Rego: The legal choice for women to be topless isn’t an invitation for catcalling

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board.

Fort Collins has lifted the ban against women going topless, as it violates U.S. constitutional rights — a nipple is a nipple. This is a revolutionary win in the right direction toward equal rights for women.

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However, that’s not what this is about. This legal choice for women to go topless in Fort Collins is not an open invitation for topless women to be catcalled.

The summers in Colorado can get sunny and hot. A man can get uncomfortable in the heat, take off his shirt and no one would even think twice about it. I don’t have to actually see it to know that if a woman gets hot and takes off her shirt, it will suddenly become a circus.

Fort Collins is a college town. In college towns, there are lots of young people, young men especially, who are immature and sexualize the human body. Catcalling is something women are far too familiar with, and with the ban being lifted, the likelihood of it becoming more common is almost definite.

Being a college kid is still not an excuse for inappropriate sexual behavior.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines catcalling as “a loud, sexually suggestive call or comment directed at someone publicly.” Catcalling is a form of sexual harassment.

Catcalling is known to have harmful psychological effects on women. One study conducted by students at the University of Manila concluded that the higher frequency of street harassment, such as catcalling, the lower the self-esteem was of the research participants.

Someone with breasts who is very hot should not have to feel scared or embarrassed to want to take their shirt off to cool down because of the fear of being catcalled — or worse.

This study also showed that the majority of women who were catcalled were walking alone. Even more surprising, this study reveals that the majority of the women who were catcalled weren’t wearing anything special, just a T-shirt and pants. This study is just one of the many that observe catcalling and its negative effects.

In short, catcalling is not a compliment. In fact, it actually hurts those being catcalled. Staring is not flattering. Whistling is not appreciative. Loud comments are not kind. Catcalling is demeaning, sexualizing harassment and ultimately disgusting. 

Someone with breasts who is very hot should not have to feel scared or embarrassed to want to take their shirt off to cool down because of the fear of being catcalled — or worse. The whole point of the movement to lift the ban was to show improvements toward gender equality and desexualizing breasts.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines gender equality as “the act of treating women and men equally: gender equality does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment.”

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In order to achieve genuine gender equality with the topless movement, people need to stop acting so fazed over the sight of breasts. Walking down the street with your shirt off and breasts out is to help combat hot, sweaty weather. Not to be stared at like someone in a strip club, not to be catcalled, not to be screamed at like it’s a rodeo, not to be sexualized — period. 

Women are people too. We get hot. We get sweaty. We want to feel the breeze on our backs, but we won’t be treated like a zoo animal on display for our decision. The freedom to show breasts does not warrant sexual harassment. Grow up, stop sexualizing breasts and let women go topless without fear of everyone else’s two cents on the matter.

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter at @shay_rego.