‘Absolutely not’

Older married women stand behind ban on women going topless in popular beach town

Beachgoers play in the Atlantic Ocean surf in Ocean City, Maryland. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak paid a visit to Ocean City, Maryland, to cover recent controversy over a ban on women being topless in public, she uncovered an interesting trend — those who complained most vehemently against topless sunbathing were not controlling men, but rather older married women.

Earlier this year, an activist had issued a legal challenge to the city contending that if men were allowed to be topless at the beach, then women should be allowed to do so as well. With Maryland law unclear on the issue, lifeguards were initially advised to not confront bare-chested women. Amidst uproar over the issue, the Ocean City council met on Saturday to pass an official ban on being bare-chested in public — unless, of course, the beachgoer is a man.

“Not here, Ocean City is not that kind of place. It’s a family place. Absolutely not,” 55-year-old grandmother Cynthia Heath vented to Dvorak. Together with her husband, her 9-year-old granddaughter, and her granddaughter’s friend, the Heath family had just finished eating a lunch at Hooters — a restaurant chain whose name summarizes its primary brand of appeal.

“I don’t want him looking at that,” she added, referring to her husband with whom she had recently celebrated her 33rd wedding anniversary.

“I’ve been on the lookout all day,” said the husband helpfully. “I was hoping I would see just one.”

Most of the young men that Dvorak talked to seemed to agree with Heath’s husband — all women, they argued, should be topless at all times. At least one male teenager, however, retained the self-awareness to add more to the conversation.

“What about breastfeeding?” noted 18-year-old Lewis Woodward. “I don’t see anything wrong with that. That exposes breasts. A woman has the right to decide what to do with her body.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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