Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Bare Minimum

Imagine the beating heat of the sun’s rays touching your bare skin. The cold winter months tend to give that effect on all of us from time to time. Some of us get to go on vacation and relish that very tropical sun and some of us just wait until May rolls around the corner.

That’s when the skin baring begins and the ladies whip out the shorts and minis and on a blistering day, some even topless. But imagine a city where you couldn’t bare a little extra skin? What would that entail on today’s modern young women?

The Italian town of Castellammare di Stabia is considering just this as reported in an October Globe and Mail article by Dave McGinn. The town’s Mayor Luigi Bobbio states this will help to “restore urban decorum and facilitate better civil co-existence”.

This was also in gesture of the federal government handing down new municipal powers to create new laws that in turn are believed to cut down on crime and anti-social behaviour.

That said, it will target people who are “rowdy, unruly or simply bad behaved”. Anyone caught violating the laws will face between $35 and $700 in fines.

Is what we wear considered liable to situations we are put into? Does it pose a sense of danger to females?

A few George Brown College students offer some insight.

Fashion designs and techniques student, Laura says, “It’s not something to provoke you.”

“[That’s] a mentality. It has nothing to do with what you’re wearing,” says Amanda, also a fashion designs and techniques student.

Madelyne, a fashion management student also agrees that it has nothing to do with what you wear.

For a city as big as Toronto, would this cause young women to enrage with frustration or would they simply abide by another new bylaw? Better yet, would this even last long?

Some George Brown College female students think a ban this tier would be impossible.

“So many of the politicians in this country are conservative, but Toronto is the fashion capital of Canada. You’re taking away our rights,” says Laura.

Erika, a fashion management student agrees. “There’s no freedom and it’s restricting. This is a free country [and] it’s taking away our freedom of expression.”

For some students, it wouldn’t change anything.

“It might stop some cat calling but that’s about it, it won’t change much,” says Madelyne.

For many of the students interviewed, a ban like this wouldn’t last long anyway. In a Globe and mail article in August, stated that a similar ban in a Chilean region was just lifted, proving of its lack of longevity.

Within the region of Coquimbo, Chile, the ban on miniskirts worn by public employees was lifted in August. Governor Sergio Gahona retorted that putting things in order was the main reason behind the ban and he didn’t mean to restrict anyone as stated.

This lift was followed after hundreds of Chilean women protested against the ban along with the disagreement of Chile’s women’s affairs minister, Carolina Schmidt calling his prohibit a joke.

In Toronto, it seems this latter would be difficult to set as women are legally permitted to walk the streets topless. This law has been in effect since 1996 after Gwen Jacobs won a four year court battle against the Supreme Court for exposing her breasts in public stated in an August Toronto Star article by Adam Dempsey.

Arrested in 1991, Jacobs, 19 years old at the time was detained for indecent exposure of her breasts.

This was a result of walking by a few male students playing sports on a hot summer day and wondering why women were still unequal to men. For her, it was a “basic human rights issue”.

That said, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom states that right number 15, under the Equality Rights, “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”

So what was all the hassle about?

That was not the case for the Crown Attorney and media whom relished the obvious sexual connotation of exposing a woman’s breasts at the time. For Jacobs, the act wasn’t how the media portrayed it to be. In fact, it was a change in how she viewed herself.

“It truly is a liberating experience. When I took off my shirt, I actually took off the definition of who I was supposed to be,” she said, stated in the same article.

For Jacobs, it was the changing role female role in a society that was and still is rapidly evolving. As a female, making her own choice in the stance of equality and self expression then facing the repercussions. A notion much like what was stated by the George Brown female students.

Fatima, another fashion management student puts it into perspective, “it’s your decision at the end of the day.”

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