Let’s fight a fight that’s worthwhile

Posted April 30, 2010, at 7:30 p.m.

I was terribly relieved to learn that no one was injured during Friday’s historic topless march through downtown Farmington.

Local police officials had spent much of the week assuring the media and the public at large that plans were in place “to keep people safe”!

Phew!

I also was glad to see that Michael Heath of the American Family Association of Maine finally weighed in on this critical occurrence of women showing their breasts to enlighten us all of its relationship to the homosexual rights movement.

“The promotion and presentation of public nudity is a staple of the homosexual rights movement,” he told reporters.

See there? I never would have made that connection.

Without Heath’s wise interpretation I would have thought the endeavor was simply a somewhat amusing effort put forth by a frustrated college student in desperate need of something to stand for.

I mean, hell, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and thousands of other women from the early 20th century already fought the fight that led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 giving us ladies the right to vote.

They chained themselves to fences in freezing temperatures, watched their friends starve to death and be beaten and die in squalid conditions in prisons.

What are the young women of today to do to compete with that sacrifice?

How can you not be inspired by Rosa Parks or Dorothy Height, who spent most of their lives fighting the fight for equal rights for blacks?

In the 1960s and 1970s there was that whole Vietnam War issue and the sexual revolution to boot. There were lots of things to protest and stand for.

During that time I believe there were more than a few college-age women who burned their bras. Some believe young women tossed their bras into burning trash cans as a protest of the Vietnam War, but others stand firm that the first “bra burning” incident actually occurred in 1968 at a demonstration against the Miss America contest.

The symbolic act of tossing bras, girdles and nylons into the flames was meant as a sign that women were tired of being viewed as sexual objects inhibited by constricting garments.

It’s nice to have something to believe in, and for generations, the fights that have changed our political and social landscapes largely have been waged by inspired, thoughtful and dedicated individuals.

Of which I’m sure 22-year-old University of Maine at Farmington student Andrea Simoneau is one.

And you must hand it to her. She has received a fair amount of publicity. A couple of dozen men and women walked through the quaint western Maine college town sans shirts on Friday just as expected.

All of this was done, I guess, to serve as a reminder that it is perfectly legal for women to be seen in public without their shirts on. Simoneau knows it’s not illegal; her efforts were to try to encourage social acceptance.

So there was some fun in Farmington on Friday. Reporters and photographers and police officers on hand for “extra protection” certainly could have had worse gigs.

Kudos to Ms. Simoneau for her efforts, and should I decide to mow my lawn topless this morning I certainly will keep her in mind. But just in case she is looking for something else to protest against or demonstrate for or raise public awareness of, here is a thought or two.

Fifty years after it became illegal to pay women less on the basis of sex, women still make about 77 cents on the dollar to most men doing the same work.

April was Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

One in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and college-age women are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other women.

Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States — more than car accidents, rapes and muggings combined.

Three million to 4 million women in the United States are beaten in their homes each year by their husbands, ex-husbands or male lovers, and one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.

Perhaps it seems like all the real causes are gone. Like the real fights have been fought.

I suggest that is not so.

People like Andrea Simoneau make things happen — but perhaps there are more important things to be done than walking through downtown Farmington topless.

Even though, thankfully, no one was hurt.

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