Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bare Chested Equality?

Twenty four women in Portland, Maine staged a march for equality in standards for public nudity. The population of Portland's metro area (is it big enough to be called a metro area?) is around 230,000. So, less than .01% of the population raised their voices and took off their shirts and bras to march topless for equality. What was gained? -- I'm thinking 15 min. of fame and a thrill for a bunch of voyeuristic reporters, who numbered almost as many as the marchers probably. Their efforts in this bizarre sense of necessary nudity became a freak show. That should have given them a clue regarding its overall value to society.

Let's assess this starting from the obvious secular problems with their march. First, public nudity in Maine, according to the article in the Portland Press Herald, is legal as long as no genitalia is exposed. Well, ladies, big statement for your cause -- it is perfectly fine with the people of Maine for you to bare your breasts in public. So, why bother marching -- but for the 15 min. of fame I mentioned above.

Second, it did seem just a matter of sensationalism. I'm sorry, I know this reason is screaming, OBVIOUSLY, at all of us. However, historically, bare chested men, and women, in public have been frowned upon. Only in the 20th century did society shift toward a more lenient attitude regarding public nudity from the waist up. And, typically it was reserved to beaches and swimming pools. Some men who were farmers and laborers did engage in the practice of removing their shirts to work. Do these women intend to do any heavy labor? Well, perhaps. It is acceptable to be bare chested to deliver a baby. But wait -- that's not done in public either.

There is truly no good and dignified reason for women to be walking around without their shirts in public. We have all seen the signs in stores, "no shirt, no shoes, no service." This is aimed at men, typically (at least, the shirt part -- perhaps it has a broader audience in Maine). There is a reason for this rule, too. It's just down right disrespectful to oneself and to others to walk around without your clothes on, especially in public places. It shows a lack of personal respect and public decorum.

On that note, let's talk a little about personal dignity. This is a topic that needs addressing in our "anything goes" relativist culture. The Church teaches this about the dignity of the human body:

The human body shares in the dignity of the ‘image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by the spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit. (CCC, 364)

The body is a temple. It is a place of profound dignity that houses the animating immortal soul. It is to be cherished and honored as made in the image of God. But, when one has lost the sense of sin and his/her likeness to the One God, then the magnet that directs the moral compass spins wrecklessly. Nothing holds the arrow pointing in the right direction because the magnet of our soul has lost its attraction to the One Who is Good and True and Beautiful, the One Who reveals Himself to us in nature and asks only that we choose to love Him.

Instead, we prideful human beings decide that we know what is best, that our desires are to be honored at the expense of Our Creator and at the expense of others. It is narcissistic and reminiscent of the bizarre behavior of the early feminist movement. Who wants to revisit that? That time in feminist history has done more harm to the dignity of the person of woman than I would even like to think about. The Catechism goes on to note:
With his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. (CCC, 33)

These statements of the Church are critical to understanding that the human person is able to sense his own dignity. There is something deep inside that defines the person. It is essential that moral goodness be the foundation of all that he/she does in relation to the body. What is the object of the action of these women who wish to thwart their modesty and bare their chest? It is not equality, because a bare chest doesn't make us equal to a male. No male can feed a child at his breast. It is merely for show, a desire of pride, a childish effort to get one's way because of a misconstrued sense of fairness.

What moral good is offered to society based on a woman's ability to promenade bare chested in public? If we are so scandalized by sexual abuse in our society, why do we seek constantly introduce sexually explicit behaviors in public and in the media? What purpose does it serve society to become more depraved?

I would suggest that these women take a good look at who they are as women, at their feminine genius, as John Paul II aptly put it. They might consider embracing their dignity as a human person, and stop snatching at equality with the human person known as man. He was created different than she; he has a purpose that is different, a body that is different and is meant to be a companion with personal and intimate compatibility to woman.

Taking off your shirt doesn't make you equal -- personal dignity in the image of God makes you equal. And, until that is restored in the hearts of all men and women, that their dignity is a reflection of the image of God, then there will always be a lack of respect for the dignity of all life, from conception to natural death. It's a lesson that all of us need to understand.

For some advice on how to dress modestly, and in a way that dignifies the person of woman, I found this article: How to Select Modest Dresses
Perhaps someone could pass this along to the ladies in Maine?


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