The controversy over a proposed bill in New Hampshire that would make it a misdemeanor for women to expose their nipples, with an exemption for breastfeeding, has sparked heated commentary on both sides of the political aisle. The bill, which is supported exclusively by Republican men in the state legislature, didn’t originally appear to be earmarked for such volatile debate. But because of its sexist overtones it has ignited furious debate.
Democratic state representative Amanda Bouldin mistakenly believed at first that the measure would also include breastfeeding. In response, some of the Republicans supporting the measure ridiculed and criticized her for the blunder. Bouldin originally posted on Facebook commenting that breastfeeding should at least be excluded. However, Republican representative and sponser of the bill Josh Moore, chose not to correct her incorrect reading of the bill. Instead, he responded on the same social media site by writing that if women choose to pull out their nipple in public, then men should be allowed to either stare at or grab it. Moore later deleted the comment… And for good reason – it was extremely inappropriate and sounds kind of rape-y.
Another Republican, Al Baldasaro went even further by insulting Bouldin personally when he indicated that he had absolutely no interest in seeing her nipple. Baldasaro then added that Boulding was seeking to turn the beaches of New Hampshire into what he called “a pervert show.” Baldasaro, who believes that New Hampshire tourism will suffer without passage of the bill, then went on to write that if Libertarians wanted a nude beach, they should buy one. He closed by describing himself as “liberty minded,” and a believer in family values. The bill makes it illegal for both sexes to expose their genitals, along with banning sexual relations in public. Bouldin’s main criticism is that the measure bans only women from going topless, saying that singling out women in our contemporary society is an outrage.
Between the two politicians, Baldasaro was the most defiant in refusing to offer any sort of apology for his remarks. Saying that he wasn’t ashamed of the comments because he considered himself “a happily married guy,” he instead suggested that Bouldin hold her breath while waiting for an apology. The proposed measure began to take shape after an August 23 protest at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. The event had many women attending topless, since there were no local ordinances in the community preventing them. Other cities across the state had various regulations in place, but there was no single measure statewide.
One of the cities that had banned women from exposing their breasts or nipples in public was Laconia, which did so in 1998. There, a first offense results in a $250 fine, while being convicted a second time doubles the penalty. If a third violation occurs, the fine doubles again. That protest was part of what’s become a nationwide movement known as “Free the Nipple,” which seeks to allow women to have equal rights with regard to going topless. This campaign has resulted in a 2014 film on the subject and support from some celebrities. Bouldin has stated that the bill was simply “bad governance,” and that her comments were being ridiculed or discounted specifically because she was a woman. She also noted what she believed to be blatant hypocrisy with Republicans who believe in small government that allows its citizens freedom, yet are trying to restrict such freedoms with a relatively unimportant measure.