. According to Ocean Beach Patrol Captain Butch Arbin, for the time being there will be no censoring on his beaches (for now):
“For the 44 years I’ve been guarding the beach in Ocean City, when we’d see people topless on the beach we would just tell them, ‘Hey, you can’t do that,’” Arbin told CBS TV station WBOC-TV. “But since this formal request from someone, and since the Maryland attorney general’s office hasn’t issued their opinion on it, we don’t feel like we can tell people not to sunbathe topless.”
Still, Mayor Meehan insists the police will respond “should any activity of toplessness occur.” While this seems like a foregone conclusion, it’s interesting that the debate has reached this point in the first place.