"Free the Nipple" Campaign Loses: Council Tells FoCo Women to Keep Their Shirts On

In August, we told you about Go Topless Fort Collins, a "Free the Nipple" campaign to goad the Fort Collins City Council into removing the line "the breast or breasts of a female" from its public-indecency ordinance.

Then, earlier this month, we updated you on a public survey about the topless issue.

Now, the council has spoken — and it's telling FoCo women to keep their shirts on.

As we've reported, this isn't the first time the issue of decriminalizing the female breast has come up in these parts. As we reported back in 2010, Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett lobbied in favor of a public nudity ordinance as a way of dealing with annual events such as the Naked Pumpkin Run and the World Naked Bike Ride. Here's a 2008 video highlighting the latter event, which has waned in recent years.

Garnett's argument for the ordinance? Participants could be charged with lesser penalties as opposed to more serious sex offenses that didn't fit the crime, he said.

Nonetheless, the Boulder American Civil Liberties Union objected to this concept for a slew of reasons, including the notion that the ordinance would criminalize the aerolas of women's nipples while legalizing those belonging to men.

And while the ordinance moved forward in the city council process, the segment about nipples was dropped.

As a result, Boulder police could only warn 52-year-old Catherine Pierce after she stirred controversy by gardening topless near an elementary school.

Go Topless advocate Brittiany Hoagland took up this cause in Fort Collins earlier this year, as she notes in a letter to a city officials shared on Facebook in late June:
"Dear Fort Collins Leaders,

I have been advocating for topless equality in Fort Collins since February. I recently found that the Colorado Constitution Article II Sec 29 explicitly states:

"Equality of the sexes. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the state of Colorado or any of its political subdivisions on account of sex.
{Adopted November 7, 1972...Effective upon proclamation by the Governor, January 11, 1973. (See Laws 1972, p. 647.)]"

It is thereby unconstitutional for Fort Collins to continue having this law, Sec 17-142 "No person shall knowingly appear in any public place in a nude state or state of undress such that the genitals or buttocks of either sex or the breast or breasts of a female are exposed."

This law needs to be changed immediately.

Thank you for your time,

Brittiany Hoagland"
A subsequent Go Topless protest on August 23 got plenty of media attention, making it impossible for the Fort Collins City Council to dodge the issue.

But at last night's well-attended meeting, as 7News notes, opponents of the pro-topless group vastly outnumbered supporters. The turnout mirrored results of the survey, in which 60 percent of respondents favored leaving the ordinance unchanged.

No surprise, then, that the council voted unanimously against the Go Topless Fort Collins proposal. The only exceptions granted were for breastfeeding mothers and girls ages ten and younger.

A response on the Go Topless Fort Collins Facebook page conveys the disappointment and resolve of those who favored change. It reads:
I can't describe in the appropriate words how sad and disappointed I am from the city council's decision tonight. The arguments against women's rights were horrifying, victim blaming and disgusting. The City of Fort Collins decided to vote in favor of supporting an already protected right of breastfeeding, as well as criminalizing female children at the age of 10 years old (take time to let that sink in). We will not be defeated. We will collect our strengths, friends and legal representation and come back full force!
And Hoagland? She hasn't posted about her reaction in the wake of the vote, but an item from last week that accompanied the following illustration puts her campaign in perspective:

I don't give myself enough credit. I have educated so many hostile, clueless or entitled strangers about my activism and I'm still able to smile. Who would've guessed that me, a person with PTSD who gets triggered by emotional abuse would've survived taking the cause this far. I'm giving myself an overdue pat-on-the-back publicly because I've been blocked or deleted by enough Facebook friends to realize people who are against equality education in any regard (sexism, racism, ableism, homo-antagonism, trans-antagonism, ageism, body shaming, erasure, privilege, systematic oppression, etc) aren't people that deserve my friendship anyway. If you have questions you can bet your bottom dollar I will answer them, but if you are a friend I will hold you to a higher standard of knowledge than strangers. I know all of you can use the internet and most questions about equality 101 can be answered online.

Take away: I don't owe it to you to react positively when you mistreat me OR OTHERS. I'm allowed to call you out. I'm allowed to be angry. It doesn't make me any less kind or positive.
Look below to see 7News' piece about the vote.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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